Pompeii Italy

The ruins of Pompeii which were unearthed in the mid 18th century depict the 2000 year old temples, villas and artworks buried when Mount Vesuvius volcano blew its stack in 79 AD.

What is fascinating about the Pompeii ruins is the fact that the elegant house of the Vettii, the rich frescoes of the House of Mysteries and the ancient thermal baths remain in an 'as is' condition even after 2000 years. Pompeii is in Campania, Italy, not far from Naples. This is a UNESCO world heritage site. Pompeii is an excavation site and outdoor museum of the ancient Roman settlement.

Excavations at Pompeii

Romans took control of Pompeii around 200 BC and on August 79 AD Vesuvius erupted burying the nearby town of Pompeii in ash and soot killing 20000 people and preserving the city in its stare from that fateful day. A violent explosion of toxic gases and burning cinders from an eruption left the undone frescoes; paints in pots covered with ash and cinders and preserved the scene exactly as it was at that moment. Though tragic, the information preserved beneath the rubble is as pristine as it gets for a 2000 year old site.

The excavations began in 1748 by Carlo Borbone but credit goes to Guiseppe Fiorelli in 1861 for systematic excavation and pioneering the technique of making plaster casts of the victims of eruption of the type we see around the site today.

While the Pompeii excavations continue till this day, many of the frescos still seem fresh, and the restored mosaic floors are spectacular. A tourist is sure to be awed by the excavations of Pompeii which are pretty extensive and one may not able to see everything in a day.

Pompeii attractions

The excavations can be reached by getting off the train at the tourist site of Pompeii Scavi.

  • A journey to the volcano that destroyed Pompeii can be surely awesome. A travel to the top of the only active volcano in Europe will afford the traveler panoramic views of the legendary Bay of Naples from east to west. And Mt Vesuvius ranks among the most explored volcanoes on earth.

  • On the easterly corner of the excavated area stands an amphitheater that could hold about 20000 people. This is the earliest surviving permanent amphitheater in Italy and one of the best preserved anywhere.

  • The Great Paleaestra or the Gymnasium occupied a large area opposite the amphitheater. This is a central area used for sporting activities and on all three sides are lengthy porticos or colonnades.

  • The House of Vettii is believed to be the home of the two brothers who were freed slaves and became very affluent. In the vestibule there is a striking fresco of a well endowed Priapus. Significantly, the God of Fertility and among the frescos in other parts of the building illustrates couples making love with cupids and mythological characters.

  • The House of the Faun, named after the statue of a dancing faun is considered to be an excellent example of fusion of the Italian and Greek forms of architectural styles.

  • A Forum, which was the center of public stands, surrounded by government, religious and businesses buildings.

  • The Temple of Apollo on the north of the Basilica is the oldest remains discovered dating back to 575BC.

  • The Via Del Sepolcri is a long street with worn ruts from carts.

  • The Lupanar is an ancient brothel with pornographic frescoes over the entrance of each room indicating the particular specialty on offer. Brothels and erotic frescoes are prominent features of Pompeii and unlike most of the buildings at Pompeii, this one has been extensively rebuilt, perhaps characteristic of our fascination with the sexuality of our own culture.

  • The House of Ancient Hunt is in atrium style with frescoes of hunting scenes.

  • In the Forum Granary artifacts and plaster casts of people who could not escape the eruption are stored.

  • There are several 'baths' to be visited. The Forum Baths which lies on the north are well preserved and roofed. The Central Baths occupy a much larger area but less well preserved.

  • House of the Tragic poet is but a small atrium house best known for the mosaic at the entrance depicting a chained dog with the words Cave Canem or Beware of the Dog.

  • The Ground surface reveals small tiles called cateyes. The moon's light or candle light reflects these tiles and gave light for people where they were walking at night.

  • Many bars and bakeries once existed and a discerning traveler can notice all these. Water and other beverages were available in the holes.

  • The street holds tracks for the carriages in the street for a smoother ride. To avoid people from getting splashed by the water and waste, they had stone blocks in the street.

  • Villa of the Mysteries, outside the city walls, houses curious frescoes, of women being initiated into the cult of Dionysius. This contains one of the finest fresco cycles in Italy as well as humorous ancient graffiti.

In the modern town of Pompei, spelt with a single 'i', there is a sanctuary which is a place of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics. Several vendors can be seen selling interesting plastic 'past and present' memoirs. Tour books which are sold carry interesting city history, building and artifacts. The Cameos is a local specialty and tour buses frequently stops at a factory.

Hotels at Pompei

The Diana Pompei is a family run hotel with unique modern style and comfortable and friendly for visitors from abroad. The Piccolo Sogno hotel is also convenient and located in the center of Pompei only about 200 meters from the Sanctuary. Hotels by far are affordable with perfect accommodation facilities and choice for guests seeking a place close to monuments, history and nature and sea.

Pompeii travel tips

  • Public conveniences are not easy to find in Pompeii owing to missing signposts, and there are not many local guides available. Therefore, it is imperative that a trip to Pompeii is planned well, way ahead.

  • Knowing about other gateways at train stations and sightseeing places can be of great help as this can reduce a chunk of time and gives more relaxing experience to see the site.

  • Credit cards are very rarely accepted in Pompeii and therefore enough cash money is needed to cover the cost of the visit.

  • Pompeii is a full Roman city and is big. Enter the ancient Pompeii through one portal and exit through another. An expert local tour guide can help keep you safe during the visit.
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