Pompeii and Herculaneum, a walk on the roads of ash and wine

The Goddess of Love.  Is one of my favorite frescoes inside the many houses of Pompeii.  This fresco was discovered in 1952 located on the back wall of the garden, it portrays Venus with 2 cherubs in a pink seashell.
“The Goddess of Love” is one of my favorite frescoes inside the House of Venus. This fresco was discovered in 1952 located on the back wall of the garden, it portrays Venus with 2 cherubs in a pink seashell.

The remains of Pompeii were discovered by accident in the 1590’s when architect Domenico Fontana was excavating the canal to bring the waters from river Sarno to Torre Anunziata but it was not until the 1750’s that the site was seen as an archaeological treasure and one of the most important and well preserved examples of Roman civilization.  Follow me on this amazing trip around the streets, houses and wineries of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Vesuvius National Park.

The Amphitheatre, the oldest of its kind in existence, was used for gladiatorial combat and could hold 20,000 people.  The stone tiers were separated in to different sections for the various social classes.
The Amphitheatre, the oldest of its kind in existence, was used for gladiatorial combat and could hold 20,000 people. The stone tiers were separated in to different sections for the various social classes.

In 90-89 BC the people of Campania became Roman citizens.  Naples (Neapolis) or the new city came in to contact with the growing power of Rome.  In AD 79 the erupting Vesuvius buried a number of ancient Roman cities including Pompeii.

Ash and debris covered Pompeii and bodies were buried by a landslide of thick mud.  People tried to scape but didn't make it, many were killed by the toxic fumes while engaged in everyday tasks.
Ash and debris covered Pompeii and bodies were buried by a landslide of thick mud. People tried to scape but didn’t make it, many were killed by the toxic fumes while engaged in everyday tasks.

IMG_08211

Wealthy residents in Pompeii had often well decorated walls like this one found in the House of The Vettii.
Wealthy residents in Pompeii had often well decorated walls like this one found in the House of The Vettii.
Statues found in the streets of Pompeii
Statues found in the streets of Pompeii
Many sculptures from Pompeii and Herculaneum were removed from the original site and placed at the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Pompeiian mosaics and frescoes are also  preserved in the Museum and date from the 2nd century BC to AD 79.
Many sculptures from Pompeii and Herculaneum were removed from the original site and placed at the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Pompeiian mosaics and frescoes are also preserved in the Museum and date from the 2nd century BC to AD 79.
The owners of the House of the Vettii were freedman who become rich merchants.
The owners of the House of the Vettii were freedman who become rich merchants.

Thanks to the many discoveries we can have an idea of the life in the Roman houses of Pompeii, constructed generally around two open courts; the atrium; an Italic feature and the colonnaded garden of Greek origin.  But not only the architecture and the art in their walls, Pompeii reveals much more in the bodies of people unearthed along with their everyday objects.

A public fountain in Via dell'Abbondanza.   The excavations for this street lined with homes and shops ends just to the left of the Amphitheatre.
A public fountain in Via dell’Abbondanza. The excavations for this street lined with homes and shops ends just to the left of the Amphitheatre.
One of the horse barns in Pompeii still shows utensils for horse riding and the remains of a horse placed on display
At the House of the Chaste Lovers is possible to see the fossilized bodies of the mules that used to drive the millstone for grinding wheat.
Medusa's head (Sec. IX BC) House of the Centaur. Pompeii.  On display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Medusa’s head (Mosaic IX Century BC) House of the Centaur. Pompeii. On display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale
The Lunapare was the best organized of Pompeii's many brothels.  The walls were decorated with erotic paintings and sculptures symbolizing fertility or describing the many services offered in this houses.
The Lunapare was the best organized of Pompeii’s many brothels. The walls were decorated with erotic paintings and sculptures symbolizing fertility or describing the many services offered in these houses.

Lacryma Christi and the ancient wine making in the Vesuvius

A Paleo Christian legend says that Christ cried over the Vesuvius and His Holy tears blessed the vineyards giving name to this excellent wine.  Other legend distorted from the pagan mythology says that Jesus visited a hermit converting his bad beverage in to amazing wine.  Today we can see many frescoes with wine rituals from the houses in Pompeii that have survived the ashes after the eruption of the Volcano.

