Week 15b – Montecassino, Caserta and Pompeii

  • We had two days to see these three “must do” sites. We based ourselves in Caserta as the mid point and would certainly not do that again – what an unhappy, run down, sad-arsed place. They have one of the finest palaces in Europe, and we could not find a restaurant that looked even remotely inviting – went to Carrafours for groceries and had picky teas in our hotel room.
  • Thursday morning we headed for Montecassino – this place obviously looms large in our ANZAC history and did not disappoint – the allies took just 3 days to destroy this amazing abbey, and it took the Italians 19 years to rebuild it “where it was, as it was”, but they understand history and rebuilt it beautifully, reinstating everything they could find in the rubble “as it was”- even small sections of Byzantine frescoes. (Note to NZ Government – have you no sense of history – rebuild Christchurch Cathedral!! There are so few beautiful buildings in NZ – don’t lose that one.)
  • The abbey has been destroyed and rebuilt 4 times since it was first built about 550 AD, and there are parts from all eras. The museum is stunning in it’s attention to detail, with no great emphasis on the WW2 destruction – this was just another phase in the history of the abbey.
Montecassino abbey courtyard
The nuns did like a great view
Polish Cemetery at Montecassino
Grant at the front gate
  • We then returned to Caserta and on a very hot day went to Reggia di Caserta. The palace is the largest palace on earth and it’s design was based on Versailles. It is beautiful, and in my opinion more structurally impressive than Versailles, (all marble), but almost unknown outside of Italy. I got the impression that they just don’t have the money to really ramp it up as a destination, so it just plods along attracting relatively few tourists, with not enough money to really keep the huge gardens in top shape.

    Reggia di Caserta – it was hot but where are the people??
Quite an impressive waiting room
This just one fish pond in a line that stretches across the town to the hills in the distance
They do like a bit of marble here
Looking back from previous photo
  • Friday was hot and humid but it was Pompeii no matter what. We got there early and found a park very close, but by the time we had stood in the ticket queue, (or what passes for a queue in Italy … ), for 20 minutes we were sweaty messes anyway. Pompeii was very hot, and very crowded, (better marketing job than Caserta), but was worth the effort.
Pompeii forum – hot and sweaty
Mummified by the ash. How much pain was the dog in the middle in!!
This made me laugh – there were speed humps on many roads – to stop the hoons racing their chariots??
The houses were quite large. This must have been a wealthy town
Requisite amphitheatre – you need to take a photo to say you’ve been there
  • They have done a brilliant job of excavation, empathetic restoration, (or is that protection), and this is a must see place – it really is spectacular.
  • Handy hint – if you go to the very large house at the far end “Villa dei Misteri” it is a) not crowded, b) very impressive, and c) has a really nice bar under a grape covered loggia just outside on the road for a great coffee, food and cold beer! Just tell the bloke at the gate you are coming back in – no problem – kept me going when I was starting to fade.
  • We walked the whole town of Pompeii, and then retreated to a lovely little restaurant over the road for probably more beer than I should have had on a hot day.
They did a great pork knuckle and chips
  • That was Friday and Saturday we headed for La Spezia and the Cinque Terre


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *