IMG_0384Inside the ruins of Pompeii (July 2006).

Once a thriving city, Pompeii has become a well-preserved ghost town today. It is one of the most-popular sites to visit as a day trip from Naples, offering a fascinating look into the tragic history of its inhabitants over a thousand years ago. All the more fascinating is that Mount Vesuvius, the culprit, remains an active volcano, ready to erupt any minute for another natural disaster. For the history buffs and archaeologists, Pompeii is a treasure-mine to check out.

My family and I had a brief day in Pompeii, as part of our two-week Mediterranean cruise that stopped through much of Italy’s western coast. After a whirlwind of a time rushing through all that there was to see in the mega-cities of Florence and Rome, we reached Naples for a quick lunch before taking a half-hour ride to the preserved former city, where we had an afternoon wandering the excavation sites.

I vividly remember our driver and tour guide, who was actually Hungarian, take us around each point of interest, giving a brief explanation of what each site was before leaving us to explore on our own. He also had a bawdy and weird sense of humor and would crack jokes with whoever would listen to him. I recall standing on a random piece of ruin, and him recommending me to “feel the vibe” of the haunted souls still living in Pompeii. I am not one for believing in the supernatural, but I found his comment amusing.

Because our tour guide was not much of an educator, we ended up trying to piece together the city’s history before and after the eruption. From reading any of the plaques we could find (in English) to observing the sometimes torturous-looking corpses mummified in ashes, we did our best to understand this abandoned city’s legacy on archaeology and Italian history today.

IMG_0371Petrified corpse #1.

IMG_0373Petrified corpse #2.

Pompeii is not a large site to visit, as not all of the former city has been excavated and accessible to the public. A lot of where tourists generally see includes the Forum, the Theatres (Grande and Piccolo), and exhibitions containing pottery and mummified corpses that’d been excavated back in the 18th century.

IMG_0402Teatro Piccolo.

The buildings’ ruins were reminiscent of the ones I had just seen in Rome, but what really touched me were the mummified corpses: about 2000 inhabitants perished in the eruption in AD 79, and the details of their bodies were somewhat gruesome– the corpse here was assumed to have been pregnant during the eruption and lays in a crouched position, as if trying to protect her baby from the ashes that would eventually swallow them up. If that isn’t a tragedy, then I do not know what is…

IMG_0398Presumed pregnant corpse (petrified corpse #3).

We only had a few hours in Pompeii before we had to return to Naples and to our ship for our next destination. Overall, it was a small break from the long, intense days we had in Florence and Rome, all the while a different look into another part of Italian history. While the tour could have been more informative, to be physically-there and to see Pompeii for ourselves made what I had learned through history textbooks all the more real and insightful.

IMG_0401Inside the excavations.

Thanks for reading– more of my trip to come soon!

— Rebecca

30 thoughts on “Destination: Pompeii, Italy

  1. I find these plaster casts to be one of the most moving documents from antiquity. The site itself is one of the most fascinating places to explore and witness. Hopefully, I’ll get to see it myself one of these years.

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    1. I hope you can! The petrified corpses are scary, but definitely show a fascinating look into the town’s history. All the more incredible they’ve been preserved for thousands of years!

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  2. We love visiting historical sites, and we were is a such debate which site to visit: Pompeii, or Herculaneum LOL So, we ended up visiting both😊 And I was so happy, as each site has its own traits. We have great memories from Italy, I miss it so muchπŸ’•

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  3. We were there a few years ..seeing the petrified corpses were sad πŸ˜₯but it was quite an historic site to see. Our guide took us around ..she was the best..love these photos you took..better than mine.

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    1. Good thing your tour guide was better than ours! Thanks for the compliment; I took some of the photos, but my parents actually took most of them (I borrowed them for this post)!

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  4. I don’t know why people sometimes say it’s underwhelming because it’s just so historic. To see things paused in time for over 2000 years is insane – it’s such an incredible site to be able to explore. Thanks for sharing your visit πŸ™‚

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  5. Seeing the casual positions of the human bodies and knowing that the plaster carcasses are full of bones must have been a bag of mixed emotions, Rebecca! On the other note, hiking one of the most active volcanoes in the world that destroyed Pompeii is something for the travel bucket list. I know from my neighbours that getting to the top is not easy – physically or logistically – but I like to think that adds to the reward. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day πŸ™‚ Aiva xx

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    1. It was definitely eerie, but made for a fascinating tour. The tour sucked, but I think just walking the site and seeing the ruins and petrified corpses offered a significance more than just a guided tour. 😊

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    1. I don’t recall seeing dogs there, but how cool is that! I have a soft spot for dogs, and to have them on such a historic site makes it even more of an interesting experience. πŸ™‚

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  6. I was there years ago and was moved to tears seeing the people stopped in a moment of time, it must have been so quick and terrifying. An entire city embalmed, in a way. Also surprised to see what were stores with basins and some artwork on the walls still remaining. Fascinating!

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    1. Pompeii is certainly a tragedy, that is to say. I can’t imagine how life passed in mere seconds! All the same, it is fascinating to see the city preserved in time, the people “embalmed,” as you put it so well. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. Thanks for the interesting post! Pompeji ist still full of surprises, a week ago the archaeologists discovered a tomb of a former slave with a well preserved corpse within. Maybe you read about this in the newspapers. I had the opportunity to visit Pompeji in 1996 and I hope that I will see it again one day… if the Gods allow it πŸ™‚

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    1. I actually didn’t know of that news; very fascinating! I thought my visit in 2006 was long ago, but you in 1996 takes the cake! Hope you can return someday. πŸ™‚

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