Not the best place to be 1,934 years ago. Sat at the foot of mount Vesuvius, the Roman city of Pompeii was the victim of a volcanic eruption which covered it in ash and volcanic rocks.
Many natural disasters happened before and after the Vesuvius eruption and around the world will happen again. It's just a matter of people being in the wrong place at the wrong time in relation to natural processes. What is special about Pompeii however is that the event, as well as being destructive, preserved so much. It turned the city into something of a time capsule. It locked away a Roman city, protecting a moment in history from the renewal and changes that would have been made had it not been buried.
Combining both a love of ancient history as well as environmental science, this place had intrigued me since I learnt of it’s existence at primary school. So it was the one main thing I wanted to do when visiting Naples. On the day we visited Pompeii we ventured through Naples on the tram from the port and caught a train to the Pompei Scavi station which is just down the road from the entrance of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If I remember correctly, the entrance fee was €11 per person. To help make the most of the trip we also hired 2 hand held audio guides and they were extra (€10 for 2).
I'd recommend the audio guide if you do ever visit. It really does give lots of good information and helps you build the picture in your mind of what it must have been like to live in Pompeii at the time it was a thriving city.
I'll not type too much about it as the pictures really speak for themselves but just to say being there is like stepping back in time, walking and sitting on some of the oldest streets you'll ever have chance to and seeing the buildings that made up a complex Roman society. Yet despite the gap in time, an awful lot is so familiar, the result of what was passed down through the ages in more than just our DNA. Take for instance:
Buildings for business and legal affairs. Like this 2nd century BC Basilica and surrounding administrative buildings
And large civic spaces such as the forum.
Shops including take aways!
Streets lined with houses.
Manufacturing and food production like this bakery.
The site is much larger than I anticipated and though we managed to cover a fair chunk of it, there is a lot more that we know we didn't see. Indeed there will be more to see in the future as the archaeology on site still continues to this day. Not so far away are other sites such as the once the Roman port town of Herculaneum - we didn't have chance to go there but I read that it is also worth a visit. Pompeii was thought-provoking and enchanting as a connection to the past. Certainly well worth using our only day in Naples to see. It was an eye opener to how little has changed and a reminder as to how valuable scientific understanding of our natural world can be.
On the way out we called into the shop for a fridge magnet. We couldn't resist buying one which has a little cartoon Vesuvius saying ‘I’m Sorry’.
We ended up spending so much time in Pompeii that when we made it back into Naples we didn't have very long left to see the city itself - especially after we slightly wandered off the beaten track and ended up finding a yummy small pizza place. Once we located a bus we made it back to where we had to be - by the port - and got a drink, a Naples fridge magnet and a look at a fountain.
We then walked past a castle before heading back to the port.
Seemingly as quickly as the day had begun, we were back on the ship and sailing off to visit another Roman city... indeed, THE Roman city itself... Rome.