Last week, off I went to Naples for a long weekend visit. With so many cities in Europe to visit, Naples may not be the first on the everyone’s list, but it has plenty of attractions, the main one for me being Pompeii. The others were food (practising my carb-loading for running) and the art. I managed to squeeze all of these in!
First up was Pompeii, on what turned out to be the driest day of the weekend. A brilliant place and going at this time of the year meant that for much of the time I was wondering round the places and streets on my own, with plenty of time to sit and take up the atmosphere. You could definitely feel the volcano looming over the town. There’s always a worry that it may erupt again, but there are many more ways of monitoring so I don’t think there’ll be the same massive surprise as there was in 79AD.
Dotted around the site were some of the plaster casts that had been taken during the 19th century excavations. You look at them, in some of them seeing the expressions on their faces and can imagine the terror they must have felt as they realised there was no way out of the town.
Interesting that over the years, people have not changed. There’s still grafitti, the sports in the arena, the plays and music in the theatres, the places of worship, bath houses, swimming pools and fast food shops. It’s all there, we haven’t changed that much.
The fast food shops were great, with the inbuilt counters with spaces for the food containers. Not that much different from today’s canteens. What I found interesting is that the concept of the shop as the front of the house which just had a shutter pulled down out of hours was still found in Naples. So many of the shops there were literally rooms behind a shutter, no glossy window displays for them.
One thing that has changed is our public attitude to sex. The brothel had a lot of people going through it, all wanting to look at the wall pictures that are still perfectly recognisable as various pictures. In the Archaeological Museum back in Naples there are a lot of other pictures and objects (flying phalluses with bells on were my favourite) showing that there was a very different regard for sex.
Pompeii is well worth a visit, although in summer it is supposed to get really hot and unpleasant to walk around. It’s huge, I spent at least 6 hours walking around and quite a few of the places were closed for work – they’re still digging it up and working on it. I think the only thing I’d like would have been to see some of the places kitted out completely, a few replicas, to understand how the houses/places worked and how the objects that I saw later in the museum would have fitted into the lives.