Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Pompeii

On my second day in Italy I traveled to Pompeii, which was my entire reason for going to Naples as it's very easily accessible from there. As I've said I'm a huge nerd for ancient history and have previously visited Ephesus and seen a lot of Ancient Greece, so Pompeii has always been an absolute must for me to visit at some point.

Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii

I don't want to make an assumption that everyone already knows what Pompeii is, so in case you don't: Pompeii was a city that was engulfed by Mount Vesuvius which erupted in 79 AD and completely obliterated it. Despite being so long ago it's still considered one of the most catastrophic eruptions in European history. Pompeii was buried underneath up to 20 feet of ash and pumice and considered a lost city until it was rediscovered in 1599. It's important historically as due to the way it was buried there was absolutely no air or moisture so everything was perfectly preserved which has given so much insight to how people lived in Ancient Roman times. As people were engulfed and smothered, they became mummified and froze in the position of whatever they happened to be doing at that time.

Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii

You get to Pompeii by the Circumvesuviana train which will drop you off right by the entrance, or you can get the regular train line which will drop you off at the main station a half hour walk away. I wasn't quite sure what I was doing and accidentally got the main train, but I was able to take a shuttle to the entrance for only €3 and it ended up dropping me off at a side entrance so I was able to avoid a lot of the queue. They offer a lot of various guides, from audio to actual tour guides, but honestly I'd say keep your money and don't bother. After you've bought your ticket if you go to the information point you can pick up a map and a guide pamphlet both for free, and the pamphlet is really extensive and gives a lot of information on all of the various sites. Everything of interest is clearly numbered, which correlates to the pamphlet so you always know what you're looking at.

Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii

The only issue I had going round was that some of the rooms and houses you can go into are accessed at only certain times during the day, and these aren't advertised. There was one house I wanted to go into, but it took me until the end of the day to make my way around to that area as Pompeii is so vast I and was pretty gutted to see that it had closed at 1pm despite Pompeii being open until 6.30pm. It's just something to be aware of.

Pompeii is absolutely beautiful and expansive, and I don't know if it's just because I've visited Ephesus and other Ancient Greek sites, but to be perfectly honest I felt kind of underwhelmed by it. I know it's likely a case of previous tourists ruining it for everybody, but everything was cordoned off so you just walk down the streets and poke your head into barriered off buildings. There were very few that were freely accessible which really killed any atmosphere as everyone was just herded down the same designated areas.

Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii Pompeii
Mummified people, and a photo of how they were excavated. The one at the back was playing with a baby when they were smothered, which shows how quickly it happened.
Pompeii
Pompeii

I was also disappointed that the buildings were mostly empty shells. Most of the draw of Pompeii is due to it's fate, and yet there's no evidence of it. Despite being buried under so much ash and pumice which preserved so much, it looks no different than any other ancient ruin site. I don't mean to sound morbid, but I expected it to look frozen in time as it had been and to see the mummified bodies. There were a few plaster casts of bodies under glass cases in reconstructed environments, but that's hardly the authentic experience you travel all that way for, you can see that kind of thing in a museum absolutely anywhere. I have heard that Herculaneum, a town near Pompeii that suffered the exact same fate, it actually better but unfortunately I didn't have time in my schedule to visit both. It's apparently much smaller and less crowded and has some actual skeletons in it, so I'd recommend visiting that one instead honestly. I particularly wanted to visit Pompeii though because of the amphitheatre (let me know if you saw this was coming 😅)

Pompeii
Pompeii

The amphitheatre in Pompeii is where Pink Floyd performed for their 1972 film Live At Pompeii. Lots of additional shots of Pompeii are included throughout the film, so it was really cool seeing those things in context as I wandered around, but the amphitheatre is obviously the biggest draw. I was a little worried that access wouldn't be allowed as so much else was blocked off, but you were permitted to walk through the centre of the amphitheatre so I got to stand in the spots. It felt kind of surreal seeing somewhere I was so familiar with through a TV screen finally in real life, it looks exactly the same despite the 46 year time difference.


Pompeii
Pompeii

Pompeii

You couldn't walk around the inside of the amphitheatre as, like everything else, it was barriered off, but as I passed I saw they had some displays for Pink Floyd in there. Unfortunately there was absolutely nothing to say when it was open or how to look around as it was obviously some kind of exhibit, so I had to be satisfied with craning my neck and seeing what I could of it.

Pompeii
Pompeii
The black and white panel is loads of frames from Live At Pompeii if you look closely.

I'd imagine Pompeii is much more exciting if you haven't visited anything similar before, but for me it just felt much the same as what I'd previously seen with absolutely nothing of what I expected that makes Pompeii unique. If you are going to visit, definitely look into Herculaneum as I think it's much more historically interesting, and your ticket to Pompeii grants you entry to both so it's no more expensive. You can also take a guided hike up Mount Vesuvius if that's your thing!

5 comments:

  1. Hi Sydney, my mum was born towards the bottom of Vesuvius so it's interesting for me to read a bit about the area.
    Even though it may have been underwhelming for you, I'm sure your readers will be interested to learning a bit about it, I know I did ☺

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    1. I hope I didn't make it sound all doom and gloom as it really is beautiful and was amazing to visit. Glad you enjoyed reading though!

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  2. Your photos are fantastic. Jon's watched the series about Pompeii aired on Channel 5 recently and said that it was pretty good considering it was on that usually dumbed down channel!
    I do get very excited about ancient places - Ephesus was great. I went in the 1980s when Turkey had just opened up to tourism and had to swim to get to it! El Djem in Tunisia blew my mind. xxx

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    1. Thank you! I gave that series a miss as I prejudged it for being on Channel 5, I'll have to see if it's on catch up!
      We went to Turkey in the mid '90s when it was still a fairly unusual place to go, I often wonder how much it's changed and if it's all barriered off now like Pompeii is. We climbed and swam all over Pamukkale without any restrictions and I've heard it's not like that there now.

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  3. I can't imagine how interesting it must be to wander around such an ancient place. It's crazy to see the mummified bodies frozen in time!

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