you should go to Pompeii

In July of 2015 we visited Pompeii.

If you have never been there, we can recommend it. Be warned, though, you will not find it to be an uplifting experience. But you will find it to be moving, I promise.

I thought I knew all about Pompeii from studying Roman history at school. It transpires that much of I thought I knew was quite wrong. I also completely forgot that the excavation started before James Cook landed in Australia.

Vesuvius erupted in 79CE. Apparently, before the ash cloud, there was a massive flood of carbon monoxide. This, being heavier than air, stayed close to the ground and followed the contour down to Pompeii. The gas asphyxiated the people and animals immediately, and the ensuing ash cover preserved their remains and artefacts.

Keith and I had spent the previous afternoon in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples – the archaeological museum, largely devoted to Pompeii. There we saw many of the exhibits that are well-known around the world. The famous dog, a photo of the copy kept at Pompeii is at the top of this blog, is just sort of buried in amongst all the other exhibits, as are so many of the recognisable objects. The “naughty rooms” are fascinating exhibits, with no children allowed, rightly.

That afternoon started to prepare us for the visit, we thought, but the actuality of being in the ruins was something else, again.

A few observations. You need a guide, or you will miss so much of what is there. Further, if you are going to get a guide, get one of the authorised ones. They have so much knowledge, and can take you straight past the queues.

You should make sure you go whilst the weather is good. There is absolutely no shade or cover whatsoever.

The place is vast. I was expecting just to walk around a small, partly reconstructed town. The archaeological site, in fact, covers 17 hectares. The scale of the building is breathtaking. You need twice as much time as you think.

There are several things on the site you must visit. The Stabian Baths are remarkable. Not just a bath-house, but a complete day spa. The House of the Faun will amaze you. The house is almost 3,000 square metres, and the copy artwork is sublime – the originals are in the Archaeological Museum. The Alexander Mosaic and the Dancing Faun are featured.

Just walking around the forum is remarkable.

The moving part, for us, is the sense that you are looking at something that people have only just left, not a remnant of two thousand years ago. Just off the forum are their equivalent of fast food shops. The way our guide explained it you could almost see them getting ready for business that day.

A gallery of photos is in Pompeii 2015.

Pompeii is an easy day trip from Rome or Naples, and is a visit you will remember.

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