Saturday, 7 January 2017

Frozen in time - the ancient Pompeii

We are amazed that there is so much to see around our new home in beautiful Arpino. Every day we manage to discover new interesting parts; small picturesque villages, majestic natural parks or fascinating historic sites. We never imagined that there would be such abundance of places to visit in this rural area when we bought our little townhouse. Also, being located right in the middle between Rome and Naples the big city life is only an hour or two away. And the long sandy beaches and the snowy mountains, where you could ski, are even closer! Everything is so accessible!

The volcanic eruption that destroyed Pompeii also froze it in time.

So, one day some time ago we took our rental car and went south! Just a couple of hours from Arpino you’ll find one of the most spectacular historic sites in the world; the ruins of ancient Pompeii. It was a huge childhood dream for both of us to visit and experience the life in a real ancient Roman city and walk on the same streets as the Romans did almost 2,000 years ago. And now, some 30 years later, we were on our way and we were both very excited.

The entrance to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pompeii

First challenge turned out to be finding the entrance to the old ash buried city. Driving in Italy has proven itself to be quite adventurous since there are so few road signs and when there are signs they are very irregular and you often tend to be even more confused. We must have turned off at the wrong exit from the motorway and ended up circulating in the modern, not so interesting, city of Pompeii. Eventually however, after going through a gloomy industrial area, we managed to find the archaeological site!

Finally walking the streets of Pompeii!

We parked the car and since it was low season we got our entry tickets super fast. We rushed in through the gates and walked up an ancient stone cobbled street where we had to stop to discuss the strategy on how we would go about to see as much as possible of the site. It is enormous and you really need at least a couple of days if you want to see all of it. We just had one day but we knew the key buildings we wanted to go to, so we decided to go to the main square first and then walk the long street that passed the House of Venus ending at the large Amphitheatre.

The vast ruin of ancient Roman Pompeii.

At the moment there is a collection of monumental bronze sculptures by Igor Mitoraj on exhibit.

Almost 3 million tourists are visiting Pompeii every year!

Walking through the streets was fantastic, perhaps a bit eerie at times, and we were so lucky that there weren’t that many people visiting that day, it felt like we discovered the streets, alleys and houses almost all by ourselves. It’s really impressive how well preserved most things are and that you can look at the exact same wall paintings someone designed 2000 years ago.

Looks almost like new!

In Pompeii you will find shops, restaurants, small residential houses, large villas, temples, gyms and baths. Archaeologists have also excavated an arena, public latrines, market halls, schools, water towers and of course brothels and theatres.

This used to be a restaurant!

The history book says it was the year 79 AD that Mount Vesuvius had an enormous eruption burying Pompeii under a thick mush of volcanic ash. The explosion sent a trail of ashes and rocks as well as volcanic gases so high that people could see it for hundreds of miles around. Most people had plenty of time to escape but several thousand people died and then the city was forgotten for many, many years until the 18th century when they started excavating it. And still, after three centuries, they are digging and finding new buried parts of the city… and apparently more people. Many of the remains have been preserved in cast form and can be found on display at the site. They even recreated a dog, complete with its teeth and collar. It was in fact a bit hard to watch this; it felt creepy looking at these dead “bodies”.

We found the impressive Amphitheatre after a few hours!

After seeing the remarkable Amphitheatre we walked back another street to the main square and from there we walked the street towards the Villa of Mysteries! We had been recommended to go there by a friend from Arpino who’s also a guide and we were not disappointed, it was simply spectacular! So well preserved and not to mention beautiful!

The Villa of Mysteries is magical with its colourful frescoes!

These were the parts of Pompeii we had time to see during our first visit but we plan to go back soon again to see the rest and maybe revisit some of the best-of from this visit.

We will be back for sure!
See you soon, history lovers!