This picture was taken from the middle of the Forum. Notice the Vesuvius looming in the background? This Forum was a huge 'piazza' or square surrounded by shops, temples and it was where the Pompeians spent their time socially. The Italians still have this kind of squares in every city and town until today. Piazza Navona in Rome is one of the examples.
This post is so overdue but hey, better late than never, right? Part of the trip we made to the south of Italy last June was spent in Naples/Pompeii and the highlight of these days were the ancient city of Pompeii and the culprit that wiped it off forever, the Mount Vesuvius (watch this space for more of it!) I have always been intrigued by Pompeii ever since I first read about it when I was small. A few years back on one of my trips to Los Angeles, I managed to catch an exhibition on Pompeii and I knew then that I have to make a trip to the city itself to see more. We were all excited - me for my reason, the boys, as they studied volcanoes last year that partly touched the topic of Vesuvius and its destruction and Captain, for being an Italian but never actually been to Pompeii! So, you can imagine the excitement here.
We were immediately taken by the size of the city.. it was HUGE! So big that even when we spent a day wondering around, we still didn't get to see many. Knowing that we would never be able to see all of them, we decided to list down a few places that we want to see and go from there. My tips for visiting Pompeii is first to try and be there early. Second, decide before hand what are your priority sites to see based on the map that you can get from the ticket counters. From there plan your tour so that you would make a circle rather than going from A to B without any planning that could cost you time walking and backtracking. Also bring a lot of water or buy some at the ONLY cafeteria in the ruin. We had early lunch in order to beat the crowd that flocked the small eatery and hit the city when most were having lunch. Bottom line is, plan your tour. We did not take any tour guide with us but instead we each had an audio guide which we preferred better. This way, we could choose where to go and what to listen to instead of letting the guide to decide and go with the crowd. We didn't get to see some of the sites we wanted to see as they were under maintenance but with the audio guide we could actually learn a thing or two about them. Better than nothing in my opinion.
So, here we go, enjoy the pictures and be prepare to be blown away ;)
This was at the entrance to the city. The climb was steep and we could already feel the energy of it. For a city that was hit by a vicious volcano and buried under thick ashes and volcanic rocks for thousands of years, I must say it was well preserved.
This was one of the many streets that lined the city. Houses, villas and shops were neatly arranged and numbered along the streets that were using the grid system. Pompeii was a very systematic city with running water, 'street light', elevated sidewalks (notice one of the boys walking on the sidewalk?) and other facilities that we all enjoyed today including gyms, spas, theaters, court house, temples, bakeries, shops, street names, sports centers, brothel (ehem!) and many more.
This was the Basilica, one of the public buildings which was used as the court house where tribunals took place. From the ruin itself, one could tell what a magnificent structure it must have been.
The Pompeians really knew how to chill and pamper themselves. While the rich had bath in the privacy of their homes, the mere mortals were frequenting the many gymnasiums and spas (or bath they called them) Pompeii were famous for. This one here came complete with a swimming pool, laconicum, hot and cold bath (frigidarium and tepidarium), and changing area for men and women that came with cubicles or lockers to us today.
Laconicum or sweat room
The biggest of many bakeries in the city, The Modestum's Bakery was complete with ovens, storage rooms, service counter and machines operated by mules. While the Pompeians loved their breads, their other staples include beans, olives, eggs, cheese, more fish rather than meat and of course, lot of wine.
This Grand theater could easily fit 5,000 people and it was where the comedies and tragedies were performed. Attached to it was a small square that served as social area in between acts which later was converted into a gladiator's quarters.
If there's one single thing Pompeii was famous for, it has to be its collection of luxurious villas. From The House of Vettii to House of Tragic Poet, Pompeii was filled with them. This image of the iconic bronze statue was taken in the courtyard of House of Faun, one of the biggest and most impressive villas in the city. This Villa sported 2 dinning areas for summer and winter, courtyards, private rooms, servant quarters, its own bath, kitchen, gardens with stage for recitations/pantomimes, reception rooms and even an office. These people really did live well, didn't they?
Of course as we strolled this ancient city, we bumped into the many reminders of the devastation that ended the glory of the city. This plaster cast of the original volcanic ash covered victim was one of many that can be seen. The biggest one was the group of 13 plaster casts with very touching story in The Garden of Fugitive.
So little time and so mush to see!
The deserted street of Pompeii. Notice the 3 stone blocks on the street? That serves as the pedestrian crossing. Clever, right? Made me think that even thousands of years ago, already this city served the community well and now in the modern day, some cities like Dubai, people fail to respect pedestrian crossing! Shame..
One in every few corners, these water fountains still serve the public
The entrance of the amphitheater where the 'action' took place. It was said that this amphitheater was the first of its kind and was the inspiration behind the Coliseum in Rome. Unlike the Coliseum, this amphitheater was built on solid ground with no underground rooms. The gladiators would march into the arena from this tunnel here from the outside of the amphitheater and not elevated from underground like in the Coliseum or its kind that was built after. Many gladiator perished and triumphed here and the spectacles could sometimes last for days.
The city is so big and still there are more that have yet to be discovered. In some parts of the city, it was so quiet, far away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world and we could really 'feel' the city, almost eerie.We didn't get to see a lot of site including the biggest villa, Villa of The Mysteries and its famous wall frescoes. That gives a reason for us to return again someday. Whatever it is, if you are planning a trip to Sorrento, Naples, Capri or are on your way down to Bari from up north, I would highly recommend a day spend in ancient city of Pompeii for an experience of a civilization that was left in the past.