“Stand at the bottom of the great market-place of Pompeii, and look up the silent streets, through the ruined temples of Jupiter and Isis, over the broken houses with their inmost sanctuaries open to the day, away to Mount Vesuvius, bright and snowy in the peaceful distance; and lose count of all time, and heed other things, in the strange and melancholy sensation of seeing the Destroyed and the Destroyer making this quiet picture in the sun.” — Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy, 1845
Back in February we had our first experience at Pompeii, the infamous city that was destroyed after a devastating volcanic eruption buried it back in 79 AD. A build-up of gas below Mount Vesuvius set in motion a complex set of volcanic events. The volcano exploded with the force of 40 atomic bombs; the entire top of the mountain was pulverized. There was no lava, but some 1.5 million tons of volcanic pumice, ash and gas was jettisoned at a speed of 3-5 miles per second vertically into the air, reaching and burying, many Roman towns. Perhaps the most famous archaeological site in the world, Pompeii is the most visited site in the Campania region and the second most visited site in Italy after the Colosseum in Rome. The city remains the single most remarkable example of what life was like in a Roman town. Although it can seem a little unordinary to gawk at a place with wonder where so many lives came to a swift and brutal end, Pompeii nevertheless is a fascinating city to study and experience the past and understand how Romans once lived. This ancient city has been under construction for quite some time, yet Pompeii is immense. Nearly 2/3 of the site (45 of 66 hectares have been unearthed thus far and has always been undergoing continuos excavations since its discovery). Just within these few months of being in Italy, articles of new discoveries at Pompeii have been brought to my attention almost every month- it’s amazing.
I won’t bore you with a bunch of history or facts that many of you probably already know, have heard, or have studied; rather I’ll make a little note on what I found to be the most interesting on our first trip here- the thermopolia, or “fast food bars” of Pompeii. Scattered around the once vibrant city, waist-high masonry or marble topped counters and large terracotta jars can be spotted. They are said to be places where you could buy hot food or hot wine. It has also been argued that these dolia were porous and may have not been capable of holding liquids, either wines or stews. Instead, some claim that they would have held dry goods such as lentils and beans so the “fast food eateries” may have in fact been more of a grocery store. Regardless, it’s another fascinating insight into the daily Roman life.
Being back in la zona rossa for some time now has given me the chance to leaf through some photos of our explorations in Pompeii last month and finally share them with all of you. We first explored the Antiquarium, the exhibition venue for finds originating from Pompeii. There are frescoed walls, sculptures, silver spoons, furnishings, amulets, and items from everyday life before the city was destroyed. And of course, there are also the infamous casts of Pompeii residents and their animals. We then left the exhibitions to wander the ancient city streets. It was a beautiful day. Even Vesuvio could be seen in the backdrop recreating a picture of the enormity and power it had and still has over the city. There were only a handful of people there but Pompeii is so extensive we only saw them from a far distance and our paths never crossed!
among the ruins
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!