The Ancient Forum in Pompeii

Italy by Bus

Day 6

Tuesday, June 5, 2001 - Pompeii, Autogrill, Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi


Sorrento -- Assisi We head to the mystical province of Umbria and Assisi, its Etruscan founded capital. This pink-stoned city under the protection of St. Francis is still enclosed by medieval ramparts. Here our sightseeing tour includes St. Francis' Basilica, renowned for its fresco paintings. At leisure, why not visit the Church of St. Clare or shop for local handicrafts.

Off to Assisi

Today's wake up call came at 06:30AM, bags outside the door at 07:00AM, then breakfast. At 08:00AM, we were on the bus.

Schedule Change

As mentioned on day 4, we are going to stop at Pompeii this morning as we make our way to Assisi. This will get us to Pompeii in the morning instead of during the hottest part of the day. This is the first time that I remember Marco remarking that we were following an "itinerary a la Marco".
According to the itinerary, we are supposed to tour Assisi today. This will be rescheduled for the same reason that the tour of Pompeii was rescheduled. Instead of touring Assisi in the heat of the day this afternoon, we will do it tomorrow morning before leaving for Venice.


The 79 AD eruption of the volcano Vesuvius destroyed not only Pompeii, but also Herculaneum and the nearby town of Oplontis where some villas of rich Romans are being excavated. Today we will be touring the most famous of these towns, Pompeii.

We arrived at Pompeii at 08:45AM, and met our guide Carmen (also a male). Our tour began at the ancient forum of Pompeii

Ancient Forum in Pompeii

This is a photo of the forum area, with the Arch of Caligula in the middle of the photo. In the distance are temples, and beyond them you can see Vesuvius.

Along the sides of the forum were various facilities — laundry, shops, and so on. In the photo above, you can see a walkway on the right, and in the distance on the right is an arch. We walked from where this photo was taken, down the walkway on the right and through that arch.

Street in Pompeii

This photo shows the street beyond the arch. You can see the stones sticking up in the middle of the street to keep the chariots and wagons from continuing on into the forum area. Beyond them, you can see other lower stones crossing the street, used by pedestrians because the streets were usually filled with stuff you didn't want to step in.

Street in Pompeii This is Randy's photo of a street. You can see these stepping stones better in this photo.

Column in Pompeii

This photo shows a sign that was on the right, just past the arch, advertising a "thermopolium" a place used during the times of ancient Rome where it was possible to purchase ready-to-eat food. (The plaques inserted into the column and the light colored sign in front of it were placed there by the archaeologists.)

The next two photos were taken inside the baths, one of the few buildings where the roofs were still in place. Most of the buildings had wooden roofs which were destroyed when the disaster occurred.

Baths in Pompeii

Baths in Pompeii

Street in Pompeii This is a street, with Vesuvius in the background, that we passed on our way to the house of the two brothers.

House in Pompeii

Here is a photo of the reconstructed roof in the foyer of the house of the two brothers. Below the opening is a small square pool with a pipe from there to a cistern to collect rain water. The door we entered through is in the wall below those windows.

Statue in Pompeii

When you come in the door, if you turn to the right you will be heading toward the kitchen area and the servants quarters. Beyond this is a special room where the walls were covered with erotic paintings, and this statue off to one side.

We went back to the foyer area and went through there to the courtyard.

House in Pompeii

This photo shows the courtyard/garden. To the right of where this photo was taken is a room with various paintings on the wall. In this room there is a woman selling watercolor copies of these paintings.

As we left the room with the lady selling paintings, Carmen told us to wait at the other end of the courtyard, in the far corner you can see in the photo above. When Karen and I went over there, most of the group was there already. As we were waiting, another group that was waiting there started to leave, and most of our group followed them out. When everyone had left the room, and Carmen came over to us, there were only a few of us waiting for him. He immediately ran out and tracked them down, and got us all back together again.

