I been to Italy numerous times and every visit has been a great experience – from classic Rome to the tranquil Northern Lakes Region, to the rugged landscapes of Capri, and the lush beauty of Tuscany.. I hope I will continue my Italian exploration in the future, but for now let me tell you about a very unique visit to Pompeii.
Pompeii – A few years after having been damaged by a violent earthquake, this ancient city was completely buried under a layer of lava and ashes during the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in the year 79 A.D. – fortunately when we arrived, the mountain was peaceful:
A little background – Pompeii was one of the stopovers on a cruise I took with my daughter in celebration of her 16th birthday. She had been given the choice of a Sweet Sixteen Party or a journey with me to any part of the world – and she chose Italy. Lucky us! We sailed on Costa Romantica , an Italian cruise line that catered to travelers who primary language was Italian, making our journey a bit more challenging. Stops included: Genoa, Naples, Capri, Tunis, Mallorca, Barcelona, Marseilles, Pompeii and last stop Rome where we stayed a few days.
Pompeii was everything we anticipated and a bit more. Let ,me explain.
Excavations and restorations, which began in the 18th century and continue today have uncovered a city and its citizens frozen in time – one could almost hear the clatter of a Roman chariot coming across the stone streets with grooves hewn by the chariots’ wheels:
Only in Egypt have I experienced this otherworldly feeling of being transported back into another time where I could actually sense – hearing, smelling etc – activities that took place eons ago. Here I heard the merchants offering up their hot tasties from “thermopoliums” (snack bars) built in front of their homes – only the most wealthy could afford to do this – oh my, times have changed:
Sadly there were tragic physical reminders of the many people who were caught unawares by the pyroclastic flows that raced down Mt Vesuvius at speeds up to 450 mph, instantly immolating the victims with gases as hot as 1850 degrees Farenheit. Bones that were discovered during excavations were preserved in plaster in the positions they were found:
After paying our respects to the those who died, we continued our journey through Pompeii’s streets.
Ancient sites such the Temple of Jupiter were striking. Built in the 2nd Century B.C, this was the main centre of religious life in Pompeii. Situated on the northern side of the Forum, it is dedicated to the highest divinity of ancient times and towers above a wide staircase with two large arches either side have remained virtually intact.
A small “street sign” pointing the way to a local establishment caused my daughter much consternation and embarrassment:
Things got decidedly more graphic when we arrived at the site – this is the entrance:
At this point my daughter opted to wait outside while I explored the different rooms and their quite explicit frescoes, offering a different “delight.” This was “Lupanar” – the most famous brothel in the city. Lupanar is Latin for “brother” (not touching that one – no pun intended).
Love was a common topic of conversation in Pompeii. Feelings, passions, poetic love, sex, homosexuality, prostitution and so forth were all part of daily life and not a source of prejudice. The concept of “obscenity” seems to have been unknown. Love and sex were considered earthly practices of a man’s life that were encouraged by the benevolence of Venus. The thousands of examples of graffiti found on the town’s walls are unequivocal proof of what the people of Pompeii thought about love and sex.
How could you not love a place that put it all out there?
Pompeii has recently resurfaced (pun intended). New renovations were started a few years ago when certain areas of the already exposed city were in danger of collapse. Some recent new discoveries are astounding – and I will tell you about them in an upcoming post.