Saturday, June 16, 2007

The City of Pompeii

Planning Italy is one thing, doing Italy is something else. But one has to make adjustments to plans as the real situation changes. In that sense, I guess, doing Italy and for that matter any other foreign country is doing life.

We are back in Rome and I must still figure out how the buses work here. By the way, on the Internet some people write that Rome is a small enough city one can walk everywhere. Bullshit! Rome is a massive city and walking in 30 Degree Celsius heat for miles is crazy and a total waste of precious time.

Day 2 started badly. I took the wrong train from Naples to Pompeii. I planned to take the Circumvesuviana (isn't that a tongue twister) train to Pompeii Scavi, but ended up taking the Trenitalia train to Pompei station. (Pompei is the modern day city and Pompeii is the ruins.) What's the difference between the stations? A little bit further to walk and missing most of the curio sellers and on renting an audio device which provide information about the ruins as you walk through it.

Nevertheless, Pompeii was impressive, even in 33 degree Celsius heat. The city, destroyed in 79 AD by a volcanic eruption from nearby Mount Vesuvius was rediscovered in 1748 by archeologists. We bought a “Then and Now” book before entering the ruins and it helped a bit to figure out the ruins. In some places bright and colorful frescoes still survived against the walls of some houses. I will let the pictures do the talking. However, much of it was carted off to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, which leaves Pompeii today as a massive, empty, tourist-ridden “Times Square.” But, it is still very interesting to see the structure/layout of the city, the architecture of the buildings (or what's left of them…in some cases guesswork is very much required), the beauty of the artwork (these people were very color-minded and I would also say very colorful people), which all make for an unforgettable visit. Walking the streets and just being there among the ruins is rather mind-boggling.

Honestly though, it is good to go there, but then also watch a DVD or a Discovery channel program on the subject. You get to see so much more, close-ups, with lots more information than being at the ruins. It is a vast place and although we were nearly everywhere in the ancient city, we would never have completed it all if we had an audio device and if we stopped and listen to all the details at every point. Simply too much! One day at Pompeii is not enough. Unfortunately we were on a schedule and had to catch a train back to Naples and then onto Rome.

There was no time to visit other sites in Naples, like the National Archaeological Museum or the Capella Sansevero with it highly recommended statues of alabaster.

The train trip back to Rome and the subsequent taxi ride to our apartment in Via Licia were uneventful. We went to do some shopping at the local supermarket and then went to a bar, the Robbivecchio, for dinner. Monica’s Margarita (that's the Mexican drink not the pizza) quickly too half her head off and send her swimming in her own Roman sea, while I finished two Peroni’s. Rome was just as hot as Naples. The food and the service were generally terrible. I couldn’t even refuse to tip the bad service because a 12% service charge was included in the price. The waiter was more interested in watching the AC Milan – Liverpool European Champions League final than serving us. But then what did I expect? After all, this is Italy where football is a religion.

Via dell'Abbondanza. One of the main streets of Pompeii. The sidewalks were modernized with concrete for easy walking (still at the same level as in the ancient time), but the cobbled-stone street is the real thing (about a foor below the sidewalk level.)

The fountain inside the House of Fontana Piccola with a colorful wall frescoe.

A close-up of the fountain inside the House of Fontana Piccola.

A close-up of the frescoe in the House of Fontana Piccola.

A beautiful mosaic floor of the House of the Tragic Poet.

Inside the House of Vettii.

Wall Paintings just inside the front door of the House of Vettii. The house was closed to public (locked gate), but I could take this picture through the gate. It was locked due to restoration. Luckily only a few areas in Pompeii was locked for restoration purposes. I think the oversize penis symbolized prosperity of the house's owner. Erotic pictures were all over Pompeii when it was rediscovered, and although some remained, most were taken to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.

The Grand Theatre at Pompeii.

Inside the Stabian Baths, me wiping away sweat, Lamar, who was our "researcher" for the day browsing the "Then and Now" book to see what the place looked like before the eruption.

Inside the Stabian Baths.

Stabian Baths. A foot of a Plaster cast. The foot bone are still clear visible.

A plaster case inside the storage facilities. The "mummies" or plaster casts were created when the rediscoverers of Pompeii realized that the lava body forms where hollow inside, it became a mold, so they poured plaster inside.

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