A trip in time: Pompeii

Hello, fellow travelers, we’re back with fresh reports from Italy, this time a short description of a day visit to the amazing ruins of Pompeii.

Taking into account the history of the place I will try to be a bit more serious, if you won’t mind.

Pompeii Scavi is easily reached from Naples by train, the Circumvesuviana, although you might want to keep your purse or backpack close while on the train.

The entrance ticket costs 13 euros and they are well spent money, the place being absolutely amazing. We were part of a group so the people in charge found us a guide that was quite good, but unfortunately I cannot really say how much the services of a guide cost but they are worth it, for sure.

Our guide made our visit to the ruins of Pompeii quite memorable with the things that he explained and the fun way he did it. That’s him in “Villa dei Misteri” telling us the story of the place.

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As you might know, Pompeii is an Italian city in the Bay of Naples not destroyed, as you might think, but preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

This strange method of  unintended but wonderful “preservation” is due to the approximately 6 meters of ash that covered and kept Pompeii  hidden and safe for over a thousand years.

The lucky archaeological event was not so lucky for most of the inhabitants of Pompeii who died either due to the high temperature that liquefied their brains ( 250°) or choked to death in the falling ash.

Their remains, preserved by the fallen ash were found by the archaeologists who discovered that the bodies were in fact gone after over a millennium but the shells of the buried people and objects, remained petrified. In an effort of preservation the archaeologists injected the empty shells recreating exact representations of the victims of the disaster.

One of them is a boy holding his nose while trying not to breathe in the deadly ash… CSI_5064

Huh, I told you this is a way to serious post, but enough with that.

Here’s a fun fact: in 1599 Pompeii was almost rediscovered. Actually, rediscovered and hastily reburied. Why so? Well because the Pompeiians had a very interesting and modern culture, one in which the phallus was an “apotropaion”, that is an intensively used good luck charm so its representations were quite widely spread and picturesque. Too much for the prudes that uncovered it so they hurried and reburied it for more open minded generations.

Oh, by the way, in Naples you will find lots of charms featuring what might seem like clusters of small, red peperoni. They are not actually peperoni, so if you buy them as souvenirs or gifts for your friends be ready to explain to them that they are actually fertility symbols.

Our visit to Pompeii started with the house of pleasure, the first thing a weary traveler ( sailor, mostly) stumbled upon when reaching Pompei. The house we visited was nicely decorated with frescoes and even had “the menu” on the walls, for the convenience of the customers that were not speaking Italian.

If you happen to visit Pompeii and that place make sure to look for the “Pompeiian sandwich”  in the menu,  it is the first representation of its kind uncovered. Unfortunately my photo of it is moved, because of laughter and also of the badly lit room.

You will, nonetheless, find it on most of the magnets and postcards sold in and around Pompeii.

In the well preserved site, with a well-documented guide, you can almost imagine Pompeii bustling with life, a hub for commerce but also of culture.

You look around and you can see the temples, the stores, the bakeries and fast food places, you can hear the rumbling of carts on the cobble streets and smell the freshly baked bread. CSI_5046

Above all, you can almost see the imposing form of Vesuvius, who, before the eruption reached almost 2500 meters, not the meager 1281 meters  he has now after blowing up and burying the area in ash and debris. ( They found a rock from the eruption in 79 AD in Albania, imagine that.)

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One of the most interesting sights in Pompeii is actually not in the city but some 400 meters outside the city walls, just passing through a very interesting, decorative cemetery, also speaking volumes about the rich, educated and beauty lovers Pompeiians.

Villa dei Misteri, extremely well preserved( walls, frescoes, ceiling), was a very rich citizen’s residence.

Among the ruins was discovered a wine press that cannot be visited, and a room with mysterious frescoes that are still leaving room for theories.

vilda dei misteri_lg

Most of the scientists studying the frescoes agree that they seem to represent the initiation in the cult of Dionysus  ( the god of harvest, wine,  and other intoxicants and intoxicating rituals).

The main idea around the frescoes is that in order to become an upstanding citizen and be initiated you have to, first of all, get really, really intoxicated and have a chat with Dionysus.

This comes to show that things do not change so much over millennia since this is exactly what the young people nowadays do while in college, although they might cam it differently and the intoxicants have also changed. 😀

Now, my theory on the frescoes is quite different and it involves aliens. Why? Well because you can clearly see in one of the frescoes a kid taking a selfie with his IPad while his mother is at the hairdresser.  😀

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Now, dear readers, I can only hope that you know I was joking, at least about the Ipad part.

In conclusion I must say that I found the Pompeii site to be the most interesting I have ever visited, well worth the money, the time and the scorching heat. It is a true glimpse into history, one that rises a lot of questions, especially if we compare the glory of the days passed with the not so glorious  daily life the citizens of Naples, for example, seem to have.

But about my thoughts on this matter we can talk some other time, maybe when I’ll dare to write my opinion on Naples and its long faded glory.

That’s it for now. If you want to find out more about Naples and its surroundings you might want to check out my other article with a click right here.

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