Let’s preface this by saying I hadn’t even heard the Bastille Pompeii song until the day before we left for the trip and I don’t choose places to go based on movies. DH (dear husband) can attest to movie apathy…In reality, Pompeii had been on my travel list for some time.
Professionally, I’ve done work on other worst case scenarios, and in terms of natural disasters, this really seemed like one of those. It was certainly not a good day/month/year for Pompeiians.
So beyond the disaster-drawing mystique, I’m also a fan of history, particularly of past empires that have since fallen. Pompeii seemed like a natural choice. I wasn’t disappointed, though I will say that Herculaneum (Ercolano) was an equally rewarding and interesting site. I don’t think you can really see one without the other.
Despite my love for ruins, I’m only marginally interested in art history. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the murals, and love the intricacy and creativity of mosaics. But assessing which type of curly-cue is used in the bordering design, or how the shape of the eyes has changed over the centuries of Roman Art (I’m making these up by the way, so apologies if you are actually an art historian and they aren’t real) just isn’t that interesting to me. My disinterest in art history is probably compensated by my interest in archaeology. I think it’s fascinating when they find complex tools (read: clothing press at Herculaneum!), or bits of food matter, indicating what life may have been like, or what rooms were used for. Of course, much of it remains speculation.
The guide book, and our hotel, suggested approximately three hours to see the Pompeii. I read pretty quickly, so I figured that was exaggerating the time required for all those people who read slowly. Or for those who like to analyze curly-cues. Or for Americans who, cough, are a bit slow at walking.
I was wrong.
We spent nearly 6 hours at Pompeii. It was a beautiful day, the perfect temperature, and sunny. We enjoyed wandering the paths, trying to figure out where we were on the stupidly horrible map we purchased for 3€, and reading descriptions from the guide book about the villas. Note to future visitors—ask for the free map which actually puts the villas, on the map, in the correct location and corresponding to the free guide book (what?!).
The views of Vesuvius, looming, were beautiful. The villas were fascinating. The mosaics were stunning. I particularly enjoyed the streets, carved deeply by hundreds of thousands of uses. There were even a few signs, on the sides of streets, that were preserved. Many of the famous murals and mosaics have been moved to the Archeological Museum in Naples, but what remains (some are reproductions) is still stunning.
Everyone wants to know about the bodies frozen in time. There are not as many as you think there are going to be, though I did see some stored with thousands of other artifacts, so I can’t be sure how many are not on display. I’m sure others will have different feelings towards them, but I just find them fascinating. It really is amazing how they casted them in plaster, from the hollows/cavities their bodies left inside the volcanic material. How similar and how different life in cities was then, and how abruptly life can change.
There were tour groups…but not so many that they couldn’t be avoided, for the most part. It was a great time to visit. If you melt in the heat, like me, I’d suggest going in the spring. We didn’t stop to eat (grab water before entering), and we were holding out for pizza and gelato, so I can’t comment on the quality of food within the site. But who goes to Pompeii, the archeological site, for cuisine anyway?
Pompeii is a wonderful day-trip, and a nice change from Naples. It’s a fascinating view into Roman civilization, and what life was before the walls came crumbling down (I know, I’m not funny).