Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Pompeii

Pompeii is a place that has fascinated me for a long time. When I heard a Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition was coming to London a few years ago I was determined to go, and watched all the documentaries which complemented it.

Unfortunately I couldn't get to the exhibition, but vowed I would in the near future make it to the actual site.

Vesuvius


Arriving in Naples after a week in Rome, I was excited to get to Pompeii. Its easy to reach on the Circumvesuviana, a metro costing about €5. Free maps and a booklet guide are available near the ticket stand if you keep your eyes open, and with this and a quick listen to an online guide, like this from Rick Steves you can get by without paying for a tour or audio guide.

Tip: the water sources in Pompeii still work so don't worry about carrying lots of water with you, just top up from the tap.

As we entered the ancient site it was amazing to see how well preserved some areas are. It really is like being in a deserted town. Stunningly, you could see proper road layouts, complete with pathways and raised crossings so you wouldn't get those fabulous new gladiator sandals wet.

Pompeii pedestrian crossing


House proud citizen's mosaics were still on display, and the countless food stalls echoed of late night snacks after too much grappa.

In the distance Vesuvius loomed, and it was quieting to imagine the eruption and burial of this city; a living breathing community so similar to our own today.

The details on the casts of the victims was incredible. Although there aren't many left, the one that remained showed the toenails, clothing and expressions of the people not Pompeii. I don't think I need to explain how scary and terrible it felt to imagine their last moments.

Cast of one victim, made from solidified ash


After a pit stop lunch (in the surprisingly well priced cafeteria) we visited some well trodden sights; The House of the Faun, the brothel, and the baths to name a few. I was surprised to see stone beds in the brothel, but was reassured they used to have mattresses. The tiny rooms were decorated only with a menu of the positions available; reverse gladiator looked fun!

Preserved mosaic


We ended our visit in the amphitheatre, which enjoyed great views over the hills and recent town developments, still under Vesuvius's threatening eye.