Pompeii was buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted, burying the city and all of the remaining people in the town in 74 A.D. To this day, the excavation of the once great city is still underway. New areas are being uncovered and opened up for historians and tourists to come explore everyday.
When a highway abruptly ends, we are thrown into a maze of back roads and alleyways that our GPS is no help with. After a little creative driving we find our way far enough past the blocked of highway to be able to follow the given GPS directions once again. After a sharp ninety degree turn up a hill we are suddenly next to the excavated city and surrounded by touristy shops, food and pay per hour parking lots. We pull into the first one on the left that has open spots and park our small rental car in what appears to be a grove of orange trees, about a week before they are ripe. Of course we pluck a few from the branches and give them a try anyway. After our sour snack we peruse through the shops and grab a gelato while waiting for our friends to navigate their way to the parking lot.
For 30 Euro, our family of 4 is granted entrance to the site and are immediately surrounded by the remnants of a city that was buried back in the first century. The tragedy completely buried the city in molten lava but in the process also preserved the area amazingly well. Uncovering the city now, we are witness to an amazing look back in time, and walking through what has been uncovered you can almost feel what it was like to be a Roman walking the streets almost two thousand years ago. The city was preserved so well that you still see some of the painting that covered the walls both inside and out of the buildings. Lots of reds and golds and blues adorned the walls, paintings and sculptures decorated every available space. Stone and brick were the building blocks of the entire city and the cobblestone streets were dug a foot into the ground to direct the water around the buildings. Large stones served as walking bridges from one side of the road to the other.
It becomes immediately apparent that the modern day modesty was not a concern during that time, nudity is rampant in the sculptures and paintings. The naked form is celebrated and not something to be ashamed of. The souvenir shops are stocked with penis shaped key chains, bottle openers, magnets and you name it. The penis was considered a good luck symbol and can be found all throughout the city, carved into the sides of the buildings and into the stone walkways.
This city as you wind through the streets and read about the various houses and buildings had everything that a modern day city has now. They did not shy away from the grandeur, the coliseum is large enough to house the populace of the entire town, and even today was notably used to film a popular Pink Floyd and Beastie Boys performance among many other musical acts.
Once of the more interesting “attractions” if you could call it that, is the shapes of bodies that were encased in the lava during volcanic eruption. Forever preserved in the position that they were laying in when covered with the molten rock, they now reside behind glass as a reminder of the tragedy that occurred.
The effort to preserve the area is almost taken to extremes in certain areas with attendees being constantly watched over to ensure nothing is climbed on or trampled over. Don’t even try to pick up a stick or move some rocks around, you will be reprimanded.
Six hours of walking through this ancient city and we are all exhausted and ready for a break and a good meal.
Just outside the gates to the city is a variety of restaurants and vendors. We sit down at an outdoor cafe and are given a menu with all of the specialties that you would expect to find in Italy. I don’t know if it was because we were so hungry, or if the food was just that good but we all agree that we were served the best meal that we have had in Italy to date. My meal in particular was the spaghetti carbonara and I cleaned my plate to the point that it didn’t look like any food was ever on the dish. I followed the meal with a cappuccino and the table was offered a free round of limoncello shots.
A must see if you ever have the chance, the city of Pompeii is both amazing and a reminder of how powerful mother nature can be.
For more, BETTER pictures of Pompeii – visit my wife’s Instagram @vaca_with_katie