The Wine Offering.  Fresco found in Pompeii (Sec. VII BC)   Many of these well preserved frescoes can be seen at the Archeological Museum of Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale)
The Wine Offering. Fresco found in Pompeii (VII Century BC) on display at The Archaeological Museum of Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) Wine making and consumption was very important in Greek and Roman cultures, just like drinking water.
An example of ancient viniculture techniques in Pompeii 79 AD.  Today these vineyards are curated by Mastroberardino wineries producing limited vintages of Greek origin vines including the Lacryma Christi.
An example of ancient viniculture techniques in Pompeii 79 AD. Today these vineyards are curated by Mastroberardino wineries producing limited vintages of Greek origin vines.
Ancient Caprettone vines facing the now dormant volcano.
Ancient Caprettone vines facing the now dormant volcano.
The land around volcanoes are rich in alkali and phosphorus and is extremely fertile.  Lacryma Christi is a great wine produced in the slopes of the Vesuvius.
The land around volcanoes are rich in alkali and phosphorus and is extremely fertile. Lacryma Christi is a great wine produced in the slopes of the Vesuvius.
The mineral soil of the Vesuvius where the Piedirosso and Aglianico made the perfect blend for Lacryma Christy reds.
The mineral soil of the Vesuvius where the Piedirosso and Aglianico grapes are used to make the Lacryma Christy reds.
In this volcanic land so rich for the agriculture  the organic "Pienolo tomatoes" just like the wines;  obtained the DOP category (Denomination of Protected Origin) The Pienolo tomatoes are promoted by the Slow Food Commission Vesuvian Chapter and are another example of sustainability in bio-agriculture.
In this volcanic land so rich for the agriculture the organic “Pienolo tomatoes” just like the wines; obtained the DOP category (Denomination of Protected Origin) The Pienolo tomatoes are promoted by the Slow Food Commission Vesuvian Chapter and are another example of sustainability in bio-agriculture.
Pienolo DOP tomatoes on display on a local Vesuvian trattoria; it shows the way the tomatoes are placed on stalks for their cultivation and after harvest they need to be maintained on the same way for better conservation, this is according to an ancient tradition in Campania.
Pienolo DOP tomatoes on display on a local Vesuvian trattoria; it shows the way the tomatoes are placed on stalks for their cultivation and after harvest they need to be maintained on the same way for better conservation, this is according to an ancient tradition in Campania.
The Vesuvius National Park it's a protected area where generations of family owned wineries make distinctive wines like Casa Setaro, a small wine producer that I had the pleasure to visit on my trip to the Vesuvius.
The Vesuvius National Park it’s a protected area where generations of family owned wineries make distinctive wines like Casa Setaro, a small wine producer that I had the pleasure to visit on my trip to the Vesuvius.
Aglianico vines in Pompeii
Aglianico vines in Pompeii
I had the pleasure to visit Vigna Pironti with the Italian Association of Sommeliers (AIS) Vesuvian Chapter.  Vigna Pironti produces great red and wine varieties of Lacryma Christi, some of them named after the houses in Pompeii.
Visiting Vigna Pironti with the Italian Association of Sommeliers (AIS) Vesuvian Chapter. Vigna Pironti produces great red and wine varieties of Lacryma Christi, some of them named after the houses in Pompeii.
An ancient barn at Vigna Pironti's fields
An ancient barn at Vigna Pironti’s fields

 

Detail of wall decoration. Pompeii
Detail of wall decoration. Pompeii
Detail of a mosaic found in Pompeii
Detail of a mosaic found in Pompeii

Herculaneum

The town’s quiet existence was brought to an abrupt halt in AD 79 during the eruption of the Vesuvius that buried Pompeii with deep lava and mud.  The site of ancient Herculaneum is well below the level of the modern town.  The area is still being excavated.

