No need to be a history buff to appreciate the wonder that is Pompeii, the old city buried in ash. Located near Naples, what was once one of the greatest cities of the Roman age before being destroyed by the eruption of the Vesuvius in 79 A.D. is now one of the best examples of preservation known today. With a pair of sensible shoes, a water bottle, and a bit of advance planning, you can spend a few hours in the only place in the world offering a fairly clear picture of what life was like here 2,000 years ago.
The ancient street plan is intact so you just need to grab a map, decide which of the numerous buildings you most want to see and start walking. Don’t try to work out what every building was as you would be here for days but do venture outside of the main arteries for a quieter exploration.
The large theatre could sit up to 5,000 people and hosted performances of comedies and tragedies as entertainment.
The expansive Forum was, like in Rome, the political, commercial and social heart of the town.
The court house, municipal offices, main temples, and the market were all located within the Forum.
If you visit later in the afternoon, you’ll be able to escape the crowds, the heat, and linger along the silent streets where you can truly fall under the site’s spell.
The beauty of wandering through a deserted Pompeii is unmatched, especially as you’ll discover plenty of hidden treasures along the way. By all means, if you spot an open door – go through it! We’ve stumbled upon open courtyards, little fountains, marble furniture, etc.
The House of the Tragic Poet, a example of a typical private home of that time, charms with its colorful walls, well preserved paintings, and overall romanticism.
A lot more impressive though is the House of the Faun, one of the largest residences in Pompeii.
Looking at the magnificent gardens (reconstructed of course) and lavish mosaics still covering some of the floors, one can only imagine the opulent lifestyle of the elite owners.
Besides lovely houses, the historical value of discovering the day-to-day life through the numerous bath houses and here, the local bar, is immense. Large holes would contain water, beer and/or wine.
While many inhabitants were able to flee the eruption in time, it’s impossible to ignore the tragic ending of those who got stuck in the city as is remembered throughout the site. A stop at the “Garden of the Fugitives” is a chilling reminder with plaster casts of victims still in situ, crouching in corners or clinging to each other as the debris fell.
At the other end of the city, next to the exit, stands the majestic Amphitheatre.
It’s the oldest stone building of this kind in the world, 150 years older than the Colosseum in Rome.
You’ll surely be hungry by now and thinking of jumping into the first open café you’ll see and that wouldn’t be far from the best scenario. As providential and surprising as it may seem, it’s merely a few steps down the street from the exit that we had one if not THE best meal of our trip in the most inconspicuous of places. That such a culinary treasure as Add‘u‘ Mimi‘ should find itself in close proximity to the biggest tourist attraction in the region is a mystery, but one you’d be foolish not to uncover.
First of all this has to be the restaurant with the best service we’ve had, the owner Roberto kindly welcoming us and describing the house specialties with a love and respect for the regional food one hardly sees, and in three languages no less! With everything made in-house, including a fennel-based digestive at the end of our meal which trumped every limoncello we’ve previously had, the outstanding quality shone throughout the few hours we spent there.
What followed was a perfectly choreographed feast of the simplest dishes, heavy on the local seafood which is the specialty, each with a taste that I have yet to forget. Even better, the prices are as gentle as the cooking methods with barely anything on the menu venturing into the double digits. A true find which has ‘almost’ eclipsed the 2,000 yrs old city we had just visited…
You’ll be pretty full by then, but just in case there is a great gelateria almost right across the street which is well worth a visit also.
De Vivo has plenty of retro charm and loads of pastries on top of the homemade gelato.
We couldn’t resist…