Discovering Pompei and Hercolaneum, a tour in ancient times

1st November 2019

 

November is already appeared on the calendar, the summer heat becomes lighter every day, the bright green on the branches gently turns in yellow and red. The new season brings with it warmer temperatures and ideal conditions for excursions and museum tours.

That's why autumn on the Amalfi Coast is an excellent opportunity to take a step back in time. Far back in time, strolling through fascinating ruins ...

 

The ancient Pompei

 

The archaeological site of Pompei, one of the most visited in the world, is the first stop for a journey through remote times. The town, petrified and surprisingly intact, represents an incredible testimony of life during the majestic Roman Empire. However, its nefarious end decreed the current notoriety because of the special conservation of ruins.

Pompei was completely overwhelmed by the thunderous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, a hell of ash and lapilli that buried it under an incandescent layer of almost 7 meters. Seeing the fire wave, the inhabitants sought shelter on the coast, where they were nevertheless reached. Someone took refuge at home, but died by asphyxiation. The immense tragedy can be relived, moment after moment, in the nowadays ghost town, thanks to the casts of the bodies: a truly moving show.

If you choose an excursion to Pompei, you will immerse yourself in a part of everyday life in Roman times. Sumptuous villas next to modest houses, barns next to thermal spas, inns and brothels close in the same, lethal fate. Among the main buildings, fulcrums of city life, are the Capitolium dedicated to Jupiter, the temple of Apollo and the Basilica, centre of economic power and seat of the court. Walk along the via dell'Abbondanza, the main Pompei street, and peep into artisan shops and taverns all around.

End your visit at the Villa of the Mysteries, perfectly preserved and known above all for its paintings, especially the majestic fresco which gave it the name, representing a scene of initiation into the Dionysian cult or the Orphic mysteries. The bright colours on the crimson red background clash with the immobility of the ruins, wrapping the visitors in a vortex of emotions. Intense and rare.

 

The fate of Herculaneum

 

Herculaneum shared with Pompei the sad fate: on 24 August 79 AD Vesuvius, reawakened after a very long sleep, devasted it with a sudden fury. Unlike Pompei, however, Herculaneum was submerged by a 25 meters layer of mud and lava: a thick blanket that protected its materials, giving them in excellent condition to later generations. The original materials, fabrics and even fresh foods have obviously undergone a slow evolution, but remained almost unchanged in their protective bell, crystallized at the time of the eruption.

Carve out at least half a day to fully live the memory of ancient Rome, immersing yourself in the stone-paved streets and throught plebeians’ and patricians' houses. It is a strong and involving experience, as  walking in a parallel universe, set in a remote past. It doesn't matter to follow a precise itinerary, let your curiosity drive you: you will discover extraordinary life details.

Before leaving, don't deprive yourself of the best-preserved buildings: the Villa dei Papiri, once a sumptuous residence owned by wealthy patricians, and the Terme del Foro, the public baths of Herculaneum.