In 89 BC the town became part of the Roman Empire, a residential municipium and resort.
In 89 BC the town became part of the Roman Empire, a residential municipium and resort.
Excavations in Herculaneum began in the 18th century and uncovered Roman houses built around a rectangular plan.  Perhaps the best known is the Villa dei Papiri.
Excavations in Herculaneum began in the 18th century and uncovered Roman houses built around a rectangular plan. Perhaps the best known is the Villa dei Papiri.
The Trellis House, a characteristic example of an inexpensive Roman multi-family dwelling and is made of wood and reed laths in crude tufa and lime masonry.
The Trellis House, a characteristic example of an inexpensive Roman multi-family dwelling and is made of wood and reed laths in crude tufa and lime masonry.
Many thanks to AIS Comune Vesuviane, Vigna Pironti and Casa Setaro Wineries for the fantastic tasting.  Cheers!!! Thanks for reading.
Many thanks to AIS Comune Vesuviane, Vigna Pironti and Casa Setaro Wineries for the fantastic tasting. Cheers!!! Thanks for reading.

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco.  All pictures by me taken with IPhone 4, 4S and Sony Cybershot.  You are more than welcome to share them mentioning the font.

Flavors and aromas of the Sorrento Coast

I finally arrived to the Sorrento Coast and my first stop is at the cliffs of Vico Equense, of Etruscan origins this little town has a lot to offer from the dramatic panoramas to pizza by the meter or Michelin Guide Starred Restaurants.  The Sorrento Peninsula is definitely an unforgettable culinary experience.

A view from the Saracen Tower (Torre del Saracino) dated from the VII century.  Here is located one of the best Restaurants of Italy "Torre del Saraceno" by Chef Gennaro Sposito
A view from the Saracen Tower (Torre del Saracino) dated from the VII century. Here is located one of the best Restaurants of Italy “Torre del Saraceno” by Chef Gennaro Sposito

But who where the Saracens and why they came to this part of Italy? Around the 455 AD the coast was invaded by Arab tribes, many watchtowers can still be seen on the cliffs to prepare the inhabitants for further attacks.  Saracen was a term for Muslims widely used in Europe during the Medieval Era.

Now a brief tour of the tasting menu at The Saracen Tower, enjoy!

