Monday, December 9, 2013


From the 8th century BC to August 24, 79AD, 1:00pm

Irony: Mount Vesuvius erupted on August 24th, the day after Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman god of fire. 
The one thing you have to realize about Pompeii, was that it was beautiful! Strolling around it's ancient cobblestone streets, it was a gorgeous little town with gardens, lovely public fountains, and terrific views from every street corner.
Just an example, this is the wall at the entrance to the amphitheater.  The decorative brickwork is repeated on both sides.
From the inside.  We also got a chance to walk around the inside some.  Guess what we found down the pitch black corridors?  The ancient public restrooms!  These old coliseums were set up just exactly like today's modern sports arenas. 

“Caius Quinctius Valgus, son of Caius, and Marcus Porcius, son of Marcus, in their capacity as quinquennial duumviri, to demonstrate the honor of the colony, erected this sports complex at their own expense and donated it to the colonists for their perpetual use.”
And THAT, people, is how you live forever. 
See, what you have to understand, is that you would LOVE to live here.  You'd give your right arm to live here, or even just vacation here a few weeks out of the year, even in it's ruin, you can see what it once was and it was just beautiful, everywhere you turned.   It was a beach town with a large port and views of the mountains all around.  Problem was, one of those mountains was a volcano. 

And no, Italy does not take care of it very well, there is graffiti on everything, trash everywhere, and plants growing in the walls which will weaken the remaining structures over time.  It's very sad, but this is Italy.  The closest big city, Naples, is so scuzzy you'd be amazed that Pompeii is still standing at all.  Even though it's a nasty city, I do recommend you go to the Naples National Archaeological Museum (good luck finding parking, if you act sympathetic and try some Italian, the guard might let you park in the museum parking lot without a bribe.  Worked for us) where they took what was left from Pompeii (you have no idea how much was looted and destroyed) and actually put it in a museum.  Be sure you see, "The Secret Room."
And bring food and drinks!  There is a restaurant inside of Pompeii (yes, I peed in Pompeii) but it's all junk food.  I couldn't eat any of it and there's only so much exploring you can do on an empty stomach.  It's an entire city, remember.

 Mount Vesuvius

Maybe the first thing you have to realize is that Vesuvius is huge.
Driving to Pompeii, you see Mount Vesuvius loom larger and larger and if it erupted today, you'd have a hard time getting away from it even in a car.  And here's a term you should learn:  Somma Volcano.
I'm standing ON Vesuvius, looking at the outer rim of the bigger volcano that used to be here before it exploded.  See that bus behind the trees there on the road?  Vesuvius, as big as it is, is just a pimple in the center of what used to be a really big volcano!  

 This is a piece of Vesuvius.  You can see all the little bits of everything in the rock.  It's not an airy little pumice stone and it's nothing at all like the rocks I have from Mount Fuji, which is also a stratovolcano
Yes.  You can climb Mount Vesuvius.  Does that creep you out much?  My family absolutely lost it when I told them we were climbing this volcano.  
"NO!  It could errupt at any second!"  
Yeah, but what a way to go, huh people?
And yes, my Florida Cracker son was all over Europe.  Yes, even in Paris, but people LOVED him, waving and saying, "Howdy Partner," with various accents.  
And that fog?  Yeah, that's a cloud.  We were walking through the clouds!   How many Florida boys climb volcanoes and walk through clouds?

into the abyss

Naples, Italy from Mount Vesuvius

 If you had a closet with this kind of carved scroll work on the walls, you know you'd be living a very luxurious life.  Not that you'd be likely to see inside of the mere closets of your villa.  That's what the slaves and hired help was for, right?  

Sorry about the graffiti, it's everywhere.  This was in someone's house once. 
Most of the houses went like this.  I'm standing at the door.  It's open and there's a wear spot in the opening for a metal gate.  So you would walk up to someone's house, see that they have a dog, enjoy their tile floor, admire their indoor pond and atrium (rain-filled pond), and wait to be received.  Yes, they were all pretty much 2 story houses.  Once. 
The groove for the front gate.
 This house didn't have a dog
 This house didn't survive

Keep in mind, this is open to the elements and has been for nearly 2000 years.  Plus one volcanic eruption and reached temperatures, at the very least, of 212F.  But I would adore to have a tile floor like this in my house!  
Baker just down the road.  It seems that people rarely ate lunch at home so there are little restaurants every where.

Lunch counter along the sidewalk.
 What do you think you would have eaten for lunch in Pompeii?  Maybe a chunk of bread and some roasted meat?  
 Hmmm, looks like some fancy specialty cookware.
Is your colander this nice?

