Written by alias843 on 19 Apr, 2010
I had only allotted two days to see all of Amalfi and Pompeii and I also had my heart set on seeing Vesuvius. I had a rough plan to meet up with a new friend of mine early, head to Pompeii then catch the…Read More
I had only allotted two days to see all of Amalfi and Pompeii and I also had my heart set on seeing Vesuvius. I had a rough plan to meet up with a new friend of mine early, head to Pompeii then catch the bus to the top of Vesuvius, spending whatever was left of the day exploring Pompeii.The train to Pompeii is called the Circumvesuviana and it sometimes leaves from the main train station in Naples but always departs from the Vesuviana terminal just a few blocks away. Any front desk person can tell you where this is. After a few minor hiccups (it was EARLY) we were off on the train. There is a slow one with more stops and a faster one though the difference isn't all that significant unless you're in a severe hurry. The train station was near the entrance to the Pompeii excavation but we passed it by to get on a bus to Vesuvius.The bus ride to the top was winding and wild. We were dropped off in a parking lot near (but not quite at) the top of the volcano. You have to walk the rest of the distance. The path is well-marked though it is uphill so a mild degree of physical condition is required. The bus driver told us we have 45 minutes before he was pulling out so we moved expeditiously to the top of the hill. The view from the top is incredible. When it's clear you can look down on the ruins. A very strange feeling. The inside of the volcano is quiet though there was some sulfurous steam venting. It looked like a lunar landscape.Before we knew it, our time was up. We had to jog down the hill to make it back to the bus but we did it. Apparently these bus drivers are some of the only Italians who take punctuality seriously, so don't think you've got a 5 minute buffer. About twenty minutes later we were back by the entrance to the excavation site.I managed to sweet talk my way into a student ticket (much cheaper but usually off-limits to non-Europeans) and we were in. You must must must ask for a map before you enter the site. Otherwise you will be wandering around blindly and this place is big. It's the size of a whole city. There are a lot of people milling around the entrance offering tours and from what I've heard they're usually worth it. Unfortunately I was severely short on funds so I went it solo, probably missing a good deal of historic information. It was still phenomenally impressive. I can't really describe the feeling of walking around this place. So much of the place is still recognizable for what it once was. You really get the feeling that you're walking city streets. Very different from what I had expected. It is a lot of walking though, so prepare yourself and wear good shoes and bring water. There are a few places where you can buy a beverage inside but these are few and far between. Also expensive. Our highlights were the brothel (with artwork still intact), the saunas, and all the pretty mosaic floors. One of the strangest most humbling things to see are the bodies of people who were caught in the ash, they left cavities that later excavators would fill with cement. You can see a lot in these casts of peoples' final moments, everything from their clothes to the looks on their faces. It really humanized the experience for me.There was a lot to see here and I enjoyed so much of it that it would be impossible to squeeze it all in to one short article. This place was incredible and anyone who gets a chance to visit Italy should make time to see this. Naples is only a few hours outside of Rome and it was easy for me to add one day in Pompeii to a week's itinerary.Close
Written by susiejwp on 07 Nov, 2005
On a warm day in August AD79, an event occurred that changed this city forever. In a horrendous explosion, Mt Vesuvius left her mark for others who followed to find. One minute the city was bustling. everyday life at its best, then suddenly the sky darkened…Read More
On a warm day in August AD79, an event occurred that changed this city forever. In a horrendous explosion, Mt Vesuvius left her mark for others who followed to find. One minute the city was bustling. everyday life at its best, then suddenly the sky darkened and Mt Vesuvius erupted, spilling first ash upon the countryside, later followed by pumice at the rate of 6 inches every hour. If this was not enough, finally molten rock and caustic gas flowed from the crater, burning all in its path, to cover Pompeii and all those unlucky enough to be trapped for centuries.
Today Pompeii is available for visitors to experience, if only in part due to the diligent work and research of archaeologists. Visitors can walk down ruts in the roads where chariots once traveled, see loaves of bread displayed that were found still inside the ovens where they were baking when the eruption hit, and view the figures of citizens and their pets shown in the positions in which they fell, when they could no longer breathe the ash-ridden air.
Since there are no official guides at the site, visitors should acquire a guidebook, which are readily available at the entrance from individual vendors. They are sold at a reasonable price and can prove invaluable in finding ones way through the maze of streets. I would strongly advise the visitor to purchase one of these guides and to research the site before visiting, if only to aid in the identification of items and parts of the city.
The amphitheater has been found to easily seat 20,000, a number that staggers the mind when you realize that the theater was not visited by all of the populace. To have a theater of this size suggests a city that could effortlessly support it with numbers. Throughout the city, paintings and signs are remarkably preserved and give a wonderful feel for life in Pompeii before the eruption.
The homes in Pompeii are examples of a fairly wealthy city; in fact, many think it might have simply been a “summer place” for those trying to escape the heat of the city. Villas in Pompeii filled every need of the family. The summer villa concept is easily believed, for as we all know, there was no air-conditioning in AD79, so people commonly traveled to the seaside in hopes of finding refuge from the heat and oppressive nature of big cities.
