Pompeii was, for a lack of better words, really f-ing cool. I did not expect it to be nearly as large or preserved as it was. I went toward the end of the day when most of the tour groups had cleared out, and when walking through some parts of the city I was totally alone. It was peaceful but also sort of sad. Pompeii is huge (like, massive) and seemed like a pretty hopping place to live. In its day there were 20,000 residents with over 100 bars and restaurants (including fast food!), and tons of shopping and probably good looking people (I’m assuming).
If you like interesting history bits keep reading, if not meet me on Vesuvius! I learned all of this info from ghosting around the back of several different tour groups…most of the guides probably assumed I was a paying customer’s child. Pompeii’s roads were all sunken down with high raised sidewalks and in the middle of the roads there would be large raised oval stones. In those days, they would flood the streets in the evenings to clean them, with all roads eventually leading downhill, or to a drain. The big stones were stepping stones so that the citizens of Pompeii could cross the road without getting their sandals wet! Sandals are important, guys!!! The streets with one or two stones were one way streets and with three and four were two way streets; all the chariots had the same axel measurements, so the wheels would drive between the stones. The roads also had pieces of crushed marble in them called cats eyes, which reflected moonlight or candle light and sparkled to help people see in the dark.
The people in Pompeii were smart about (and loved) water: they had constructed a 100 mile aqueduct which fed various sized tanks, which served different neighborhoods. You can still see the original pipes which fed homes, public baths and public fountains. Many of the houses in pompeii had big open skylights with pools below to catch, and later recycle rain water.
Pompeii’s public drinking fountains are still functional today, and you’re free to fill your water bottle (which I did) or bathe yourself (which I didn’t, but saw someone doing)
They also had lots of public bath houses (men’s and women’s, hot and cold, you could go into one of the men’s). The bath house was cool, this was where men came and steamed up and did naked stretching and other things that men presumably do in locker rooms. Also this one had a fancy heated floor!!! You could soak in the big tub, and the fountain poured hot water onto the floor to create steam. There were also nude statues in case you hadn’t seen enough of the real thing already.
The entrance to the ruins is near a part of the city called Porto Marina; interesting because this once was the city’s port, and the sea came up to here, but the fallout from Vesuvius filled the water in to where it is now, which is a few miles away.
The cave canem mosaic (beware of dog), which was actually my first order of business, was closed!!! It was being repaired behind a big plastic sheet but I pushed it aside for a picture because I’m important.
The plaster casts of the people who were caught by the volcano and frozen in time were the most popular part of Pompeii. They were housed in what was the fish market, and are usually stored in glass cases but a few of them were out to view. Super eerie. The most famous is probably the dog, where you can still see the collar and chain attached.
Just as I was looking at the plaster cast of the dog. A REAL DOG APPEARED. At first I was like OMG MIRAGE but after I got scolded for petting it (obviously) someone told me that the dogs happily live off of food scraps in Pompeii and there is even a “dogs of Pompeii” adoption agency!! http://www.icanidipompei.com/english
There was another area with plaster casts of bodies, but this one was away from everything else in the farthest corner of the ruins. This one was called the “Garden of the Fugitives” and had the largest number of bodies found in one area, 13 adults and children all trying to protect themselves from the falling ash. This one was incredibly sad; probably because the casts of the children were so tiny. The bodies were in the corner of a beautiful little orchard, and I was alone with them here too.
The guidebook I was reading explained that the houses in Pompeii were often over decorated and tacky, which I find hilarious. Unfortunately, the decorations are in the archaeological museum in Naples, so all you can see are the structures and some (often erotic) frescoes.
Hitting the sights in the late afternoon has been working amazingly for me. I cruised into Pompeii at around 3, there was no line for tickets (sometimes it can be an hour wait in the summer), stayed until about 6:30, and had the place virtually to myself. A couple of times I went into one of the houses or stores, sat down and eavesdropped on English speaking tours as they passed by, which was lovely and relaxing and free.