I use to teach my students about Pompeii, so this was a dream come true to actually visit this ancient site. It was an overcast, drizzly day and we couldn’t see the top of Mt. Vesuvius. Makes you wonder if that was what the sky was like as the mighty volcano awoke. As we began our tour, the air around us was heavy and a bit eerie. A perfect day for archaeological exploration! We were able to climb ancient stone stairs in the Large Theater and have a splendid view of the city of Pompeii. The Theater was built in the 3rd Century B.C. during the Augustan era. It held over 5000 guests and was a cultural center as opposed to a common sporting venue.
The landscape around us was lush and green, including what we could see of Mt. Vesuvius. It was a wealthy resort area for the Roman Neapolitan’s. The fertile land, and close location to the sea made it a perfect destination city. Well, until the top of the volcano blew off!
Along with our guide and hundreds of other tourists, we walked along a 2,000- year old cobbled stone street, complete with ruts for ancient carts to move through. We could see remains of brick and stone structures, complete with still standing fireplaces, and multiple rooms. Based upon pottery remains, archaeologists have determined where homes were verses shops. It was easy to imagine this as a wealthy, advanced city complete with government buildings.
Much of the ancient city was not available to us because we were there for such a short time. It would easily have taken a full day or more to do justice to this site. We did see some beautiful frescoes in a bath house.
The human cast seen below was made from impressions by archaeologists as they dug beneath layers of ash. This filling of the negative space allowed scientists to further study what happened when Vesuvius blew. There is a large museum in the city of Naples where most of the artifacts can be seen.
Unfortunately, we had to “rush” to get on the bus to make the long trek from Pompeii, which is near Naples, northward up to the Amalfi Coast. Before leaving we purchased a Pompeii “coffee table” book, so we could read more at home. Our time there was just too short for this incredible site.
It was a LONG bus ride to reach the Amalfi coast, but it enabled many of us to catch up on sleep. By this point, Dan and I realized that the pace of the trip is nothing like the relaxing cruises of other adventures we’ve taken. Two nights in a hotel – pack up and repeat. Travel expert, Rick Steves is right – travel light! This was definitely shaping up to be a trip for hearty, active, and adventurous retired folks.