9/17/10 (Day 16)
We found out today just how boutique our hotel was as the breakfast was brought to our room at no extra charge. Breakfast consisted of the typical Italian style of croissant, juice, and coffee (declined).
Today is Pompei day. We headed to the main Naples train station before 8am to see if we could figure out what train to get on. As it turned out, we could not use our Eurorail pass for today, but the return ticket price was less than 10 Euros for the two of us. We jumped on the train and got to Pompei in about 30 or 40 minutes.
Once here, we had no idea where to go, but just a few steps put us right at the entrance gate to the ruins, so all was working out. We arrived at 8:45am and just after they opened at 8:30. This meant we had the whole day here. Excellent. Pompei is huge at 65 hectacres of which about 10 are visitable.
The audio guides were an excellent purchase and we were able to use them all day. There was about 4 hours of audio on the guides and we almost listened to all of it. We also had a book purchased in Rome that explained the ruins and had photos of the ruins as they are today with transparent overlays that showed the artistic renderings of what they would have looked like back in 79 AD before Mount Vesuvius eruption. Between these two resources I have enough information about Pompei, well, to write a book. =)
Some of the highlights….. Pompei had about 20,000 residents at the time of the eruption. The town was much bigger than I thought it would be. The legends stated that Hercules founded the town of Pompei and they worshiped him as such. The town is full of temples honoring various gods and goddesses. The archeologists named each building they found according to the statues or paintings they found in the rooms. Pompei streets were made of large flat, rounded rocks with sidewalks on either side built at least half a foot higher than the street. The street served as the drainage for both storm drainage and sewage, so crosswalks across the street were built raised like the sidewalks, but as stepping stones, so carts could still get through.
Most of the houses had a similar layout. The entrance went to a large room with a square basin in the center. The roof angled in towards this center and a square hole in the roof allowed the rainwater to collect in the basin for drinking water.
The rooms were off of this main room. Many of the large houses of the diplomats has large gardens through the back with fresco decorated walls and rooms built off the garden as well.
The forum for public events was extremely large. Off towards the edge of town we saw a small and large theater for, well theatrical events complete with dressing rooms and stage management in the back. There was a large amphitheater for gladiator events, and a huge sports arena for other sporting events.
Pompei was buried under several meters of ash and rock during the 79 AD eruption. Most of the inhabitants were buried alive in the ash. When excavating, the archeologists were able to make plaster casts of those buried alive because as their bodies and clothes decomposed, the ash kept the shapes. They could even see the folds in the clothing and expressions on faces. The city was not excavated until the 17th century and Mark and I would both like to know more about the excavation. It seems amazing that people were able to dig through volcanic rock to find the city, also built of rock. Today the city is completely walkable. Most of the buildings were blocked off to entry, but we were able to tour several of them with our audio guide.
The city is also strewn with stray, but very docile dogs. We found many sleeping in the shade. They were sleeping so soundly that we could walk right in front of their noses without a stir. There is a group that takes care of the dogs as dogs were always sacred to Pompei.
We were amazed to see that even the 2000 year old graffiti on the walls survived after all this time. Political figures would put their names on the walls before elections. Many of the floors of buildings and houses still had the small mosaic tiles laid 2000 years ago.
Overall, we were very impressed by all that remains. We didn’t leave until after 7pm; a full day of walking. The train back was uneventful and we found a deserted restaurant in Naples for dinner.