Though far from being completely excavated, Pompeii has endless artifacts available for the viewer. Clearly displayed in glass cases are plaster casts of figures found within the ruins. Their bodies, which actually slowly decomposed over time, left hollows in the ash, and researchers found that by pouring plaster into these same hollows, they could preserve the depressions of the bodies as they fell. Some lay in quiet positions as if sleeping, others lay huddled together, while still others show the strain and pain of gasping for their past breaths as the ash overtook them! Casts of men, gladiators with their shields nearby, women trying to protect children found huddled beside them, and pets still tethered to their ropes are only a few of the molds available for the viewer to see. One can only imagine the horror they must have felt, the terror, as they found that there was no escape from this rain of ash!
For those who know anything of Pompeii, it is well-known fact that the city was rife with prostitution and politics. In fact, signs advertising both areas are clearly seen today in excavated parts of the city, showing that this city, in fact, was not all simple summer fun. This city has so much to see and covers such a large area that I suggest putting aside at least 2 days to explore this city. Although there are no guides, the city is self-explanatory with a good guidebook and visitors can easily find themselves at departure time wishing they had more time to experience the city.
Written by Taylor252 on 10 Aug, 2003
Fancy words for a mundane, albeit necessary, function. The house was excavated in 1911 and was in good shape. Every room's function could be easily identified. The building had been a wealthy home at one time, dating from much earlier than the eruption. It had…Read More
Fancy words for a mundane, albeit necessary, function. The house was excavated in 1911 and was in good shape. Every room's function could be easily identified. The building had been a wealthy home at one time, dating from much earlier than the eruption. It had been purposefully converted for use as a business. An interesting side note: just inside the door a skeleton was found with the sum of 1089.5 sesterces close at hand. Was this a burglar trying to take advantage of the panic or perhaps the owner trying to save the laundry's last fees. Who knows, but other single skeletons were found in situations where it could have been thief or owner. Makes one ponder the importance of "things" vs. your very life. These folks made a decision and they died with their "things" by their side . . .
Enough philosophy. There was a room for ironing where a press was found. There was a large tub for washing (pictured below) and an open air flat area on the second floor presumably for drying. Now hold your hat on . . . there were oval basins were the clothes were washed by stomping on them . . . but that was only after soaking in a degreasing agent composed of human or animal urine. Containers used for that purpose were nearby. After that, the fabrics were sofened by treatment with a special clay and then put through a process like a wash board to get rid of all the materials from previous steps. Maybe I should have called it the dry cleaners instead of the laundry! After all they use chemicals to do the cleaning!
When you enter Pompeii, walking straight takes you to the south end of the Forum. If you continue straight across that end of the Forum and on to the Via (Street) in front of you, you will be on the Via Dell 'Abbondanza.…Read More
When you enter Pompeii, walking straight takes you to the south end of the Forum. If you continue straight across that end of the Forum and on to the Via (Street) in front of you, you will be on the Via Dell 'Abbondanza. There are many interesting buildings along this street -- homes of the wealthy, business, public areas and a temple or two. The temple of Isis can be found by going three blocks down Via Abbondanza, turn right and go one block, turn left and the temple will be in the block on your right. It will be in front of the Large Theater.
This temple is in relatively good shape (see picture below). There is a plaque that informs us that this building was restored by a private individual, a wealthy freedman named Numerius Popidus Celsinus after the earthquake in 62AD. A flight of stairs goes up to the entrance of the temple and two niches on either side of the entrance housed statues of Harpocrates and Anubis. THese minor divinities were connected to the cult of Isis. Among the artifacts that were unearthed in the temple were a marble hand, and two human skulls.
In the southeast corner of the courtyard was a so called Purgatorium. Purification rites were held there. There is a large peristyle around the complex and several other buildings within that housed priests or were used for other rituals connected to the cult of Isis. One important altar not far from the Purgatorium seems to have been a place where the remains of the sacrifices were collected. It is a well that is fenced off in the northeast corner of the courtyard. Some histories believe that Isis was a hard taskmaster on her servants, requiring the letting of much blood. The remains at Pompeii seem to bear that out.
Written by Taylor252 on 07 Aug, 2003
The Forum of Pompeii is one of the largest open area in Pompeii. It was the center of commerce, politics and religious worship. At one end is the Basilica, identified as such by graffiti on one of the walls.…Read More
The Forum of Pompeii is one of the largest open area in Pompeii. It was the center of commerce, politics and religious worship. At one end is the Basilica, identified as such by graffiti on one of the walls. The word basilica means to our ears large place of worship!? This basilica was a place of judges, trails, and judgement. However, the form and shape of this building was eventually codified in the middle ages and used for some of the great religious building of Christendom.
At the other end of the forum was the imposing Temple of Jupiter (see below). Along the south side are several buildings that held magistrates. The Temple of Vespasian also borders the forum. Back in the south eastern corner is what appear to have been a food market. It is called the Macellum.
