You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.
- Pliny the Younger, 79AD
Pompeii Lives: A City Of the Dead
It's Europe - minus the price, minus the politics, and minus the added tens of thousands of travellers.
After one visits the hustle and bustle that is Italy’s capital, Rome, one should take the journey to Naples and onto Pompeii. To me, Naples is not the endpoint but a waypoint to Pompeii, and nearby Herculaneum. Both these early cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum, were buried beneath the ash of the Mount Vesuvius fateful eruption in 79 AD, frozen in time and practically forgotten about for the ensuing 1600 years.
If one is not inclined to go via Naples to these cities, you may wish to just make a daytrip from Rome, so don't make excuses to miss the amazing ruins and remnants.
Photo: Naples looking toward Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii is on the other side of Vesuvius.
Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples and Mount Vesuvius, are situated on the west coast of Italy. Today Vesuvius remains the only active volcano in mainland Europe and is still considered by volcanologists as one of the most hazardous volcanoes on Earth, thanks in large part to it being in the vicinity of the very large Naples population and adjacent villages and towns on the neighbouring slopes.
Pompeii: Preserved Memorial
Laying among the solidified ashes and pumice of a two thousand year-old catastrophe, is a town so flawlessly preserved it sets off the brain into a hyper visualization state – well it did for me anyway. Even the most non phased of visitor will surely be affected by it’s story. Pompeii, in many ways, has grown to be just as much a living memorial than a site of excavation since its detection in the 18th century. Large numbers of tourists head to the classic Italian metropolis to learn and understand more about this captivating time capsule that's taken more than 260 years to be slowly, gradually and delicately revealed.
Travellers should plan time for the trip because it will take at a minimum of one complete day in order to get around and experience most of Pompeii's countless elaborate discoveries. Stroll the stone made avenues where today only the wind flow and wild birds now dwell. You can’t help but ponder…to ask yourself, what was life like here in it’s hey day, what was it like at the time of the tragedy – what are the city's true insider secrets.
Pompeii: An Idyllic Italian Microcosm
When walking around one experiences much spectacular beauty of elaborately designed mosaics and colourful frescoes which endured the most horrible circumstances while their frail human masters perished. My wife and I marveled at the names, places and personalities of the departed - which still live on forever etched in the clinging paint of their homes. Imagine the marbled elegance of the grand Temple of Apollo and the other religious symbols of the day. Contemplate what it might have been like to live in this type of thriving metropolis, at it's idyllic peak the moment Vesuvius begun to grumble its foreboding sign of terrible things to come.
Photo: Some of the thousands of objects pulled from the ground
The very excavation of Pompeii has been nothing short of unbelievable. Such care and attention has been implemented since the very start of its unearthing process. So much so that we are capable of seeing a very clear snapshot of daily life within the city on its final, fateful day in August 79AD. Basic terra cotta storage containers for wine and oil, large millstones, iron farm tools and equipment, and decorative columns have most certainly been safeguarded for 2 thousand years in a heavy cover of ashes and function now as witnesses to Pompeii’s everyday existence.
The most striking is actually the presence and position of the Mount Vesuvius victims. As the excavating commenced, empty hollows had been discovered amongst the layers and tiers of the of debris left by the volcanic eruption. Archaeologists soon came to the realization that each and every void had been in actual fact exactly where a human body had long since disappeared after initial decomposition. Plaster has been and still is mixed directly into the vacant gaps to make molds of the body shapes, which usually are chillingly detailed - their writhing pain and misery oh so evident, during their suffocating loss of life, the horror upon their faces, even the style their hair was in that fateful day were frozen in time forever in these casts. Many had been discovered running for his or her lives, whereas others had been uncovered curled up over floors and under beds with their hands covering their faces.
Photo: A hapless victim dies while attempting to seek shelter
One of the casts even represents a thief with his hands inside the bag of a well-off man who is apparently oblivious of the looting whilst trying to get away from the catastrophic eruption and pyroclastic surge of super hot, poisonous gases. Yet another cast shows a terrified pet dog fruitlessly battling against the chain that kept them captive. Each and every plaster mold exudes these kinds of powerful sentiments. We were emotional, yet silent and other site visitors with us were moved to tears at the significant losses of life which Pompeii reveals. The emotions are not uncommon. There is no shame to shed a tear for these defenseless residents in the face of one of natures most fearsome of spectacles.
Regardless of the persistent reminder associated with the loss of life and destruction of property, the city of Pompeii attests that life goes on to conquer obstacles - as the healthy vines, trees and pretty flowers attest – thriving, in full bloom among the eerily muted ruins.
A slumbering Mt. Vesuvius continues to stand tall, spectacular backdrop she is. In this part of Italy, and to all that visit, Vesuvius remains a visual reminder that our lives are tenuous, fleeting yet important and that we could be threatened by unforeseen events which could transpire at any given moment. What a visit. This place will have a profound effect on you as it did for me.
Books: Amazon and Book Depository
Accommodation: Airbnb and Trip Advisor
Happy and safe travels to you and your families!