I've always been interested in how other cultures live their daily lives, especially hundreds or thousands of years ago when they had different technologies and priorities but still needed the same basic amenities that we need today. As we left Contursi to move north through Italy we decided to stop at the ancient city of Pompeii.
I had been to Pompeii when I was younger with my family, and I was surprised at how much I could remember of it when we walked those same streets again. Luckily one of the events I remembered didn't reoccur, and that was of my last visit to Pompeii where my sister came out of the toilets and was stopped by a man saying she had to pay to use the toilet, being only about 10 she got her purse out to give him a few coins but he took all her money. We fortunately didn't come across anything like that this time round!
The drive was pretty simple and easy, following the road until Mount Vesuvius started to loom up from the horizon. For some reason I had imagined the old city of Pompeii to be in the middle of nowhere in some hot, dusty, isolated location but it was right in the middle of the modern town of Pompei, which makes sense.
We parked up on the roadside and had a short walk to the entrance to get our tickets, as I'm between the age of 18 and 25 my ticket was half price which was a nice saving. It wasn't busy at this time of year so we went straight in. The first ancient ruin you come across is the enormous amphitheater, which is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater, a century younger than the Colosseum in Rome, and the first known to be built of stone as they were previously built from wood. During games in 59 AD in the amphitheater a vicious fight broke out between Pompeians and residents of Nuceria which resulted in a ten year ban on the events.
It's always fun to walk around these places imagining what the people were doing in those ancient times. If you can block out the tour groups you can almost see the gladiators! As we wondered through other streets I was amazed at how well preserved paintings and other details were. The lack of air and moisture the artifacts had for nearly two thousands years meant that everything was left nearly as it was when Vesuvius erupted and buried the city under 25 meters of ash.
My favourite part of the city was the bath houses, again for the detail in the artwork on the walls and ceilings and for the size of the place. On display in the bath houses are also a few plaster casts of people that would have died in the city during the eruption. They were discovered when they filled gaps in the solid ash with plaster and the shape of the cast came to be a body. It is thought the residents died from heat exposure and because it happened so suddenly they would have died and frozen in that position as they were buried. It's quite grizzly but gives you an idea of how fast it would have happened and how they would have had no chance to escape.
If we ever get the chance to visit Naples I'd like to visit the National Archaeological Museum as most of Pompeii's artifacts and art has been moved there. The Secret Museum refers to separate rooms where Pompeii's erotic art has been kept as it has offended many people over the years and the door to the room bricked up. Up until the 1960's it was still only shown to people 'of mature age and respected morals', mostly just men. The pervs!
The size of the city is impressive, with about two thirds of it excavated. It's hard to think of it as a devastating place where thousands of people died when you're walking round, apart from when you see the plaster bodies, because the structures are so well preserved and the layout and buildings so similar to a modern city. We left the ruins to pass through stalls and stalls of souvenirs, mostly tacky objects trying to depict Pompeii's erotic art, huge penises on everything! I was very tempted to buy a calender but 25 euros was a bit steep. We ended the evening in a cheep and cheerful cafe and started our drive to Rome.