And I can only describe as "sublime" each of the well deserved Michelin stars of the creative Chef Sposito, pictured here one of the starters from his sampling Menu, all made with organic ingredients grown on his own sustainable garden.
And I can only describe as “sublime” each of the well deserved Michelin stars of the creative Chef Sposito, pictured here one of the starters from his sampling Menu, all made with organic ingredients grown on his own sustainable garden. The fusion of truffles and spices gives this soufflé an interesting approach to the fusion of 2 worlds.
The pistachio and herb aromatic bed for the prawns, crusted nuts and beet sauce on the side
The pistachio and herb aromatic bed for the prawns, crusted nuts and beet sauce on the side
Local caught treasures of the sea naturally steamed on a base of hot stones well paired with Scala Fenicia wine of Capri
Local caught treasures of the sea naturally steamed on a base of hot stones well paired with Scala Fenicia wine of Capri
Raw squid on its own ink
Raw squid on its own ink
The maître offering a selection of the finest Italian, Belgium and Swiss blocks of chocolates with choice of aged rum, Armagnac, cognacs and other selected digestives.
The maître offering a selection of the finest Italian, Belgium and Swiss blocks of chocolates with choice of aged rum, Armagnac, cognacs and digestives.
Exploring the cellar located in the basement of the  Tower of Saracino.  As a sommelier this was such an amazing experience.
Exploring the cellar located at the lower part of the Tower of Saracino. As a sommelier this is always such an amazing experience, I am going over the vintages, the wide selection of local growers as well as the main growing Regions of Italy: Piedmont, Tuscany, Alto Adige and Veneto.
The Master Sommelier guiding me around the cellar of the Saracen Tower.
The Master Sommelier guiding me around the cellar of the Saracen Tower.
The turquoise waters of the Gulf of Sorrento with the majestic Vesuvius.
The turquoise waters of the Gulf of Sorrento with the majestic Vesuvius.
Fiat 500, when it comes to traveling around the Sorrento Peninsula I choose the Cinquecento, easy to park and get around the coastline.
Fiat 500, when it comes to traveling the Sorrento Peninsula I choose the Cinquecento, easy to park and get around the coastline.
Sea Bass on a bed of spice pumpkin sauce topped with a grilled prawn at Signum Cubo Restaurant in Vico Equense.
Sea Bass on a bed of spiced pumpkin sauce topped with a grilled prawn at Signum Cubo Restaurant in Vico Equense. A casual restaurant inside a boutique hotel in Vico.
At Cubo Signum a selection of crudos from salmon to grouper and tuna
At Cubo Signum a selection of crudos from salmon to grouper and tuna
Grilled salmon with avocado sauce, the fusion of Asian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Grilled salmon with avocado sauce, the fusion of Asian and Mediterranean cuisine.
The Mimosa it's a traditional sponge cake of the Sorrento coast filled with a delicious lemon cream
The Mimosa it’s a traditional sponge cake of the Sorrento coast filled with a delicious lemon cream
The Bar at Signum Cubo
The Bar at Signum Cubo
The warm setting of Cubo Boutique Hotel in Vico Equense
The warm setting of Cubo Boutique Hotel in Vico Equense
Skating on ice in Vico Equense
Skating on ice in Vico Equense, it’s one of the family activities during the Holidays
The Procession during the Three Kings festivities at the Piazetta of Vico
The colorful procession during the Three Kings festivities at the Piazetta of Vico. The three King’s day is celebrated with a Holy procession in many small Italian towns. I was able to watch it from my Hotel balcony.
The procession during the Festivities of the Three Kings at Vico Equense
The parade during the Festivities of the Three Kings at Vico Equense just like in many Italian towns this is an ancient tradition goes back to the late 6th century.
The famous Pizza a metro, a favorite with locals, this restaurant has been serving since the 1930's
The famous Pizza a metro, a favorite with locals, this restaurant has been serving since the 1930’s
The colorful harbour of Vico Equense just at walking distance from the Saracen Tower.
The colorful harbour of Vico Equense just at walking distance from the Saracen Tower.
So I stopped by the charming restaurant of Le Ancore Hotel in Vico Equense and tasted this delicious peppered mixed seafood "impepata di frutti misti di mare" a local tradition
So I stopped by the charming restaurant of Le Ancore Hotel in Vico Equense and tasted this delicious peppered mixed seafood “impepata di frutti misti di mare” a local tradition
Another reach plate of fresh seafood including marinated anchovies, fresh Gulf shrimp, octopus,  stuffed squids, grilled fish and langostinos
Another reach plate of fresh seafood including marinated anchovies, fresh Gulf shrimp, octopus, stuffed squids, grilled fish and langostinos
The famous Sorrento lemons, freshly squeezed to make "granitas" (frozen lemonade) in the summer or the dessert liquor limoncello
The famous Sorrento lemons, freshly squeezed to make “granitas” (frozen lemonade) in the summer or the dessert liquor limoncello
Remember that traditional Neapolitan song "Torna a Surriento" this is a town that will definitely make you come back.
Remember that traditional Neapolitan song “Torna a Surriento” this is a town that will definitely make you come back.
The lemons here are enormous, don't forget to try the "Delizia al Limone" a tarty dessert that has the characteristic flavor of Sorrento's traditional citric.
The lemons here are enormous, don’t forget to try the “Delizia al Limone” a tarty dessert that has the characteristic flavor of Sorrento’s traditional citric.
Organic grown oranges from Sorrento are used to make this excellent jam produced by Casa Barone approved by The Slow Food Commission
Organic grown oranges from Sorrento are used to make this excellent jam produced by Casa Barone approved by The Slow Food Commission

 

Juicy and red tomatoes, creamy white mozzarella di Bufala, ricotta and fior di latte, fragrant green basil, topped with a swirl of olive oil.  The mix of intense flavors and vivid colors, is characteristic of a cuisine that reflect the region’s Mediterranean climate.  Dishes rely on their success because of the freshness of the local ingredients.  Getting the fish fresh from the harbor is still part of the local life; sword fish, anchovies, mackerel and sardines; clams, mussels, octopus, squid and cuttlefish are served in dozens of ways including pasta.

But when in Sorrento, don’t forget to try the “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina”, the “Delizia al limone” and a sip of “limoncello”; you are on your way to a longer and healthy life.  Salute!