Sometimes I’ve thought after reading about a place that I had a good idea what it’s like – that my imagination could fill in the gaps and provide a close representation of what’s really there. Since I love history, I’ve read about Pompeii many times. I’ve seen documentaries that recount the tragic story and show the horrific, but mesmerizing images of the people left behind.
Reading about it and seeing it on television does not do it justice. I’m sure this blog won’t either. In short, you’ll have to visit it yourself – and lots of people do. It’s the second-most visited archeological site in the world behind the pyramids in Egypt. It was easy to see that this is the case. On the day we were there, the site was packed with tour groups. It was tough to get photos without crowds of people obscuring the views.
This was the one excursion we decided to take though the Princess cruise tour desk. For once, it wasn’t that much more expensive than using the trains to get there. Plus, we knew we’d have a knowledgeable tour guide and get to skip the long lines at Pompeii. It was a good decision, because the bus ride made our transportation easy and walking around Pompeii without an expert to tell you about the different places would be much, much less rewarding. For instance, our guide informed us that we were visiting Pompeii just one day before the anniversary of the eruption on August 24 in 79 AD. We were there on August 23. It was a bit eery to say the least. Here’s the first view of Pompeii as we walked along the road just past the entrance.
The first place that we saw looked like a large field. It used to be a gymnasium for gladiators.
Many of the columns are still intact along the edges, but of course all of the wooden structures were destroyed long ago. You can actually see some of the original red paint on the columns if you look closely. Note some of the reddish coloring midway up the column in the second photograph.
Along the edges of the gymnasium, there are some small rooms where the gladiators used to live. They slept two to a room and the rooms weren’t large spaces.
I took a closeup of one of the broken columns that I saw along the edge of the field. You can see a hole in the center. All of the columns seem to have this square hole. I’m not sure if this was a structural detail or if it is in some way an indication of how the column itself was made and/or placed into position. If someone has any idea, please comment and let me know.
We next moved through an enclosed walkway with a vaulted ceiling. You can get a good idea of just how many people are here during the high season. And since it had rained just the day before, there were puddles everywhere, so the crowds had a lot less space to walk. We all somehow avoided running into one another though 🙂
This covered walkway opened into a greek amphitheater. The experience of seeing it was even better, since we had just walked through such an enclosed, crowded space. The Greeks who designed this structure and how it connects to the surrounding structures were truly talented – and they did this thousands of years ago!
There weren’t many places to sit and relax once inside Pompeii and we were told not to lean on any of the walls, which makes perfect sense. After more than an hour of walking in the hot sun, we took the opportunity to sit for a few minutes.
During the tour, the guide informed us that the seating used to be covered in marble. You can still see some of the original marble here on some of the steps and the seats.
Next we visited a neighborhood in Pompeii. The street was lined with houses and shops. You can tell the difference between the houses and shops because the shops once had wooden siding doors. These doors made deep horizontal grooves in the stone pavement. I don’t have a closeup of it, but you can see just a portion of one of the streets here. Pompeii is really huge. We saw only about 5% of it during our two-hour tour. They still haven’t completed the excavation, either. 25% of it is still yet to be uncovered.
In designated areas along every street, there are stones that are set higher than the rest. These were used for walking across the street when they were flooded with water.
The stone streets themselves were originally a lot more level, but now they are quite uneven, so visitors really have to pay attention when walking. Visitors also have to watch out for the grooves in the middle of the street left by carts used in ancient times. These are most prominent between the stepping stones, since the movement of every cart’s wheels would be concentrated in the same area in those places.
Most of the shops we saw were nondescript, but this one was a bakery. It’s easy to tell because of the large oven in the center of the shop. No, they did not bake pizzas in this oven! Pizzas were nowhere near being invented yet!
There were several water fountains included in the walking tour that we took. They all have different faces on them. Here are two such public fountains. They were fed by an aqueduct system: a reservoir collected from distant hills fed lead pipes that ran under the pavement.
This wall is on the exterior of one of the structures where one of the bodies is located in Pompeii. I was really impressed by the detail that’s still readable there. You can see details of Greek mythical beings. After all, Pompeii was first settled by the Greeks. Only later was it conquered by the Romans.
The first body that we saw was of a young woman in her early twenties. She was pregnant when she died. They used plaster to preserve the bodies in the exact positioning in which they were found. She was found in the building where she is now on display. The photo I took makes her look larger than she truly is. She’s really quite small, actually.
There are quite a few places in Pompeii where you can still see some of the details from the original frescoes on the walls. Here is one such place. You can make out yellows, reds, and blues. I don’t think I captured any of them in the photos I took, but you can also see parts of birds and other creatures.
This next group of photos was taken in a room that was actually used as a changing room for slaves. It’s a beautiful space with amazing lighting & wonderful wall details. I wonder what the changing rooms for the upper class looked like!
Here’s a view of one of the larger streets. This was where all of the government buildings were located. There is still some political graffiti on the walls here, but it’s covered by glass and there was a glare on the glass, so I couldn’t get a photo.
On the street near the curb, there are holes cut through the stone so that animals could be tied. This is because horses, carts, and other large animals were not allowed in certain areas of Pompeii. This street was pedestrian only, so residents and visitors would have to leave their animals behind.
Here is a beautiful mosaic tile floor that is still intact. It’s gorgeous! I can’t believe it’s still in such great condition. No one is allowed to walk on it, so we had to squeeze thorough the crowd and take the best photo we could get through a gate.
I was excited to see this sculpture of a half-man half-horse until I found out that it isn’t an original. In fact, it was created by an artist and added to Pompeii only about 30 years ago. It does fit in quite nicely though.
I have no idea what this is or what it says. It just caught my eye, so I thought I’d share it. It was on one side of the large city square that had the previous sculpture in it. I believe the Temple of Zeus was at the other end of the square, but this pillar had nothing to do with either of those things.
Here are several more bodies that we saw during the tour. They were all in what appeared to be a covered storage area with pottery, carts, and other items. One is a dog. Another is a child.
One of the last structures we saw was the Temple of Apollo. You can see the sacrificial altar in the center of the photo. Animals were sacrificed here regularly.
When facing the center of the temple, there is an original statue still intact on a marble pedestal to the right. It is Apollo shooting arrows.
The heat took its toll on all of us. We were all given small water bottles at the beginning of the tour, but they only lasted until we were about halfway done. I snapped a quick photo of Kayla near the end of our two hours in the hot sun. You can see just how flushed her face is due to the heat. Three of us had headaches by the end of the tour, most likely from the heat.
We ended the day in Naples with a meal at one of the restaurants close to the cruise pier. There are quite a few decent restaurants near the pier, so we didn’t have to walk far. I hope you all get a chance to visit Naples and Pompeii. Pompeii really is something you have to see for yourself.