The History of Pompeii
For those you not familiar with the story of Pompeii, I thought I would provide a little background on the ancient city. Although a tragic story, the outcome gives us something really amazing to see and visit. The city was known for its rich soil, technology, elaborate baths and erotic culture to name a few things. We will get more into the “erotic culture” later, but just know the site is family friendly. There are always plenty of children running around when I visited. It was a hot spot for vacationers even back then. Think of this city as the Las Vegas of the Roman Empire. What happens in Pompeii, really stays in Pompeii. The world heritage site receives almost three-million visitors a year. I highly suggest signing up for a guided tour. It makes the logistics of visiting much easier.
So, what happened? Long ago in 79 AD, there was a peaceful seaside city at the base of a mountain. This mountain’s soil was rich with nutrients much as you would see in Hawaii. Then one day, the Earth began to tremble, and the sky filled with thick, black smoke. Turns out, the mountain was really a volcano. Tons and tons of ash spewed out of the volcano and rained down onto Pompeii. The entire town was buried alive and mummified by ash. This gruesome story was recorded by Pliny the Younger who watch from a boat as his father, Pliny the Elder, was being killed. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the city would be rediscovered. After hundreds of years of excavating the site, there is still about one-third of the city to go.
Visiting the Site
Now let’s switch to happy mode! Hopefully, no one got too down on the background story. I want to focus more on the logistics part of the site. How do you get there? Where do you pick up tickets? What time should you arrive? All of the specific questions any normal person should have. Pompeii is located in Naples, Italy. Crazy enough, step one is get to Naples. You can do this by car, boat, plane or train. My wife and I signed up for a guided tour which included a roundtrip charter bus ticket from Rome. The tour starts early and ends late, but you are able to get to see everything you want. Also, part of the ticket included lunch at a Neapolitan restaurant. If you are staying in Rome, this is the perfect day trip opportunity.
Next, you need to buy a ticket. There are several websites you can use, or you can buy one at the gate. However, the line for the box office is extremely long every day. I am greatly appreciative of our tour guide, Antonia. Her connections allow the group to skip the line upon arriving at Pompeii. And lastly, you need to show up as early as possible. The tour guides know this all too well. If you are entering by yourself, I suggest staying in Naples and buying your tickets ahead of time. At the very least, you will be able to sleep in a little before starting your tour. Also, remember to check the weather. I experienced a few small showers and a little bit of heat during my visit. Depending on the time of year, it can be a bit unpredictable as well.
Finally, I can talk about my favorite things to see in this ancient city. First, I love the images seen in the tile work and graffiti throughout the buildings. They are really interesting to look at. A majority of them do depict sexual acts and/or images. It’s basically porn. Some of you thought I forgot about explaining the “erotic culture.” You know the juicy details are always at the end. Other than that, almost everything is child appropriate. You can see the most famous ones in the different bath houses. The bathes themselves are the next item on my list. And yes, I know what you are thinking. The bathes are co-ed. They are built in a way that prevent mold and condensation from forming on the roof, according to Antonia that is.
The last two items on my list are the incredibly preserved dwellings and people. You are able to walk in and out of each building and see how the ancient Romans lived back then. There are only a few buildings gated off as they are in pristine shape. Amongst them include the house of a wealthy merchant and an out of business brothel. And last but not least, the mummified remains of the residents. The remains are somewhat gruesome, but it helps to tell a story. You can see men, women, children and even their pets. You mainly see plaster cast of the bodies. The archaeologists make these casts and send them out to different museums. Hopefully, you have now added Pompeii to your bucket list. To find out more on the what my wife’s and I tour included, keep an eye out for our next article.