The Horrea is on the north western side of the Forum. It was to have housed the grain market but was unfinished at the time of the eruption. It is now covered and used as a storehouse for archeological finds. Pictured below is the "Muleteer"--a famous casting of a man trying to protect his eyes from the ash. Beside him was the skeleton of his mule. They were both overcome before they could escape the city.
As you enter Pompeii this will be one of the first ruined buildings you see on the left. Various artifacts from several different cultures found at this site suggest there was a vigorous cult of Apollo in Pompeii.…Read More
As you enter Pompeii this will be one of the first ruined buildings you see on the left. Various artifacts from several different cultures found at this site suggest there was a vigorous cult of Apollo in Pompeii. The basic floor plan of this building dates to a time before the Romans controled the area. (about 2nd Cent. B.C.) It showed frequent modifications and was under renovation (probably from an earthquake in 62 AD) at the time of its final destruction in 79 AD.
There were 48 columns around a peristyle (covered walkway around the outer edge of a courtyard), the ruins of which you can see in the pictures below. The actual temple is the raised area in the center.
The bronze figure of Apollo to the right of the picture is a copy of one that was originally found at that site. If you visit Pompeii when there are few clouds over Vesuvius, you can take a marvelous picture of the ruins with the volcano in the background. We had some clouds but the picture is below.
Written by Taylor252 on 06 Aug, 2003
As you walk the narrow streets of ancient Pompeii you will see the bakery that still has bread in the oven almost 2000 years after it was first put there... the quick food bar where coins were left on the…Read More
As you walk the narrow streets of ancient Pompeii you will see the bakery that still has bread in the oven almost 2000 years after it was first put there... the quick food bar where coins were left on the counter... the election slogans scawled on the wall for an election that never happened...and then the cement or plaster forms of those people who tarried too long before fleeing and were left where they fell for archeologists to discover so many centuries later....
Currently about 2/3 of the city has been excavated and it is open to visitors year round. Pompeii can be explored by yourself with maps and guide books which are available on site. (some of the better ones will cost $5-$10. ) However, if your are a first time visitor you might want to join a group tour or hire a professional tour guide at the gate. Professionally guided group tours can be booked at any major hotel in either Naples or Rome and will generally cost you less than a private profession guide hired at the gate. If you opt for an individual guide, the payoff will be a wonderfully detailed tour, going places that are inaccessible to large groups or easily missed by the uninformed.
NOTE: Arrange your price with the guide before you begin the tour. The amount of time and his hourly fee will both play a part, and everyone should know what is expected.
Travel Hint 1: The original paving stones would be pretty rough going for someone in a wheelchair.
Travel Hint 2: The people of ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum had a very different view of sexuality than our modern times. (Pompeii had 20 brothels). If you have children or easily offended adults in your group, mention that to your guide and he will steer clear of some of the more ribald pictures and buildings. On the other hand, if you are not easily offended and interested in the culture and history of these people let the guide know there is no problem, and he will probably show you a door lintel painting which is considered good luck to touch if you are trying to get pregnant!
AND ONE LAST NOTE ON POMPEII: Popular belief says that all or mostly all of the inhabitants of Pompeii died that day. Actually, the population of Pompeii is estimated to have been around 22,000. To date the remains of only about 2000 people have been found.
Written by travel2000 on 03 Nov, 2000
Here's the lowdown on guides-if you have a small group, definitely splurge to get one. On our past visit, we had a group of seven adults. We were deciding whether to spend the money, but eventually, an older Italian gentleman approached us and was very…Read More
Here's the lowdown on guides-if you have a small group, definitely splurge to get one. On our past visit, we had a group of seven adults. We were deciding whether to spend the money, but eventually, an older Italian gentleman approached us and was very kind and spoke excellent english. The rate was 180,000 lire for 2 hours. Since it was within the rate my Italian friends had informed me the day before, we decided to go for it. It was the best decision, especially since it was so crowded and hot that day.
He guided us through to see the major sights, and at each place, gave excellent historic background and stories. My favorite was when he pointed out some graffiti on the walls, apparently from a political election right before the volcano erupted. It's these small details-if he didn't bring it up, I would've missed out completely. Someone in our group had previously visited Pompeii on an extensive college tour, and even she found our guide both informative and entertaining.
The large theater is located three blocks down Via Abbondanza, then go right two blocks. It will be on your left. This theater seems to be modeled after Greek theaters so probably dates to the Hellenistic period between the 3rd and 2nd century B.C.…Read More
The large theater is located three blocks down Via Abbondanza, then go right two blocks. It will be on your left. This theater seems to be modeled after Greek theaters so probably dates to the Hellenistic period between the 3rd and 2nd century B.C. the audience seats are cut into a natural hillside and it could hold as many as 5000 spectators. In fact, it is still used for performances today.
Originally this was probably a site for plays and readings but as the Roman influence was felt, gladitorial contests were added. A barracks for those gladiators lies directly behind the theater. This would probably have been a secondary site for these contests as there is a huge ampitheater and huge gladiator barracks on the other side of town.