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Italy (Day 5) A Dance With Clouds Over Ancient Ruins

🌋 Check us out! We peered into the MOUTH of an ACTIVE 🔥 SUPER VOLCANO!!!! This 💯 Bucket List #volcanohike gave us lasting BIG feels. We climbed the great volcano that wiped out the great cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79AD. Today, Mt. Vesuvius is considered the most dangerous #supervolcano in the world. Thankfully, it let us pass the rim of its crater without eruption. No question, it is going to erupt. The observatory scientists are closely monitoring the bubbling mass of liquid magma building beneath the volcano which will be the likely trigger for eruption. 

But, first things first. We woke early and watched the clouds lifting their sleepy heads off the pillow of Positano. The hotel provides a delightful complimentary breakfast on the balcony and we were energized by the soul cleansing freshness of our dreamy surroundings. Post card PERFECT!

Our guide from Amalfi Coast Destination picked us up promptly at 8:30am in the hotel lobby for our full-day private tour. Our initial itinerary had a different order of visiting the sights, but after conveying our desire to see Mt. Vesuvius without crowds (even if it meant some cloud cover), we decided to head there first.  If you have been following our travels, then you know we put a lot of effort into avoiding crowds as a number one priority.

Seeing the trail sign really got us doing cartwheels. We could hardly believe that we were really going to hike the rim of an active volcano. We have hiked around Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, but you can only get near its base due to safety concerns.  When I told the kids, that they were going to the RIM of a volcano, they nearly lost their minds with excitement.

Are you scared?  Don't worry - there's supposedly a really good National Emergency Plan to evacuate the over 700,000 from the red zone of 25 towns in under 72 hours 😳

The easy hike was AMAZING!  There were very few people making for a very special journey full of stunning views and peaceful moments.

The morning cloud cover added something special to the atmosphere, so we would still recommend the early start for your hike. You should know that the clouds roll in and out fairly quickly.  It's actually kind of neat.  We initially thought we were seeing volcanic activity.

There are many prime overlooks into the mouth of the crater.  Kind of hard to imagine the power of eruption emptying the contents.


When you get as far as allowed, you will find a shop where you can take a snack break before your return hike.  There are also souvenirs for purchase and both our girls got lava rock necklaces.


 Whew - we made it safely off the volcano.  After we returned from our hike, we met up with our guide in the parking lot.   It was definitely getting busier at the volcano, especially around the prime overlook views, so we were quite pleased with our decision to do the hike first thing.  It was also already starting to get hot.

Continuing onward from our volcano 🌋 hike of the crater, we learned the power of Mt. Vesuvius which erupted in 79AD wiping out Pompeii and Herculaneum. Herculaneum was preserved exactly as it was because it was submerged in a thick sea of mud. It was a resort coastal town for the wealthy. Near the ancient shoreline, we saw the skeletal remains of those who tried to escape via the boat chambers to sea. It was haunting to see the huddled positions of the remains. 

View of the Boat Chambers of Herculaneum

The Herculaneum archaeological site is all self-contained into a smaller than expected area. You get an incredible downward looking view when you begin your exploration.  The ancient waters are no longer and you can hardly tell that this was once coastal.

We had decided that we would visit Herculaneum and then break for lunch before going to Pompeii. Now, I normally would not have planned all these things in one day, but Herculaneum is only about 20 minutes from Pompeii, so it did not make sense to backtrack over 2 days.  We certainly did not want to miss such an incredible archaeological site, so we made sure to include it on our itinerary.  

It did not appear at all crowded when we arrived, but for some reason it took FOREVER to get our entrance tickets. It continued to get incredibly hot for the kids. Rob waited in line while I kept the kids in the shade. Once we got our tickets, we purchased cold water from the vending machine and used some of it to drench the cooling towels. If you don't know, cooling towels are great for beating the heat. We used them for the first time when we were in Southeast Asia last summer and they are now a packing essential.  We entered the site and found the restroom past the entrance gate (there was none available in the ticket purchase area).

