Pompeii Day

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Pompeii Day

Category : Art , Seeing the World

Thanks to Microsoft’s ‘Ancient Lands‘, a CD-Rom that came with our very first computer in 1995, I’ve been curious about Pompeii for a while now. When we started planning our Italy trip I put it on the must-see list. Really, it’s the primary reason with ended up in Naples at all.

Turns out there’s other stuff in and around Naples, but nonetheless, we reserved one whole day for the ancient buried city of Pompeii. In 79 AD Vesuvius erupted and buried much of the vicinity in ash and pumice, killing off the 20 thousand or so people living in Pompeii. The place was forgotten and nothing rediscovered until 159


Interestingly, it was re-buried, basically, and this happened more than once! The frescoes discovered, each time someone stumbled upon this treasure, were too risqué, apparently. Even though it’s been a tourist destination for over 250 years now, those dodgy bits were predominantly closed to the public until the 1960s! And now, of course, they’re the most popular bit of all and feature prominently in the souvenir shops.

But somehow we managed to remain ignorant of this whole story and took a route through the city accidentally avoiding the brothel remains. (I am disappointed, yes.) Still, we saw plenty! And it was all fantastically awesome and brilliantly olde. That’s right, olde with an ‘e’. It was that olde.

theatre at pompeii

Luuk and Elena in an amphitheatre (Louis and I at the top, not pictured.)

wall relief at pompeii

Incredibly detailed artwork EVERYWHERE, but these are just a few examples.

frescoes and ceilings at pompeii

This is one of the few buildings with it’s roof intact.

ruins at pompeii

Obviously, the roof here would have caved in and rotted away, though some of this may have been an open courtyard.

forum pompeii, and vesuvius

The central forum (like a town centre), surrounded by temples and churches as well as administrative/civil offices. And that’s Vesuvius in the background.

mounting the steps of the pompeii cathedral

Luuk and the kids, heading for the remains of the cathedral.

Louis at Pompeii cathedral

Louis, playing with the rocks, in the cathedral.

sorting the stuff, bodies included, at pompeii

There are several of these store-houses containing most of the bits from within the buildings.

And, yes, that is a body. These are fascinating and macabre. When the ash/pumice fell many people were trapped and completely encased. Archaeologists discovered cavities with human bones in them. Once they figured out what they were, they filled the cavities with concrete. And, now, we have loads of these forms – human-shaped slabs of concrete with the bones STILL INSIDE! Creepy, I know, but so interesting.

frescoes, at pompeii

Incredible frescoes. Just hundreds of them. The colours on some are so vibrant, and yet they’re easily more than 2000 years old.

ceilings and crowds, at pompeii

These were ancient baths, so detailed and ornate. And quite crowded.

Lots of tour groups went in around the time we arrived but they seemed to take a shorter route and soon we were walking different paths. You can go whichever way you like but the maps suggest the order to do things in depending on which entrance you start at and how much time you want to spend. We chose the 1/2 day itinerary and then diverged from that later in the day when we realised that, even with two kids and the pushchair to wrangle, we had plenty of time.

hydrating at pompeii

The roman water supply reaches this far! Hurrah!

We needed it too. Hot weather and lots of kid-carrying and push-chair-wrestling. Look a those roads. The roads might not have been so bumpy, back in the day, but the stuff that would have filled gaps between the rocks has worn away. The roads doubled as waterways/drains and the pedestrian crossings were generally three big rocks, tall enough that pedestrians didn’t have to stand in the rivers of sticky-ick. The carriage wheels would go between these crossing-rocks.

frescoed rooms at pompeii

Many of the houses are ornate like this, but lots are blocked off for refurbishment or protection.

I suppose it’s already lasted a long time but there did seem to be some neglect around the place and I only hope little is lost. It must be a huge undertaking, excavating and preserving a whole city. Still, they bring in 11 euros per person and over 2.5 million visitors a year. looking into the cool, at pompeii

A blocked off house. You can see the concreted edges of the frescoes. This is how they protect pretty much everything – by covering it with concrete. Basically.

on our way out, with the pushchair still intact

The push chair survived! Miracle. This was toward the end of our visit, passing through the necropolis on ‘Via del Tombe’, on our way to the Villa dei Misteri and out through the Porta Vesuvio. Here’s a map, if you’re curious.