Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Me at the gates of Pompeii

As a (former) classicist, I’ve been most excited to see the classical sites down south. I’ve patiently tolerated all the Renaissance art from Venice, Florence, and Siena, but once moving south I vowed the only non-classical thing I’d do would be the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Today was our first full day in Naples, and what we thought would be a three hour trip to Pompeii turned into a seven hour stay at the ruins. This place was amazing. From the preserved bodies in their twisted torment to the lively frescoes to the giant theatres, I loved every second of it.

The small amphitheater

"Beware of Dog" floor mosaic

These three stones were both a raised pedestrian crossing in times of flooding, and a way to prevent carts from entering the main shopping street

For those who don’t know, Pompeii was a thriving Mediterranean town until 79 A.D. when nearby Mt. Vesuvius erupted, sending a rain of ash and pumice stone to completely bury the town. Thus, in the late 1700’s, the town was re-discovered, very well preserved thanks to the volcano. You can see the bodies of those who tried to escape the volcano. Their grimaces of pain and horror are so moving, especially when you see the bodies of the children. There was even a dog whose final moments on earth are preserved in an awkward position.

Among the many treasures of Pompeii were the frescoes of the house of Tiburnius. The frescoes showed various scenes from Ovid, including Pyramus and Thesbe and Actaeon. There was also a beautiful garden and little fountains.

Seeing the brothel with the pictorial descriptions of services offered was also really cool, especially the stone beds inside the many cubicles.

All over Pompeii there are ancient "fast food" stands, basically long marble or granite counters with holes in them where the big pots of food would sit and be kept warm for customers. We snapped a picture in front of "Nicole's Cafe."

Our second full day in Naples was a little disappointing. Andrew was really sick, and I was starting to come down with something, too. We got a later start than we planned on, and thus arrived in Sorrento, a nearby beach resort, during the hottest part of the day. Hoping for a swim, we were disappointed to see that the shores were very rocky, and the only places to swim required renting an umbrella and chair on a crowded stretch of gravel.

We instead went a little farther north, to Meta, and snagged a free space on a very crowded beach. The water was wonderful, though there were umbrellas stretched along the coast for miles.

After a quick swim, it was back to Naples for lunch and the Archaeological Museum. The museum was a total disappointment. Supposedly the museum contains many of the treasures of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but out of context the scarce amount of artifacts and frescoes didn't awe in the same way as the original site did.

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