When we started planning our trip to Italy we decided on one thing – this trip wasn’t to chill. It was to see all the things. The reality is that we probably won’t make it back here thanks to the Rand and well, having three kids that need to like eat and go to school and stuff.
So when we thought about Italy and all the historical and once in a lifetime things it could offer us, we knew that we had to see Pompeii. In case you somehow missed what Pompeii is all about, let’s recap quickly. Back in 79AD Mount Vesuvius erupted and this massive mushroom cloud of rock, ash and toxic gases rose into the air. It could have obliterated Naples, but instead the wind blew it over Pompeii and a couple of other little towns. They were then completely covered in “air lava” as I like to call it and the towns were completely wiped out. It was so bad that people didn’t even know that the town existed until they were recently uncovered.
But why take a whole day out of Rome to see Pompeii?
When the air lava landed on Pompeii, yes, it totally destroyed it, but at the same time it preserved exactly what the Roman culture was like all the way back in 79AD. It’s absolutely fascinating!
Technically you could use 3 whole days to explore the full city of Pompeii (and that’s just the section that they have managed to excavate). We squeezed most of it into about 2 hours. So obviously we didn’t see everything but we did see some key things that included their theatre where they performed plays.
We passed store fronts and houses and the way to distinguish between them is that the stores had sliding doors and the houses had regular doors. Isn’t that amazing? That they already knew about sliding doors all the way back then? They also crafted their counter tops out of stone and had bowls built into them for serving.
The roads had pavements on the sides to walk on because in the middle was the place that you threw all of your sewage. Can you even imagine the smell?! They put some stepping stones across the middle to help you get across without getting poop all over your clothes. That was on the main road, but on some of the “newer” roads that they had built, they had included gutters that took all the sewage out to the sea.
After that we walked through a house that was owned by someone who had a fair amount of money. They were sort of middle to upper class. Their houses all had frescos painted on them (thick plaster that was painted before it dried completely, thus allowing the colour to still be evident today). I loved how smart their houses were – they had a roof that was open in the centre, making sure all the rain went down into their wells. Even the way they heated everything was incredible.
In this specific house, they were located in one of the back rooms when the air lava hit them. They hid in the corner and at some point tried to dig a hole through the wall to escape. They never did escape and so you can see their bones there as a memorial.
Then we headed past some more fountains that were used for both drinking water and directions. Back then they didn’t have street names and so you kind of told the person, head for the fountain of the happy guy, turn left and the third door is me. Except that third door was the brothel!
Yup, they had old school brothels that were apparently not really used by the people of the town but more by the sailors coming in and out of the city. When you walk in you can actually choose the service that you require from the pictures up on the wall. Including cuddling, spanking and gosh, lots of other things. Then once you’d made your choice, you go into one of the tiny rooms that have a comfortable bed made out of stone in them and you get busy.
There were a couple other things that totally blew our minds. They had piped water into their homes! Granted it was lead pipes and probably making them a bit crazy, but still! They had pipped water into their houses. The other thing is that they had what we call, “cats eyes”. You know those things that shine when light is placed on them on the road? Well the Pompeians made theirs with marble.
We also went into their gym and public baths area. Outside there was a big space for them to train and then there were a series of hot, medium and cold baths to jump into afterwards.
The hot baths were just incredible. Not only did they already have underfloor heating waxed, they built double thick walls that pumped warm air throughout the area. They had lockers to put their belongings in and it’s just all so familiar. And I think that’s what struck me. What we are doing now in our own homes or lives is not new. Not even close. Sure it’s different in a few ways, but the fundamentals are still the same! It’s just crazy.
Then lastly we passed by the “bodies”. Now if you have done any search on this, you would have seen these bodies. And you would probably have assumed that the lava made them this way. But there was no lava remember? So how are these things even there? When the air lava rained down it trapped people in it who then passed away. Over the years their bodies decomposed leaving a gap in the rock and ash that surrounded them. Into that, archaeologists poured a mixture that fixed the holes. Now we have an idea of what these people looked like in their last moments.
You can see a couple of full grown men, a three year old child and a dog.
After that we grabbed a quick gelato before heading back on the bus for another evening getting lost in Rome.
Oh and that awesome statue? It’s not from back then. It’s from an art exhibit that was held there in 2016 but I love it so I included it in these photos.