Our grandparents live in Hawaii so Perrin and I have seen enough volcanoes and dried lava to be skeptical about the appeal of the 2,000 year old ruins of Pompei, a thriving Roman town that was buried under 13-19 feet of pumice and ash when Mt. Vesuvius exploded in 79 A.D. Since we were living in the Napoli region we decided to embrace history and check it out.
It was well worth a trip and the 11 euro entrance fee. We were amazed at how preserved the city was and how vividly you could see what life was like for Romans in the 1st century. You can easily spend a full day crawling through blasted doorways. I recommend the audio tour (6 euro) since there are no signs on any of the sculptures and the guide is a wealth of interesting information, from basic building facts to in-depth chapters on subjects like wool weavers and calendars. Here are just five reasons to visit Pompei.
1. You can eat lunch in a dining room from 79 A.D.
Ok, so we’re not sure if this was really socially acceptable or not. But to preserve some cash, Perrin and I brought lunch from home. Around noon we found an ancient ruined house with some shade and spread out our Tupperware in what was once the dining room. We were even joined by an adorable dog, who ate the pasta we shared like a true Italian. While we all refueled, about five tourist groups stopped to take our picture and look us up on the map. While they searched for our audioguide number we struck a number of mid-eating poses so we wouldn’t disappoint.
2. The brothels.
It is surely by some sort of divine intervention that lava filled every inch of the main town brothel but you can somehow still see Karma Sutra images — with creative recommendations for clients — painted perfectly above each room. A session with a prostitute here was the same price as “a glass of medium quality wine and went straight to the pimp” – according to my audio tour – and graffiti on the wall indicates rampant complaints of venereal disease. Not ideal conditions.
3. The Amphitheater: Home to Gladiators, trained lions and the 1971 Pink Floyd Concert
In the BC/early AD days, gladiators used clubs, chains, knives and even fingernails to fight each other to the death in the awe-inspiring amphitheater at the edge of the city walls. More recently, in 1971, Pink Floyd entertained guests at the theater with a concert that was turned into a film, Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii.
4. Roman history is our history
If you love the US (and you know I do) and history, you have felt a connection to the ideals, laws and government practices we adopted from the Romans. Julius Cesaer developed the first 365 ¼ day year lunar “calens” during the peak of the Roman Empire, placing the full moon at mid-month. And the local courts prosecuted offenders in evidence-based, debate-style court rooms. Ah, the origins of modern justice.
5. The whole site is a reminder that life is short
This seems like a debbie downer way to end my blog but as you wander through the ruins you are struck by the thought that the people of Pompei were unprepared for the fury of Vesuvius to take their home and their lives. The man below was unearthed in a crouched prayer position, next to his mules. I can only imagine his final thoughts but to me he is a vivid reminder to live life to the fullest every day.