You might eat off of plates and bowls like this, but keep in mind, this was the stuff no one wanted to steal.  This is the stuff the looters left behind.  

 Things people didn't think was worth stealing

 Yes, it's a mosaic!

This is the junk.  Now imagine how the ancient Pompeians lived and compare it to your daily life.  Who has the sweeter deal? 

 Sidewalks, pretty nice, huh?  And keep in mind, yeah, they HAD concrete.  Finest cement in history, the modern world lost the recipe for it and had to recreate Roman concrete.  In Pompeii, they CHOSE to make their sidewalks this elaborate, for beauty's sake.

 tile work in the home of the richest man in town, The House of the Faun

And what did you do in your free time?  Hit the bath houses of course! 

 This fella especially makes me chuckle.  In the modern city of Pompei, built right up next to Pompeii, and slightly higher (thanks volcanic ash) I saw some potted plants outside of the shops.  And what do you suppose they had for potholders?  4 of those guys.  I don't know if they were replicas or if the shop owner has a chisel and hammer but I sure hope it was the former and not the latter. 
 So what's your gym look like on the inside?  Just like this, right?  Carvings and paintings all over the walls and ceilings? 
The frigidarium.  Once filled with cold water to close the pores after a dip in the the Caldarium and the Tepidarium

 Walking around town, reading the Latin, this is a public altar.  Sit and worship, think nice thoughts, whatever.

Someone's villa.  What do you suppose they grew in the courtyard?  Fruit trees?  Grapes?

 Stairs to the past.

 Public fountain.  Possibly one of the fountains that suddenly dried up prior to the eruption.  Something you should know about Italy, they still have public fountains.  You'll find these in Venice and Rome and some in Pompeii are working right now!   Wash the sweat off your face, fill your water bottle, some even have a little hole in the pipe.  Put your finger in it and the fountain becomes a drinking fountain!  The water is safe and clean

 Notice the snake fresco?  

Take a good look at this villa.  That gutter pipe is original.  Matter of fact, we found these metal (Lead?  Copper?) pipes partially unburied in the streets.  Yes, they had running water in Pompeii!

Crosswalk in Pompeii.  Stepping stones to avoid the rain or the street washing water (they regularly cleaned the streets).  Notice the decorative brickwork across the street?   Notice the worn down sidewalk leading to that first step?  You truly walk in the footsteps of the ancients in Italy.  In Pompeii, you KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are but a speck in the story of mankind.

Underneath the smooth stone columns.  Most likely, these were also painted and not plain stone.


Preserved carving from a doorway.  It has yellowed plastic over top so this is as clear as I could make it.  Rabbit, peacock, a snail, and is that a lizard at the top?  

And what's a trip to Pompeii without a visit to the whorehouse?
 The penis points the way.  Yes, this is in the road outside a brothel.
 just so you know, he's 6'4" and he fits on the stone bed

Just needs some pillows, blankets, rugs and you got a nice working space!

 These frescoes were on the walls at the brothel but the christians tried to destroy them by plastering over them.  Then they pried them off and put them in the secret room in the museum and for a while, THAT was sealed up too.
Want to see what else is in the secret chamber?

Yup.  The museum has a penis collection.  What do you think?  Were they coat hooks?  Toothbrush holders?  Door stops? 

Pompei, the Modern City

 We stayed in Pompei.  If you CAN avoid it, I would.  The hotel lobby was charming, the hallways were lovely.  The room was wretched.  No heating which also means no ac for y'all summer visitors.  No screens or real windows (louvered doors to a balcony) so the mosquitoes will tear you up all night.  The bathroom was the worst we had in Europe. 
 That's a plastic accordion door for the, "shower." 

These are the towels.  Yes, seriously.
   But it was a short walk into the real city and the side entrance to Pompeii.  By the entrance there was a vender there who loved our cowboy!  Posed with him in pictures and everything.  Across the street, you'll never guess what we found?
A cowboy restaurant!  Hey, Italy is the home of Spaghetti Westerns!
 The Old West Steakhouse in Pompei!
And they have a gun to play with while you wait for your food!  

Views from the sidewalk

This is right across the street from the new Pompei.  Notice that we're higher up because the old city got buried that deep in ash.  Yes, that is Mount Vesuvius.  

On the other side of the street is the town, some shops and houses like this:
 For reference, Pompeii and Vesuvius is directly behind me.  The ocean would be to my right.  This is what I mean by phenomenal views anywhere in town!  This right here is the magic of volcanic soil.  This guy has citrus trees, rosemary, herbs, large gardens, fruit trees and nut trees.
Figs and apricots and I saw olive trees and pomegranates too.  This guy was growing everything in his yard! 

 Don't miss the gelato!

No comments: