I was originally supposed to fly out today, but when my flight changed times and I was able to cancel for free, I had to take the opportunity to add another day to my trip and see Pompeii. Everyone who had been told me I was stupid for not including it in my itinerary, so I was very glad to have the chance to fit it in.
It was the absolute best day! About a 3 – 3.5 hour drive from Rome, we left early and got to Pompeii around 11. After the nearby Mount Vesvius erupted in 79AD, the town has been amazingly preserved and features some frescoes from 79AD which is just amazing. We had a local guide take us around for 2 hours, and the amount of information he had was unbelievable. The town was covered by 4-6 meters of volcanic ash, and wasn’t discovered for 1,500 years.
They were just finishing up an art exhibit when I arrived, so we were able to see them removing the statutes which was cool.
The path around this square would have had a wooden roof. And you can see evidence of their gutter system. Collecting rain water was very important, and often houses would have the roofs tilt inwards so they could collect the water. And anywhere were there is bricks would have had stucco.
Next up was their amphitheater. In some towns they would have painted the wall for each performance, but here they used painted screens for the background.
Next we went to one of their main streets. They had streets and avenues, depending if the road was big or small. They had high sidewalks, for easy unloading of materials from carts, and perfectly straight grooves in the road for smooth riding for the carts. They created walking bridges for pedestrians to cross the road, and perfectly curved them to match the grooves for the carts. And ensured each bridge perfectly matched the one before in regards to space between the stones. The Romans really were ingenious.
One of the first pictures below, with the roudn circles? That was a food stop where people could purchase wine and soup right when they entered town.
They had a few houses open for us to walk through. You could tell this was a rich man’s house by the size, but you also knew he was trying to be a politician. In one of the (original from 79AD!) frescoes, it shows him wearing white and holding a book – he was campaigning for office.
If you found holes in the sidewalk, it was where they used to tie up their horses while they went inside a shop. Most people had a shop on the road and then lived behind or above the shop. The higher you lived the poorer you were. You can also see the remains of a bakery/restaurant below – the oven really hasn’t changed too much.
We went inside another house, and I couldn’t get over the intricately carved ceiling. Seriously.
There you could also see the shape of one of the people of Pompeii. The body had decomposed by the time Pompeii was found, however the realized there were empty spaces in the ground when they were digging that they could fill with plaster. The result is the shapes of the body below (and more later on).
Back on the main street we continued our walk to the main square. They had beautiful fountains spaced throughout the main street. The square was pedestrian only, and you can see the blockade at the end of the street to indicate carts could go no further.
And you’ll also find the symbol used to mark the outside of a brothel. At that time Pompeii was right beside the sea, and often had sailors visiting. When they saw this, they knew they were at the right spot. And in the evenings, girls would stand outside with lights. When sailors approached them, they would howl like a wolf to indicate they had found the right girls – today this turned into a wolf whistle. It’s amazing how little things are still influenced by history so long ago.
In the main altar of the main squre (in front of Mount Vesvius), they pay homage to Jupiter (the Roman’s Zeus). And every pillar would have had another pillar above, and that pillar would have had a roof connecting them all. The statutes aren’t original (they’re from the exhibition) but the stands all are so it would have been a very grand space. And it all would have been covered in marble.
When it was first excavated there wasn’t proper security over the site, so much of the marble was stolen then. But it would have been glorious.
And then we were back to the beginning of Pompeii. Those two hours felt like 20 minutes, it was so interesting. I’m so glad I was able to fit this trip in – really a highlight I won’t forget.
From here we had a traditional Napoli pizza for lunch, and then went to Mount Vesuvius. Our bus could take us almost to the top, but we had to climb the last 800 meters (with 5 switchbacks each steeper than the last) but it was worth it. It’s not every day you can look inside an active volcano!
And then we were back in the bus for another 3 hour drive back to Rome. SO WORTH IT.