06 April 2013


Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

Just across the bay of Naples and around Mt. Vesuvius is the famous ancient city of Pompeii.  It's about a 45-minute metro ride from the main train station in Naples.  As most know, Mt. Vesuvius erupted in the year 79 AD, dumping tons of ash and Pumice over several hours on the city of Pompeii.  The effect was to completely bury the city as it existed, and thereby preserve much of it.  After the eruption, the city was lost to history for more than a millennium and a half.  After its rediscovery  it was excavated over centuries.  Regrettably, after its initial discoveries, looters plundered a great number of objects and works of art.  Still, what was left gives us one of the best glimpses of what life in ancient Rome was like.  It's street layouts are still preserved.  Many of the frescoes and mosaics were still intact.  The vast majority of buildings are still standing, although many of their wooden roofs were destroyed.

Most interestingly, in the 19th century, archaeologists noticed that after the decomposition of the plants and animals caught in the ash, airpockets were left.  So they filled these pockets with plaster, creating casts of the people exactly as they died.  They also have impressions of some of the plants, ancient roots, and the like.

Their level of civilization is also very surprising.  The city has raised sidewalks for the people to walk to avoid the muck of the streets, which are themselves paved with stones.  They even have stone crosswalks, with gaps for carts to pass through, to people could cross from one sidewalk to the other without walking in the street.  They had an advanced aqueduct system which poured water into every house in the city.  I was also surprised at the number of restaurants in the city, with counters for selling cold and hot food.  Apparently, Pompeii was very much a resort town, with a great number of wealthy visitors.

It is a surprisingly large city.  We were there most of the day, and really only saw about half of it.  Just an excuse to go back again some day.

For anyone spending time in Italy with a love for ancient Rome, Pompeii really is a must-see.  Fantastic place, and we thankfully saw it on a mostly sunny day.

Here are the pictures: