I‘m a sucker for ancient ruins. I love to explore and learn about them whenever I get the chance. And a few years ago, on a trip across Europe, I had the opportunity to tour the well preserved site of Pompeii.
A couple hours away from Rome by bus, Pompeii is near the port city of Naples. It’s totally worth the trip, even if you are not really into ruins, or if you are ruined out from Rome. A whole town preserved in time, with parts of it even restored, you feel almost transported back in time.
It was sort of surreal to walk on the same streets others have walked on hundreds of years ago, exploring their squares and stores and homes. The stones were worn from years of use and wagon wheels left grooved trails in the streets.
People used the raised stones in the middle of the roads to cross as the streets were used as sewage. I’m sure that smelled pleasant! It amazed me the attention to detail that was put into everything. Notice the sidewalk with the carefully arranged pebbles above.
Before Their Time
The Pompeians were ahead of their time and had many seemingly modern conveniences. A slot from a sliding door, above, a simple thing that I found interesting, and something I usually don’t even think about. Ancient doors. It’s weird to think about all the minute things people have had to deal with on a daily basis throughout time. I feel like we seem to think of the past as some mystical far off thing, and that people were backwards and barbaric or simple. But really, I think they were more like us, because, well, they were us in a sense. It’s the small everyday details that I find fascinating. A door slot is interesting? I know it seems lame, but it is to me!
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes! There is also an extensive network of piping that runs through the city which you can still see today, made from lead, but hey, they weren’t perfect! They even used geothermal energy to heat their baths and homes.
Fast food seems like it is a modern concept, but a version of it actually existed in Pompeii. Establishments called thermopolia were set up all over town and served up ready made hot food. The counters usually had pots set into the counter that were filled with dried food. An ancient McDonald’s, how neat is that?
One of the biggest residences you can tour is the House of the Faun. At its height, Pompeii and the surrounding area was a sort of summer retreat for the wealthy Romans from the north. Many of them built lavish homes and the House of the Dancing Faun is one of the more well preserved in Pompeii. Even today you can see the lavishness of it in the frescoes and tile-work, the private baths and garden. The place is big even by today’s standards. Heck, it was even nicer than my hotel back in Rome!
I can’t write about Pompeii and not mention the infamous brothel. The Pompeians were quite liberal by ancient standards, at least when it came to sexual imagery. Which is found all over the place in Pompeii. Somehow, that doesn’t make it into many tour books. Frescos, statues, and mosaics that would make your aunt blush line the brothel walls as well as private residences and baths. I found it rather amusing that one of the most extensively restored buildings was the Lupanare Grande brothel. Priorities, right? Our tour guide even pointed out signs that led the way to the brothel carved into the street itself.
Want to Go Back!
Pompeii is a unique site, preserved in time by a catastrophic and unfortunate event, allowing us a glimpse of the past. It’s definitely worth the trip to visit and I would love to go back and explore more of it along with the surrounding areas like Herculaneum and Stabiae. Italy has so much to offer any kind of visitor, and no matter what type you are, I highly suggest adding Pompeii to your itinerary.