Since it was so close, we didn’t want to miss our chance to visit Pompeii during our time on the coast. The view of Mount Vesuvius from the Naples harbor really piqued our interest. Another day, another train ride, and a quick cab ride brought us to the entrance of the ancient ruins. The UNESCO World Heritage site was only a ticket booth away.
There are audio guides available for visitors who don’t have a tour guide, but honestly we did not find them very user-friendly and we wouldn’t recommend them to anyone else. Save your cash for snacks and drinks because the site is huge and you’ll need to refuel at some point. What we did find immensely helpful was the posted signs and the easy to reference guidebook. They’ll get you through just fine.
It doesn’t take much imagination to grasp how highly organized and high-functioning this city once was. For being destroyed in the year 79, the city layout, art, and lifestyle are fascinatingly complex.
Currently, the sculptures of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj are displayed at various locations around the city. The bronze statues of mythical gods are so at home, they blend naturally into the imagined reality of the once-populated metropolis. Designed to look broken, oxidized, and knocked to the ground, they look like remains of what may have been, and are an awesome addition to an already one-of-a-kind site. I’m so very thankful that we happened to visit while they were on display.
Perhaps one of the most famous scenes at Popeii, the plaster casts of victims in their final resting pose are an especially somber reminder of the power in the eruption. Archaeologist Guiseppe Fiorelli took charge of organizing the excavation process and developed the technique where plaster was poured into spaces where bodies had been disintegrated by volcanic ash. Yes, disintegrated. The helpless poses of the casts capture that moment of horror in such a human way that it will definitely stick with you. I would suggest other visitors put it at the end of their itinerary as we did.
Most Pink Floyd fans might already know this, but back in the 1970’s the band recorded a live album/video at Pompeii. In the large amphitheater ring, and without an audience, the band played around with their instruments and the setting to create a remarkably creative performance piece. We are big fans of the band, especially Kevin, and we thought we were imagining it when we heard the music while we were wandering around the site. In reality, the faint music was coming from a cool museum at one side of the coliseum playing the video on loop and showing plenty of behind the scenes action and the music. Kevin was VERY happy.
The visit to Pompeii was, in a word, amazing. Over the course of several hours, our weather went from hot and sunny to cloudy, chilly, and drizzling. I wouldn’t say it is a “fun” place to visit, and I’m not sure if young children will appreciate the experience, but it is one of the most internationally recognized archaeological sites for good reason. The advanced culture and the magnitude of destruction are both a lot to wrap your head around. Spend a full day there if you can, and soak in the feeling of being overwhelmed by the sheer wonder of it all.