Because of the temperament of the kids at this point, we decided to forgo getting a guide and to self-tour the site. We knew that we would be guided at the larger Pompeii archaeological site, so this was a compromise. Such is life traveling with kids. Of course, you should absolutely get a guide!

The preservation of this once prosperous town is incredible, considering that it was completely buried by super heated pyroclastic flows of molten rock that encased it into a solid mass of pumice and ash.  This shell carbonized preserving wood and other organic-based materials such as roofs, beds, doors, and food.

There are surprisingly intact colorful mosaics all around and the wealth of the time is quite evident. Amazing to see so much color remains. 

The kids had a fantastic time exploring. They found plenty of nooks and crannies to break from the sun's heat.

You can even enter some of the buildings and explore the rooms. Even though this is a small town, it is spread out enough that you are able to experience it without crowds. The children imagined themselves archaeologists uncovering the treasures of the past as they roamed from building to building.

And sometimes, it is the parents that need the break - hahaha. Rob took a seat while the kids took off exploring EACH and EVERY room of the structures on this street.

Most of the residents were able to flee the volcano's eruption that completely covered the town in under 12 hours, but around 300 preserved skeletons were found huddled at the boat houses (up to 20 in each chamber), where they remain today.  It is a haunting sight.

Ancient Beach of Herculaneum

This is where we concluded our exploration taking the underground tunnel to exit the site.  We were definitely struggling at this point with the heat and hunger, but the kids did well considering.  Even though we did not have a guide, we were provided a map and made sure to see all the numbered sights.  You should definitely make sure to see Herculaneum before you go to Pompeii.  We had a fantastic time making comparisons and recalling things we had seen later on with our guide at Pompeii.

#WeAreSuchTourists 😂 but, this 💯 Bucket List Destination. Such a dream come true to find myself in Pompeii. To have shared the experience with this crew of mine fills my heart. It's so much larger than I ever imagined and I got goosebumps roaming the ancient alleys and structures. Incredible preservation of what was once a thriving city. Coming here after our Mt. Vesuvius 🌋 volcano hike to the crater's rim is something I'll never forget.

We conveniently had lunch across the street from the entrance to Pompeii at Sgambati Ristorante. Our guide took us there and set us up while he got our tickets and secured our licensed guide for Pompeii. There had been some miscommunication within Amalfi Coast Destinations with our request for a Pompeii guide, but we let them sort it out while we ate lunch.  We were completely refueled with the delicious lunch (lotsa lotsa pasta & pizza) and it did not seem nearly as hot afterwards even though it was still mid-day.  We settled our lunch bill, purchased some water to bring and walked across the street to the archaeological sight where we met our guide.  He wasted no time at all and immediately began to show us things before we even crossed the entrance into the great ancient city.

Pompeii compared to Herculaneum is HUGE and was inhabited by 20,000 people. I read online that about three-quarters of Pompeii’s 165 acres have been excavated, and some 1,150 bodies have been discovered out of about 2,000 thought to have perished.  This means that the vast majority of the city of 20,000 fled at the first signs of the volcanic activity. It was an incredible experience wandering the streets and learning about the various structures and local life of times past from our guide.

Our guide was so much fun. He engaged us in a very interactive experience with the ruins. Getting us to really see the details of the architecture and the purpose of the various structures. He was also GREAT with the kids keeping their rapt attention for the duration of our entire visit!

Fun Times in the Odeon - Teatro Piccolo!

He even got us to be cheesy tourists clapping our hands in the theater to hear sound carry as a "chirp" from the acoustics of the circular architecture. Hahaha. The other tourists looked very jealous of us. Hahaha.

