Our first cruise stop was in Napoli and we drank in as much as our hours allowed.
History was literally underfoot – starting with a tour of Herculaneum, an ancient town destroyed by a volcano in 79 AD.
In the shadow of the more well-known Pompeii, the Herculaneum people thought they had been spared from the volcano until the winds shifted a day later and the town was swallowed in 250 degree volcanic heat.
The ash and heat preserved the town itself and now, nearly 2,000 years later, we walked among its halls and walls in the early morning.
Kitchens, storefronts, baths, receiving rooms, rooms small and grand spread before us with delightful detail still evident in their mosaics, paintings, and arches.
I ducked under doorways between rooms and read that the average height of women in that time was 4 feet 9 inches and men were, at most, 5 feet 3 inches. I’ve never felt like such a supermodel while doused with sunblock and carrying a map.
All the history makes a girl hungry so we headed from the ruins to the “Sacred Temple of Pizza” also known as L’ Antica Pizzeria da Michele.
For more than 100 years, this pizzeria has carb-loaded travelers from all over Italy and the world.
Made even more famous by the book Eat, Pray, Love, the small shop is known for long lines and close quarters as the masses squash together to inhale one of only two pizza options offered.
Our amazing guide, Daniele, ushered us right in and made sure we got a primo table, cold drinks, and double cheese on our pizza pies.
Of course Italy in July is hot-hot so we worshipped at the altar of St. Coca-Cola while we waited. Pizzas arrive – one size only, served whole, plopped onto the table, and devoured with gusto.
What else to eat besides pizza? Stroll along the street market where small, outdoor stands offer anything from giant pasta tubes to seafood plopped into buckets atop quickly melting ice.
Live octopuses flip a tentacle at you, warm fish eyes peer skyward, and jumbo shrimp antennas peek out of the ice.
After all this culinary exploration, we head away from the heat and deep underground in a subterranean tour.
We went 40 meters deep and 2,400 years back in time to walk through tunnels that zipper along under the city.
Sometimes used as an air raid shelter, other times as the entrance to Roman-style theatres, it was delightfully cool and just spooky enough to keep the kids weaving along with a dripping candle in hand.
A final drive to the top of Naples gives us a lovely postcard image to take with us as the sun begins to slip lower in the sky and we set sail once again.