Gamblinb in Pompeii We passed a gambling facility, and Randy took this photo of a painting on the wall inside.

Guide in Pompeii Randy also took this photo showing our guide at Pompeii, Carmen, by a fountain.

Red-light district in Pompeii

From there, we went to the "red-light district". In this photo you can see the "sign" indicating the type of establishment this is. If you look closely, you can make out what it is.

Bakery in Pompeii

This photo shows the inside of a bakery. On the right is a millstone, where the grain was milled. There were two others off to the right of this one. Behind it you can see the oven.

After leaving the House of the Two Brothers we walked back to where we started. If you look at the photo of the forum above, you can see a low roof in the distance on the left. This is where they store many of the artifacts found here, and where the next photo was taken.

Man in Pompeii

This photo is a photo of a cast of one of the men who died here. You can see him holding his hands over his face to try to save himself from the deadly fumes.

We were only at Pompeii for about one and a half hours. I asked Carmen as we were leaving about the amphitheater. He said that it was at the other end of Pompeii, and we would need about another hour to tour it. I intend to go back some day to see more of Pompeii, including the amphitheater.

Back on the road

We were on the road again at 11:00AM. A short drive brought us to a cameo factory at about 11:20. We saw a demonstration of how they make cameos, and had a few minutes to tour the showroom. (According to Marco, the best place to buy cameos is in Florence.)

Cameo demonstration This is Randy's photo of the person who explained the process of making cameos.

Lunch at the Autogrill

Then back on the bus, and on to an Autogrill for lunch at about 12:20PM. We were lucky, there were no other busses there. At the Autogrills, you had a choice for lunch. There was a cafeteria type section, where they had hot meals, and salads. Then there was the section with the sandwiches, which is where Karen and I ate every time we were at an Autogrill. You go over to the counter where the sandwiches are displayed behind a glass counter, with descriptions and prices displayed. You decide which sandwiches you want, and then go over to the cash register and tell the person there what you want. After you pay, they give you a receipt that you take back over to the counter and give it to the person there, who then gives you your sandwich, heated if you want it that way. The sandwiches were quite good.

The Abbey of Monte Casino

We had passed the Abbey of Monte Casino on the ride down to Sorrento, and Marco mentioned it in passing. You could see it in the distance on top of a tall hill. As we passed it again on our way back north, Marco told us about some of the history of World War II and how the abbey was bombed extensively. It has been rebuilt, restored to its original shape, but all of the art has been lost. So it is basically a shell with none of the original decoration.
During many of the drives, Marco told us various WWII history, and frequently pointed out bunkers still remaining from the war.

Santa Maria d'Angeli

As we made our way to Assisi, we made one more stop at 5:16PM. Near Assisi, there was a small chapel where Francesco did much of his work (and I think he built it). Behind it was a building where he lived, and in which he died. Francesco means "little french boy", a nickname he had when he was small because he was a french child living in Italy. When he became a Saint, he was canonized with his nickname, so he became San Francesco di Assisi — St. Francis of Assisi.

Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli

Once he became a saint, this church, Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, was built in 1569 around the chapel and the building behind it.

You walk down the center aisle of this church, and when you get to where the alter would be, you come to the chapel that Francesco built.

Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli From the chapel you walk through an area to the right-rear, and you come to this statue.

I do not know much about the story of St. Francis, but I know that it involves doves and other animals. In this statue, Francesco is holding a nest. This dove is alive and never leaves the nest.

From here you continue on to a rose bush. There is glass between you and the bush, but the story is that St. Francis fell into this bush, but it has no thorns.


We arrived in Assisi at 6:14PM, which was two minutes before the time Marco told the hotel we would be there when he had faxed them this morning. During our rides throughout Italy, you can see ancient hill towns everywhere you look. And now we were in one! We had traveled about 420 kilometers today.

