Saturday, 10 December 2011

Unforgettable Pompeii

{ Pompeii, Italy - May 2011 }

A Roman city destroyed and buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, Pompeii was buried for more than 1,600 years before the town was rediscovered. Thousands of Pompeiians must have died, and many more fled the town. However, the volcanic ash that buried the city allowed us to walk along the cobbled stone streets, among the walls that once made up the homes of the Pompeiians. Ever since I went to an exhibition on Pompeii, I told myself that I would go to Pompeii when I am lucky enough to be in Italy. And so, I did. We saw the treasures from Pompeii in the museum in Naples, before visiting the site. We took a train from Naples, and stopped in a station right next to the entrance.


I was filled with excitement. Sure, Rome, with the Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum and all the amazing structures from ancient Rome, was spectacular. But Rome was like the political and administration centre - the capital of the Roman Empire, if you may. Pompeii, on the other hand was where the real people lived. Houses, markets, temples, and even, brothels. We knew it was huge, but nothing really prepared me for the size of it all. 

We stood on the spacious Forum, looking towards Mount Vesuvius, which looked huge and imposing and pretty far away. I heard that if you draw a line from the two ends of the peaks, that would be the size of Mount Vesuvius before the catastrophic eruption in AD 79! The volcano is still active, and is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the 3 million people that live nearby. 


We explored the the remains of baths, houses, bakeries and theatre. The houses have big compound, with water features, gardens and rooms. Of course, it was not fully rebuilt to their former glory, but with the structures still in place, it was easy to imagine the way it once was. There were still paint of the famous pompeian red and paintings on the walls, like this famous Venus on the Half Shelf. 


Of course, what would a Roman city be without a Roman theatre? The amphitheatre was extremely well constructred that I could easily imagined it being filled by the tens of thousands of people. We sat on the ground, resting our tired feet before continuing our exploration.

  

We kept walking and exploring the city, walking along the cobbled stone ground, trying to imagine the city that it once was. We went from streets to streets, houses to houses, admiring the structures and the colour, and before we know it, the sun was setting, and the area closing. 


We left Pompeii with a heavy heart. Pompeii was an unforgettable and humbling experience. The buzzing lively city that it must have been thousands of years ago, only to be left forgotten and buried under a thick layer of volcanic ashes. Then, to be rediscovered and provided all of us a chance to experience the Roman city that it must have been.

::: Footnotes :::

{ Getting there from Naples } There are trains every half an hour for the 35 minutes journey from Circumvesuviana Napoli-Sorrento to Pompei Scavi-Villa dei Misteri. The entrance at Porta Marina is only a few minutes walk away. To go back to Naples, take the Circumvesuviana train from the Pompei Scavi-Villa dei Misteri stop to Naples Garibaldi station (direction Napoli). Note that there are two stops marked Napoli – you want the first one if you’re aiming for Garibaldi, the city’s main train station.

{ Pompeii } Pompeii is open everyday from 8.30 am to 7.30 pm, with the last admission at 6 pm. A single ticket is valid for one day, and costs €11. You can also buy the ticket that gives you access to five sites (Herculaneum, Pompeii, Oplontis, Stabiae, Boscoreale) for €20, and is valid for 3 days. The ticket price includes a map and small pocket guide, A Brief Guide to Pompeii. The guide is good, and remember to pick them up at the information window. Audio guide is also available, but we read that it is a recording of the pocket guide, and so we did not get it. It costs €6.50 for one, or €10 for 2 people.


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