The city is enormous. As we made our way around the sights, we encountered large tour groups. It was very easy to stay away from the crowds. We really enjoyed our private guide experience.  I've read reviews with complaints of Pompeii being too touristy and too crowded and even advice to skip it - the horror!  It was the middle of the day during peak summer and this was not our experience at all.  We would recommend skipping any group tour.  The one-on-one personal impression with the magnificence of the ancient city will remain forever a travel highlight.  Our kids still talk about this day.


One of the highlights of the whole experience was simply roaming the cobblestone streets.  It was still hot, but I guess we were just having so much fun that we didn't really notice it.

This is how the road was crossed in ancient times to avoid the rainwater, slops, and animal waste that ran down the streets.

This quiet lane found in Pompeii might have been bustling with activity back in ancient times.


Our guide pointed out things that we would otherwise not have noticed. You definitely need a guide to appreciate the functionality of times past as you look at the still standing remains.  He would ask us to guess what we were looking at and of course, we guessed completely wrong.  Then, we would "oooh" and "ahhhh" be amazed when he gave us the real scoop.  Hahahahaha.

This type of hole would have been used to tether horses in front of shops and homes. 

Tie Your Horse

Throughout the city, fountains provided an area of  social activity at intersections with streams of constantly running water.

Interesting Ancient Fountain
Check out this ancient pizza oven. It's in the western area of all the houses.  The kids spent a bit of time here playing kitchen without any other tourists around.  Such a great memory!

Ancient Pizza Oven

Pretty neat stuff, right?  We felt like we were stepping back in time and learned so much about its lascivious past.  Wait.  Haven't you heard?  Lots of penises 😳 EVERYWHERE 😂 (even pointing the way to the red-light district brothels) in the form of carvings, graffiti, frescoes, statues, and mosaics. 

On The Menu

Our guide told us that the murals were a menu of services available in the brothel. Pompeii was a port, so it received lots of sailors who might not have spoken the local language.

Stone Bed in Pompeii's Brothel
Spot the Penis!

Penis Directions to Brothel

Our kids couldn't understand why the brothel was so crowded and why we insisted on going inside the rooms to check things out so closely. They were so uninterested. Our guide was also not talking to them during this commentary. Hahahaha.

Our guide was FANTASTIC - look at him just take our kids off our hands! Hahahaha. 


The center of Pompeii was the Forum, a huge open area that served as the city's marketplace as well as its court, bathhouses and temples.  From here, you can see Mt. Vesuvius looming in the background.

Still Standing Watch

As we exited, we came upon an exhibit with many artifacts on display.  


The plaster casts are one of the most haunting things I have ever seen. In the 1860s, Pompeii’s director of excavations archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli came up the technique of creating the plaster casts out of the voids left by the decay of organic materials in the hardened ash and pumice.

Plaster Casts of Victims

It was mind blowing to look at how far away Mt. Vesuvius is from both ancient cities and imagine the power of its eruption wiping them both out entirely.  This incredible tour of Mt. Vesuvius, Herculaneum, and Pompeii - WOW.  This day definitely ranks top-notch and will remain unforgettable.

Amalfi Coast Destination Private Tour
"The Archaeological Sites: Herculaneum | Mt. Vesuvius | Pompeii"
Full day Private Tour 8 Hours.
Meeting time @08.30am in the hotel lobby.
Total cost for the day €380 excluding lunch and entrance fees. Licensed Pompeii tour guide requested in advance (

Ristorante Bruno - view from our table!
We decided to leave the kids at the hotel and have a romantic dinner in Positano.  This is what 2 bottles of wine looks like in Positano - hahahahaha.


Alici Marinate (Marinated Fresh Anchovies)

Mixed Grilled Seafood!

Ristorante Bruno (I think it is also called Bar Bruno) was AMAZING, so if you spot it on your dinner stroll - STOP HERE! And, the staff are so entertaining. That's our waiter over my shoulder in the above pic and he was a riot.

It's so romantic in this cliffside village, even though we brought our kids - hahahaha! Goodnight from Positano. The stuff of dreams.

Up Next:  The Famous Amalfi Coast Drive

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