Hotel Giotto in Assisi This is our hotel in Assisi, the Hotel Giotto

The bus was not allowed into the town. I guess they used to, but not anymore. As we walked up the hill (we did not have to go too far from where the bus was parked), we got to an intersection where the roads went up in both directions. Marco paused here to tell us that the basilica was up the road to the left. We continued up to the right to the hotel, where we checked in and were told that we had an hour and a half until dinner. The rooms were a little small, but not too small, and very nice. The interesting part was the bathrooms. Ours had a small depression in the floor about the size of a shower stall, under a shower head. But there were no shower walls, no tub, not even a shower curtain. A little different than we are used to, but we made do. Some people had tubs in their bathrooms, but no one had shower curtains.

Street in Assisi

This is another of my favorite photos from this trip. This is the street next to the hotel. They have a competition in Assisi every summer for the flowerbox gardens in the windows.

Street in Assisi Here is another photo of a street in Assisi

View from Hotel Giotto

This photo shows the view from our hotel room — one of the best views we had while we were in Italy. This is another of my favorite photos from the trip.

Because there was no air conditioning, we had to keep the window open. The night was cool, and we were quite comfortable. The only issue was that there was some construction going on at the hotel, which we could see when we looked down from the window. In this area, right below our room, there was an open pipe with water running into it constantly. I thought that the constant gurgling would make it hard to sleep, but that turned out to not be the case, and we slept just fine.

We took a walk and checked out some shops, and made our way up the road that Marco had pointed out.

Basilica of Saint Francis

This is the lower piazza of the Basilica of Saint Francis. The entrance you can see in the distance is to the part of the building below the basilica. Up to the right is the upper piazza in front of the main entrance to the basilica.

Dinner tonight, after the antipasti, began with pasta with truffles, which was very good. Then we had pork with potatoes and spinach. As it got close to time for desert, I noticed Lloyd talking with Marco and looking over at us. Then I saw Marco talking with the waiters. A few minutes later, the lights went out. Marco joked that the power had gone out. Then the waiters rolled out a cart with two desert dishes filled with three scoops of gellato (chocolate, vanilla and lemon) with candles in them. (You can see them in front of us in this photo.) Marco then congratulated us on our 20th anniversary. Later I had to thank Lloyd, because we got a much better dessert than everyone else. (I think they had fruit.) Again, notice the glasses in front of us. And this was an included dinner where we had to pay for the drinks!

Karen and I at dinner in the Hotel Giotto Karen and I at dinner in the Hotel Giotto on our anniversary.

Many times at meals, we sat with Jasmine & Lee and Doris & Ken. Karen doesn't drink coffee, and Doris loved it, so after every meal, Karen would take the coffee or cappuccino, or whatever was served, and give it to Doris.

After dinner, we took a walk with Jasmine and Lee. We went back up through the lower piazza of the basilica, seen in the photo above, then up the incline to the right, and continued up through the town. After a while, we cut through some alleys and managed to find our way back to the hotel.


Marilyn and Beth

Commentary from Marilyn and her daughter Beth about their Best of Italy tour, September 7-20, 2001, reproduced here with their permission.

Day 6, Wednesday, 12 September, 2001 - Sorrento to Assisi

This was a long travel day. We left around 8:30, had a morning break and afternoon lunch stop at the Autogrill. Most people took naps or read. The tour director does give a lecture as you travel on the bus.
We visited the church that St Francis built before heading into the medieval part of Assisi where our hotel was.
We arrived around 3pm for our 1 night stay in the Giotto hotel. The bus parks outside of the city walls as it is not allowed in the narrow streets. It is a short walk but it's up the hill down the hill etc.
Before we went to the hotel we had a guided tour of St. Francis Basilica.
Tonight was a free night with an included dinner at the hotel.
Our room had a wonderful view and a large balcony, however we keep blowing the fuses trying to dry our hair (oh well).

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Contents © Copyright 2001 Author: Lee Briggs except where noted. All rights reserved.