I always thought the story of Pompeii was fascinating – an advanced civilization covered in lava and wiped out in 79 A.D. when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. I was curious about how they lived, and died. My curiosity was whetted when a traveling Pompeii exhibit came to our Science Museum one year, with actual artifacts from Pompeii, including entire frescoed walls and plaster molds of people buried alive in the lava. So when a friend asked me to go to Italy, and I discovered the itinerary included a trip to Pompeii, I immediately jumped on board.
We took a day trip to Pompeii from Rome, which is about a 3 hour drive. Pompeii is just outside Naples. We had a nice view of fog-shrouded Mt. Vesuvius as we approached it.
It rained hard off and on during our 2 hour tour of Pompeii, but I would not be deterred. Carolina was our guide, a poly sci major who went to school 3 years to learn art, history, etc. to be a tour guide.
Carolina took us through the ruins to see large and narrow streets, “stores”, a rich family’s home complete with faded frescoes and tiled floors, the “red light district” with risqué paintings, the large gathering square (forum) complete with remains of the temples of Jupiter & Apollo, the small theater, the food market, the well, the men’s bath, and several rooms with artifacts that came from the site, including pots, plaster casts of humans in the throes of death and even the plaster cast of the poor dog that was part of the St. Paul touring exhibit of Pompeii.
Several homeless dogs freely ran the grounds of Pompeii and were fed by tourists and probably the on-site restaurant. One dog accompanied us on the 1st part of our tour and even laid at my feet at one point, but took off when it started to rain heavily. We found her and two companions snoozing later in the men’s sauna. Homeless cats and dogs appear to be common in Italy, although they seem well tended to.
Sorry, it’s more pictures than history in this post, but I was too busy taking it all in to listen closely, and my only map is in Italian, so enjoy the virtual tour of Pompeii!
The Streets of Pompeii
Those stepping stones (above) are so residents could cross the street without stepping in the sewage running down the road.
There is a little theater and big theater that were used for concerts and plays. There was a nice mosaic on the floor which looked nearly brand new (below).
The men’s bath consisted of the room where they changed, the cold water pool, the sauna (which had a contraption to create steam and carvings lining the room) and the tepid water bath.
Walking through the homes was the most interesting part of the tour. So much of the paintings and floor tiling were still in good condition for having been buried under lava and ash. Some of the reds were still quite vivid.
In the rich family’s home, there were several rooms, including a garden, a room where the owner met visitors (below), the dining room with the best frescoes (left), and the entry, which had a shallow pool in the middle with drains for collecting rainwater through the open ceiling (right).
Wall art from the home
The forum was the main meeting place, political and religious center and housed a number of temples.
The market contained shops and food (such as fish) was sold here.
There are “phallic symbols” embedded in to the street that point the way to the brothel. You can figure out how that works yourself.
Other Attractions of Pompeii
We lunched in the restaurant on the grounds – a too salty salad, “real” Neapolitan Margherita pizza that I couldn’t eat all of as it was huge, and a delicious vanilla gelato.
There are a number of vendor tents just outside the gates of Pompeii hawking the usual cheaply-made (kitschy) tourist trinkets, which didn’t deter us from spending freely, however. Be careful as each tent carries a lot of the same inventory but prices will vary. The vendors were pretty pushy, always trying to call you in, sell you an umbrella and follow you as you walk through their tent trying to convince you to buy. There are more upscale stores inside the building where the restaurant is.
Afterward, we went next to the Archeological Museum in Naples, which had statues, paintings and mosaics from Pompeii, Herculaneum and surrounding areas. Naples was once settled by the Greeks, is the 3rd largest city in Italy and is known for industry. I thought it was an ugly city, personally, compared to others I’d seen in Italy. The tour of the museum was interesting and would have been more so if we didn’t arrive at 3 p.m. with the prospect of a 3-hour drive home ahead of us. The museum even had an erotic room with sculptures, paintings (friezes), mosaics and figurines with an “erotic” theme – x-rated really in some cases. I don’t know why they didn’t leave all this stuff in Pompeii and preserve it, which I think would have made Pompeii even more interesting to tour.
More Photos of Pompeii