Saturday, April 5, 2014

Pompeii: 1

Where to start?  It's a short train ride from Sorrento to Pompeii on a train filled with other tourists, as well as local commuters.  Having bought our tickets we turned to enter the site and this is the first thing we saw. It's the Suburban Baths, which were outside the city wall and were closed to the public.  Actually only 1/3 of the buildings that were open in the 1960s are now open to the public. Still... Pompeii.

Here's another picture of the Suburban Baths, taken from a different position:

We climbed up the steep road of the Porte Marina (which was once the harbor entrance).  The eruption moved the water's edge much farther out, so there is a bustling new city of Pompeii between this and the current port.

And then we were in the ancient city, with Vesuvius a constant backdrop to every view.  This is the Forum, which seems to have been deliberately built to frame this view of Vesuvius.

I had been reading Mary Beard's book about Pompeii and I had what was supposed to be the best guidebook and an excellent app.  But I was constantly torn between the need to just wander and soak up the essence of the place and the need to look things up in my books/apps etc.  There is almost no signage, apart from addresses, and the place is huge. To one side of the Forum is a warehouse containing many artifacts recovered from the site.  It is open to view through locked metal gates - a rather overwhelming assemblage, including plaster casts of victims. Also, amphorae, tables, carts, flour grinding wheels, braziers, parts of pillars, bits of architecture and friezes and statues etc. 

A lot of valuable stuff had been removed from the city by looters and, probably, by property owners who tunneled through the volcanic debris not long after the eruption.  Then, too, it has been under excavation since the 18th century with lots of artifacts being sent elsewhere to museums or just disappearing into some private collection. And that's not to mention the museum in Naples (which we did not visit) which has all the best stuff that was left at the end.

Just the week before we went, we heard that a recently uncovered fresco had gone missing overnight.  

It's sad and rather shocking that this is still happening.  The result is that everything valuable that can be, has been removed and many of the buildings are empty and or closed to the public.  A lot of the best stuff I had been reading about was not available to public view, which was a disappointment. Though, of course, I understood the reasons for it. 

On the other hand... I was in Pompeii and pretty much everywhere I looked there was something wonderful to see.  Like 2000 year old stairs leading to a first floor apartment.

a bit of carving on a wall

A decorative floor:

Or a nearly complete ground floor with an atrium, a mosaic floor, and a glimpse of a peristyle at the end of the building.

to be continued.

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