28 February 2018

2016 ITALY Vico Equesne 50 - Dinner Bell with Two Stars

There was a 40-min drive back to Villa Ketty. We had a short time to clean up and change into dinner attire. I could not believe how swollen my feet and ankles were. I've never had this problem before or since. I attribute it to walking on uneven stoney pavement for much of the day. Guess, I did not have the right shoes. What a relief to take my ankle bracelet off.

As we waited for our group to gather, we enjoyed this lovely sunset on the Bay of Naples.
We had a 15-minute drive on windy roads down to our restaurant by the sea. Our dinner res was 19:25 at Torre del Saracino (tower of the Saracens), a two-star Michelin restaurant. Our host was Vittoria Aiello and our Chef was Gennaro Esposito.

The structure was a wide tower built in medieval times. Thirteen-hundred years ago it was used as a sighting tower to spot enemies invading by sea.
Vivacious Vittoria led us into the cave-like seating area, where we enjoyed wine and antipasti.  Decor was modern mixed with ancient. Lighting was dramatic and romantic. It felt like sitting in your own living room--a huge coffee table surrounded by varied style chairs.

We had four or five appetizers and two wine pairings here. The sommelier demonstrated how to properly hold and pour from a wine bottle. First were dips and bread, and meaty tidbits.

Arancini (deep fried mozzarella stuffed rice balls). One of my all time favorites. Wish I had taken a photo with the ball split open and its wonderful gooey insides oozing out.
I don't remember this one, but pretty.

Then we were led up narrow tower steps to our private dining room. We had an L-shaped table with a view of night skies over the sea and city lights.

I think this meal served more courses than any other on either Italian trip. The aromatics of each dish were unique and wonderful. There were at least three more wines served. And I loved the interesting plates chosen to complement each food.

I'm guessing on some of these, but check out the photos. A variety of breads to start. Aren't the little mushroom breads cute?

Soft boiled egg over veggies.
Veggie stack salad.
Cheese soup? Mix it yourself.

Fish dish.
Pork, maybe, in rich sauce. Most courses served with a wonderful sauce.
Risotto. Another fave on my list.
This was called "broken candles." 


Seared white fish.
After the entrees, chef Gennaro introduced himself. What a happy guy! It is apparent he loves his job, especially the tasting part.
We received fresh napkins and then the desserts (yes, with an "s") started arriving. You can guess for yourself what these combos are. They also served apple tea, if you were wined out.

Then the desert finale. A very unique serving arrangement. These clear glass balls were about a foot in diameter and divotted with cubby holes for each delight. It was called the ball of fortune.

After that leisurely and lovely meal, we headed out into the night by way of a peek at the wine cellar.

It was cool and dark, horizon lit by the city lights of Naples across the bay. We got home at 00:15. Yikes!

2016 ITALY Herculaneum 49 - Herc vs. Pompeii

We arrived at our next destination at 16:30 for a 1.5 hour tour. I had never heard of Herculaneum (or Ercolano, in Italian) until this trip. This town lies on the western foot of Vesuvius and 5 miles (8 kilometers) southeast of Naples. It was also devastated in the 79 AD volcano eruption.

With his recent cataract surgery and other eye issues, Mike had problems managing the uneven stone walkways in Pompeii. So he decided to hold back on this trek. He, Giuseppe, and a few more tour drivers sat on a bench by the juice stand and chatted while I explored. Mike no-speak-a-da Italian and only G spoke English, but the conversation somehow was understood. They talked about smoking, politics, graffiti art.... Mike said he had a great time hanging with da guys.

The name Herculaneum indicates the town was founded by Greeks in the 7th or 6th century BC. (Romans did not control the area until 89 BC.) Heracles was a Greek hero, the son of Zeus (mythological ruler of Olympian gods), and is known for his strength and adventures. There is also a Roman Hercules, but it appears he was adapted for Roman literature from the Greek guy.

In 1709, while digging a deep well, statues were discovered in an area that later proved to be Herc's theatre. A French prince bought the property, explored out from the bottom of the well, and absconded with statues found there. After that, investigation came to a halt until 1738 when the same Spanish engineer who lead digging in Pompeii began work here.

There are a few differences between the two towns. I think the biggest is that Pompeii appears today to be on the same landscape level as its surroundings; whereas, Herculaneum lies in a deep dug out "pit" area. It was covered by 50-60 feet (20 meters) of debris. Steep vertical walls surround the site. Modern life appears along the top of the pit. Hard to explain, but this pix might help. Note the modern houses and tree line much higher than Herc.

Also, Pompeii was an everyday "working" town, while Herculaneum was wealthier, a resort for those that could spend time and money on a fancy lifestyle or holiday. It also had a smaller footprint and smaller population of 4,000-5,000.

The materials that covered the two towns was also different. Pomp was covered mostly by burning ash, so more was destroyed. Herc was covered with ash as well as material call pyroclastic. This encased and preserved organic-based materials such as wood, roofs, beds, food, rolled papyrus. Other details were preserved such as clothes press, washing tools, copper pipes, and some 300 recently-found intact skeletons of folks fleeing to the then bordering seashore.

So, here are plenty of pix starting with the walk between the parking lot and the site. Our first look was from a long viewing area overlooking the uncovered city below us and the steep vertical wall surrounding it. Check the size of the people in blue, kind of right of center and trees above.
To the left see the bridge taking us from the overlook across the gap between wall and city.

Over the bridge, then a long slope down to "street level."

We saw much of the same type of things as Pomp, but more decorated and rich looking...buildings, covered promenades, and columns (some not solid, but made with interior bricks). Hotels, indoor pools and baths, and restaurants were also identified.

Fanciful floors.

Elegant and delicate wall decor.

Household items--tables (or altars).

Kitchens--stoves and oven.

Marble stack for heating, maybe.
Street signs and dedicated drainage.
Greenery--an apple tree--was interspersed (obviously not from BC times), but made it look more realistic to how the original might have appeared.

And the most spectacular College of the Augustales.

At the end of this tour, we saw the boat stalls (at bottom) once bordering the sea
(shot taken from the overlook). This was the only spot you saw actual preserved skeletal bones, many in each stall. They did not seem as ominous as the casted shapes we saw in Pompeii.

On the other side of the gray walking ramp was this very tall wall. To get back to the top we had to cross a short bridge and climb many steps. Sorry, no elevator!! An option was to walk up the original slope, but that was on the other side of town.
So Pompeii vs. Herculaneum--Herculaneum won, hands down. Just compare the photos. And smooth stepping. Mike would not have had a problem. The gigantic plus? Almost no visitors compared to Pompeii. If anyone wants to know, pass on Pomp and spend your time at Herc.


Both Pompeii and Herculaneum are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.