09.11.2015 - 10.11.2015 23 °C
Wow, I have to say that these two days in Pompeii were among the most amazing of my life! To be able to see this place, to tick off one of the most important items on my bucketlist is indescribable. But I'll try anyway... and I know you'll forgive me if I wax lyrical a little too often - if you can't cope, just skip over and look at the photos! I took over 250 photos of Pompeii, so the 30 here are only a fraction.
I went into the site at about 2pm on the first day - they close at 5pm at this time of year. Turns out that was a good idea, because the mornings can be crazy busy with tourists. I was able to get some good shots without people getting in the way.
I chose not to have a guide - they're very expensive, and I just wanted to experience the place through my own eyes. The downside (?) to this was that I didn't really know what I was looking at most of the time, but that's how you absorb the places you go, on your own terms. For that reason, some of the photos have an informational caption and some don't.
Just inside the entrance
Not far inside, there's a long building they use as a storage area. It's full of amphoras and other items that have been recovered from the buildings - presumably ones that aren't considered important enough, or in good enough shape, to be in the archaeological museum in Naples. And I'm happy about that, even though it's all behind a wire barrier - that you can poke your camera lens through.
Vesuvius looks a lot different today than it did before the eruption - it used to have a flat top
Ancient Roman wheelbarrows!
This was once a wine shop, not a public latrine, in case you were wondering! Those receptacles would have held wine, which would have been scooped out into amphoras or cups for quaffing. There were a lot of wine shops in Pompeii - it seemed every second building was one in some areas!
The mosaic-tiled entranceway to the House of the Tragic Poet - Cave Canem = Beware of the Dog
There are drinking fountains throughout the town, all with different "entities" at the spout
The streets are all paved with these massive basalt rocks. You can see the ruts worn away by the wheels of chariots and wagons. Those extra big rocks that stick up from the roadway are there as pedestrian crossings, so the citizens could cross without getting their feet wet when the streets flooded. They're spaced just the right distance apart so the chariots could still pass through. Must have been a very bumpy ride though, just the same, and I'm not sure how the horses and bullocks would have negotiated those massive rocks!
These following pics are from one of the houses that is relatively well preserved
Some amphoras in a back room
Marble table legs from the house of the first guy to stick a knife in Julius Caesar - the inscriptions in the tops of the legs identified that fact
External view of the amphitheatre in the setting sun
Internal view of the amphitheatre
Before I went into Pompeii I had started reading "Pompeii - a Novel" by Robert Harris. It's fiction, set during the two days before, and two days during, the eruption of Mt Vesuvius on a hot August day in 79AD. Not sure it was a totally good idea to read it while I was in Pompeii! But it was a good story and gave a human insight into what the people must have gone through, and how ignorant they were of the warning signs (tremors, sulphur odours, etc) leading up to the big one. Read it if you get a chance.
As a bit of an illustration of the people side, there's an exhibition in the amphitheatre on the site, with plaster casts made from the hollows left in the hardened ash by the bodies of some of the people who died in the eruption. Some died from suffocation or crushing from the vast amount of rock and pumice that spewed from Vesuvius during the first day of the eruption, and the rest from the surges of white hot gas and ash that streaked down the mountain. Some would have died in agony, and others wouldn't have known what hit them (hopefully).
Detail from the exhibition in the amphitheatre
A case of skeletons in one of the houses
Cast of an adult in the storage area
Cast of a child in the storage area
Of course, not just people died in the eruption. Guess it tells you that not all animals have that sixth sense!
The next day, I was leaving Pompeii in the early afternoon, so I went back inside in the morning. I was so pleased I'd gone up Vesuvius the day before, because the summit was covered with cloud, so you wouldn't be able to see any of the view.
In Pompeii, it wasn't too busy right at the start, and it gave me the opportunity to check out other parts of the 44ha that have been excavated so far (still 22ha to go!)
Even in the ruins, nature takes its course
At the entrance of the House of the Faun
There's ongoing work to stabilise as many of the artefacts as possible
Along the northern boundary of the site, there's a green belt - this part is at the western end, and is called the Passegiata fuori le mura. Unfortunately, you can't take a "passegiata", because it's closed off. I decided to take a walk around the northern flank - a walk through the trees was an attractive prospect. So off I went (no one else was around), following the map (or so I thought), and slowly proceeded to get lost. Turned out, I somehow managed to end up smack in the middle of the area that is still being excavated. The Italians aren't big on signage, believe me! Thankfully, I came across a couple of guys surveying and got them to show me where I was on the map - I was at the Casina dell'Aquila, which looks over the entire town. So the silk purse/sow's ear thing worked for me again!
Not many people get to this spot, so I felt quite special gazing across this amazing vista
In my travels, there were a lot of these guys scampering around & this one stayed still long enough for me to try out the awesome zoom on my new camera. Did I mention that I LOVE my new camera? :-)
I managed to find my way (with directions from the surveyors) back to "civilisation"
And this is the reason why you want to get off the 'beaten path' in Pompeii, early morning or mid afternoon!
There are workmen taking care to repair the ruins so they don't become more... ruined
And here's a final view for you to take home:
Well that's Pompeii ecstatically ticked off, and I'd happily spend even more time there. I wasn't looking forward to the local train to head back to Naples, nor was I looking forward to Naples Circumvesuviana train station! It's a real hole, where you want to look as poor as you can, but in the early afternoon on a week day, with lots of people getting off it felt a lot safer than when it was less populated on Sunday. Made it in plenty of time for the fast train back to Florence, which I was looking forward to - gave me a chance to finish my book, with a new appreciation for the story.
It was lovely to get back to Florence, where the people are nicer, the train station isn't threatening and the mood is much lighter. It felt a bit like coming home. The taxi driver said it had been a crazy day, because of the Pope's visit, and I can believe it - the traffic was still pretty bad!
I'll do one final post for day 33.