“There have been many disasters in this world, but few have given so much delight to posterity.” Words written by Goethe after visiting Pompeii in 1787…
This was the last visit during my stay in Naples….I can’t say it is the most spectacular (see The Veiled Christ), but certainly it swollen me up onto a journey of 20,000 years.
It was lunch time in the ancient Italian city of Pompei, and the Pompeians were engrossed in their work without knowing that they had seen that wonderful sun for the last time!!!
In the early hours of the afternoon in the summer of A.D 79., in fact, Mount Vesuvius exploded with a frightening roar.
By the time Vesuvius stopped belching poisonous gas with a black river of ash and lapilli, the bustling city of Pompeii was silent, completely buried under six or seven metres of earth. Almost overnight, Pompeii—and many of its 10,000 residents—vanished under a blanket of ash.
It remained silent for 1700 years when excavations brought to light about four fifths of the lost city up till now.
Visiting the ruins of Pompeii is like going back in time.
The layers of ash actually helped preserve buildings, artwork, and even the forms of bodies as they decomposed and left holes in the ash.
Based on what the experts uncovered, scientists believe that Pompeii was a prosperous town. Well-paved streets had high sidewalks and stepping-stones to keep pedestrians out of the mud. To relax, people soaked in public baths, watched gladiators or chariot races at an amphitheater, and enjoyed plays in two theaters.
Pompei was surrounded by a three kilometre long wall, in which there were eight gates. To the west there is the Forum, around which are grouped the temples and the public buildings.
In the foreground there is the Large Theatre and the rest is mainly occupied by houses. Outside the city gates is the necropolis. Pompei used to be situated only 500 metres from the sea, but after the material was emptied into the gold during the eruption, the distance increased to two kilometre.
My suggestion is to join one of the groups visit that you can book when you buy your ticket at the entrance (first Sunday of each month is free); I was looking at first through internet to find a guide; it was ridiculously expensive, then I found out that you can have a 2 hours visit for only 12 euro!!!!
It is quite hard to see it all in few hours, not even days would be sufficient. Thus the best thing if you don’t have significant time at hand, is to go after an itinerary covering the most spectacular points of interests, i.e. Forum, Temple of Venus, Basilica, Temple of Apollo, Amphitheatre. If you want to get out before it closes, best is to rely on someone choosing the best itinerary for you.
I entered through Porta Marina, perhaps the most famous of the gates of the city, so called because it faces the sea.
I passed by the Antiquarium where you can watch the story of the city projected on the wall in both, English and Italian. It is composed by 4 room, with objects such as many terracottas, Eutruscan pottery and sculptures.
Human mind is a mystery: what you will also find are many messages left by those visitors that had stolen artefacts taken from Pompeii. Basically those visitors who have slipped a piece of the world’s most important archaeological site into their pockets are sending them back , claiming they bring bad luck. The world would be a better place if the criminal acts were punished through Karma. The “curse of Pompei” is an old story that says the eruption of Mount Vesuvius was punishment inflicted by the gods after legionaries destroyed holy buildings. You can read letters asking for forgiveness to Massimo Osanna, Pompeii’s archaeological superintendent:
This example goes against every principle of responsible travel practices:
Leave no trace means to be mindful when visiting a destination. If everyone takes a single pebble of a beach, it will not take long for that beach to disappear. If everyone leaves rubbish in the oceans, soon it will become a ocean of plastic. It is important that we leave as little trace as possible.
We are human and can’t help but leave some trace and alter something in the surroundings, but we can minimise our damage.
As soon as you leave the Antiquarium, through a gate on the right, it is possible to see the site of the goddess of Venus, protectress of the city. It is an amazing place to admire some fantastic views.
At the Basilica, I was without a doubt in front of the most important public building in Pompei: the centre of the economic life of the city. There is a spectacular view from this point. When you walk through a large nave formed by 28 brick columns of Greek influence, you are led into the Forum by means of five doorways.
The Forum was the heart of the political and religious life of the city: a rectangular square surrounded by a covered arcade on three sides.
Via dell’Abbondanza was an elegant street with its name taken from the beautiful fountain on which is sculptured the symbol of Plenty: an opulent woman carrying the symbol of plenty.
If you continue the walk along this street, apart from getting tired of walking maybe:-)….., you can witness many aspect of innovative Roman engineering in 79AD that is unique, such as a system of pedestrian crossing. Blocks raised on the road allowed pedestrians to cross the street without having to step onto the road itself which was routinely flooded to wash away dust and debris as per Pompeii’s drainage and sewage disposal system. The spaces between the blocks allowed horse-drawn carts to pass along the road; there are visible signs left by the vehicles such as carts with two or four wheels rimmed with iron that were used to transport goods, food and other materials.
I walked along this 600 metres street that was the most commercial quartier of the prosperous city: you can admire old shops, balconies, galleries and inscriptions on the walls that were the main parts of houses.
I visited at last the Amphiteathre at Pompeii, which is considered the oldest known amphitheatre.
…and as I approached it, I was thrilled to hear the sounds of “music” drifting in the wind.
Of all the lost cities in the world, ancient Pompeii is the most ‘found’. It is dated back in A.D. 79 since the amphitheatre at Pompeii hosted any kind of audience, when in 1971 it was destined to receive the crowds once more; not this time a crowd of gladiators, but the rock band Pink Floyd. The show was documented (Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii) and release the following year.
Walking through a gallery full of photos and music from the gigs in the giant amphitheatre, the vast ruin of ancient Roman Pompei, of all the lost cities in the world, represents the one most found.
The irony is that all the people in the 600-year-old town of 20,000 could have escaped. There had been time to flee. But in 79 A.D., no one recognized the inherent danger of the mountain’s warnings.
Today more than a million people live in the cities surrounding Mount Vesuvius. My parents are amongst those….