See Food, Sea Food, See Vesuvius

This is a culinary/cooking tour after all. So, after missing the first day of cooking thanks to our travel “experience”, we started our day with a hands-on seafood cooking lesson.

Here’s the menu that we attempted with the instruction and help of the hotel’s professional staff. We’d better learn well since we literally eat what we individually cook. Everyone works in teams…including Marsha & me, working together. Marriages even happier than ours have ended under these circumstances.

Before we get started on the menu for the day, we have to make the pizza dough so it can rise and relax for its trip to the wood-fired oven and our stomachs two days later. We started from scratch and soon found out how making the perfect dough is more an art than a basic skill.

Take a look at the pro’s magic hands. (We’ll see if the action comes through to you – experimenting with a video download program – let me know how to works).

Jeff and Nancy stuffing the calamari and, later, Marsha at lunch just digging into the Seafood Biscuit of Castellamare, even scarfing down the octopus. Recipes are available. Let us know if you are interested. I must say, our three-course lunches with wine really do prep you for the afternoon excursions. We’re climbing to look into the crater of Vesuvius this afternoon – final pitch equivalent to walking up the stairs of a 60 story skyscraper. Did need the caloric intake…and the alcohol to deaden the “pain”.

Climbing Vesuvius

It was our first mostly cloudy day, and a little chillier as we ascended the winding road to the end of vehicle access to the summit of Vesuvius. We’re greeted by this stone guy who appeared amused that we really wanted to do this. The views down were still spectacular despite the weather – down across Pompeii and Herculaneum – attesting to the devastation of Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 AD – and into the Bay of Naples.

We got off our minibus and started the longer than expected, steeper than expected climb toward the crater. Some people chose not to trek up, but some we never expected to attempt it, did…and successfully.

Jeff and I took humiliating photos of each other struggling up the steep, sandy, rocky trail, Jeff on one brand new knee while the other was not particularly cooperative. Me in my boot, bracing bruised bones in my foot (happened two days before we left on the trip). A couple of people coming down gave me high fives.

We made it, a little out of breath, but so glad we did as we walked part of the way around the rim of the crater. It is hard to imagine the day it erupted. The residents below had no idea it was volcanic since it hadn’t erupted for 1,200 years. At 1 pm a mushroom cloud of ash, dust and rocks blew 12 miles into the air, continuing for 18 hours while winds blew the cloud southward. The ash settled on Pompeii and eventually collapsed roofs and floors while leaving walls intact. 2,000 of the 20,000 residents stayed instead of running.

Herculaneum, although closer to the eruption (4 miles away) escaped the ash, but after 12 hours, the eruption changed to a superheated avalanche of ash, pumice and gas. The “pyroclastic flow” raced down the mountain at about 100 mph engulfing Herculaneum and literally cooking its residents alive. It ended up being buried in nearly 60 feet of hot material that cooled into rock, stopping the city in time. We’ll be visiting Herculaneum in a couple of days to see the beautifully excavated and preserved place. The flow went south and struck Pompeii too, fatal to those left behind.

The ladies and a few others joined us a short time after, much less winded to get the first hand look as well. We had to hustle down to make it out of the park before it closed and as darkness descended, not quite as dangerous as the ash.

We headed back to the hotel to get ready for the next “stuffing”, actually hungry again from the large calorie expenditure (any excuse). We didn’t start dinner until 8:00 each evening, so we had a couple of hours to have some snacks, cocktails, wine, and for some of us a few hands of Mahjong while I slogged the blog. Yes, we brought Marsha’s travel set along for just this reason.

The Evening Meal(s)

For those interested a typical evening dinner (every night) included:
Appetizers –
Seared tuna with concasses of tomatoes
“Raw” ham and melon

First Course –
Linguine pasta alla Nerano
Risotto with artichokes
Calamarata pasta with shrimp and squid

Second Course –
Grilled paillard
Salmon with citrons
Omelette with ham

Dessert –
Rum baba
Ice cream
Fruit

Dinner usually ended between 10 and 10:30…and sometimes getting to sleep was difficult. But we all got up to excitedly greet the next day’s adventure. Tomorrow we’ll spend almost the whole day exploring Naples, actually 45 minutes to an hour (depending on traffic) away. Set the alarm.

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1 Response to See Food, Sea Food, See Vesuvius

  1. Don and Pat says:

    The walk up Vesuvius sounds mildly familiar. We climbed to the “Peace Stupa” while in Pokhara, Nepal last week, 400 plus steps. we had the added pressure of making it to the top by sunrise to see the first rays light up Annapurna and the Himalayas. Worth the effort!

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