Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pompeii, A Modern City Buried Alive

It is very easy to imagine Pompeii as a thriving modern city.   Buried under the volcanic ash from Mt. Vesuvias nearly 2000 years ago, the city is impeccably preserved and a fascinating look into what life must have been like in ancient Italy.

After a gorgeous morning on the coast, I was prepared for a sleeper of an afternoon in Pompeii.   After lunch, a little wine and another challenging drive, I was sort of thinking I’d just aimlessly follow the tour guide around for a bit and have a mental break.  I had no idea Pompeii would be so cool.   It is like a living museum.  Although, not really living.    Being there, walking up and down the city streets, you can very easily imagine a city pulsing with life.   

On a summer day in 79 A.D., the volcano erupted, covering Pompeii in nine feet of ash.    Everything was preserved in place, including people and animals.    Buried alive.  I can’t imagine the horror that must have occurred.    The city remained under ash until the 1700s when the site was discovered and excavation began.    Little by little, the city was uncovered revealing a place that seems now to be way ahead of its time.

Truly a living city, the streets are paved with cobblestones.   You can still see the marks on the streets where the chariots carved their path.     The streets are lined with homes and shops.   Boutiques of all types.  Pompeii was a wealthy city.    There were food markets, selling fish, meats and all types of produce.    Town halls.   Public meeting houses.  Bakeries.  Wine bars everywhere.  60 in total have been uncovered.   A spa, gym and even a brothel.   Not hard to spot the brothel.  There is a tell tale sign outside indicating the buildings purpose.

The houses were large, even those of the middle class.   There were winter and summer rooms, atriums and skylights.   Meeting rooms, pantries and even libraries.   Unbelievable frescoes still preserved on the walls.   Indoor swimming pools.   Plumbing.   Crazy modern stuff if you think about it.    Truly amazing. 

Although thousands of people died that day, there were only 23 bodies in total that were ultimately preserved as the site was uncovered.   The ash had covered everything in a hard crust.   A plaster was injected between the ash covering and the remains.   The crust was removed and the plaster remains in place, showing unbelievable detail.    You can really imagine what these people went through that day.    Very touching.

We had a wonderful guide, extremely knowledgeable.  Spent two hours learning the history of the city.   Could have stayed longer.   It was horridly hot though.   Dusty.   I can’t imagine visiting here in the intense heat of the summer when this place is filled with visitors.   Our guide said that they have thousands of people coming through daily.     I am amazed that everything is so accessible.  You can literally walk everywhere and touch everything.  So much history directly available.   I can’t imagine this place being so open if it were located in the U.S.    Not only for historical reasons, but also for public safety.  

They site is still being excavated today.   It is believed that the city center has been revealed and most of the remaining area is devoted to living areas.  

I am thrilled I had the opportunity to visit Pompeii.   It helped me with context and perspective and was an amazing afternoon.    Leaving Pompeii, we headed back to Rome.   Couple more hours with our driver.    Lots of napping.     Arrived back home around 8:30 and went immediately to dinner down my street.   Met two wonderful couples, American.   One from San Francisco, a younger couple, traveling in Europe for the first time for three weeks.   On their way to Cinque Terre.    The second, a family, visiting their daughter who had just wrapped up a semester in Spain.     A really nice night and a perfect ending to a great day. 

One final note.   Keep your fingers crossed for me that a certain other volcano lies low for awhile, a least until I make it to Paris... 

1 comment:

  1. I've always wanted to visit Pompeii, thanks for sharing!!


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