Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Real Thing

Like a previous trip I have been extremely remiss in not staying current on these posts.  However I did use that wonder App called Track My Tour (please tell Chris that I sent you if you check it out) which did a much better job.  Here is the link to this part of the trip -- Click here.


Disaster!  It was raining on the day we were due to move from Naples to Amalfi via a walking tour of Vesuvius and of course Pompeii.  Vesuvius was closed as the weather had closed right down but don't worry, said Daniele, we have lots to do.  Spend more time in Pompeii and then there is a nice surprise.

Well, who doesn't like surprises?  And as it turned out, this would be a recurrent theme with Daniele.  Ending up with a nice surprise.

First of all Daniele apologised for his poor English.  Really!! Our Italian is pathetic and as it turned out Daniele had no problem in out talking both of us.

Our guide in Pompeii however was another thing.  Lovely lady, she again apologised profusely for her terrible English and from that point for the next 3 hours hardly drew breath.

Our guide warming to her task
As we wandered around this huge site, the rain did abate but I don't think it would have mattered as it was such an amazing experience.

These days Pompeii is 3 miles from the sea but this is the dock which is near one of the city gates.

The story is pretty well known.  Town of 20,000 sleepily going about their business for several hundred years were abruptly drowned in ash one morning in 79 AD when Vesuvius exploded.  I told our guide that I was in the process of reading the Pompeii book and she then said that most books were historically rubbish but that one wasn't that bad.  In fact she showed us the main roads mentioned in the book.

This is one of the main roads into the Forum ending at a drinking fountain that bears symbols marking the quarter of the town and of course for drinking.  Two roads into the middle of town from each direction.  Each of these main roads leads to one of the city gates.  Ramrod straight too.
Actually it is quite amazing to reflect that the only person to ever mention Pompeii and its destruction was the Roman author Pliny.  He was an admiral in the navy and happened to be in port that day so witnessed things first hand.  Had he not done so, nobody would have known Pompeii existed and bothered to look.  That's what happened to Herculaneum after all.  It was discovered under a pile of mud in the 20th century which is why so much more of their stuff was preserved whilst Pompeii's was largely destroyed in a maelstrom of fire and ash.  Pompeii is about 8 miles away from Vesuvius so wouldn't have been touched by lava.

The block of stone in the middle of the road is to step on when you are crossing.  It keeps your feet dry.  This road is one cart width wide.  People walk along the pavements.  If it rains, the water and undoubtedly all that other nasty stuff, runs along the cart path meaning that those strategically placed stones are really important.

Now that I am on the subject, I forgot to mention something.  Right next to the Norman castle in the centre of Naples was going to be a new subway station but in the digging they found an entirely new Roman settlement so the entire area is submerged in tarpaulins and plastic as the archaeologists works away.  So it really isn't surprising that Herculaneum took so long to discover.  Unlike Pompeii nobody knew it ever existed.

The site is very large and set out in the traditional Roman manner.  In the middle is the forum with public baths off to one side.  Obviously the temples to Jupiter and Venus are there, Jupiter dominating as he should being the bigwig amongst Roman gods.  But also the shops and taverns.  They could even identify what kind of shop from its layout -- multiple counters could mean a small tavern or cafe.  Lots of marble and running water could mean fish and meat.  Very clever all of it.

The forum in Pompeii

Ruins of a theatre that is currently used for productions

Standard layout for a Roman villa.  Longish entrance into small vestibule with fountain or pond open to the elements.  This is the greeting area off which is the meeting room and other small business rooms where the man of the house conducts business.  Behind is this quadrangle with a garden in the middle and bedrooms leading off in all directions.

The largest villa in Pompeii also housed the Alexander floor mosaic from the museum.  This is just bigger than the others and is the place where all the really important pieces that still exist were found.  It was called the Pan Villa because they found a statue of Pan but in recent years this has been debunked.

Alexander, or rather a replica

You just have to go and experience it.  I could spend a couple more days there easily.

And the surprise?  Sadly I have forgotten!  But here's a video of Pink Floyd playing 'Echoes' at Pompeii in the 1972.  My gift to you.

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