Italy Moblog #2 – Naples/Pompei

Got up at the crack of dawn to be ready for the tour pickup at 6.45 am. The pickup came at 7.15 am. I’m beginning to think there is an Italian Stretchable Time like our own Indian Stretchable Time.

Naples/Pompei is about 155 miles from Rome. It took approximately 2.5 hours with a pit stop at a roadside cafeteria. Naples was founded by the Greek as Neo Polis (“new city”). Its a beautiful port town with an ancient castle on the waterfront. The hotels and other waterfront properties give it a unique look – got some nice pictures.

Reached the Pompei ruins at around noon after a quick lunch at a local restaurant. Pompei was founded sometime around 7th century BC. In its hey days it was an important trading center. Pompei actually means trading center.

Our guide took us around Pompei showing us the ruins and telling us about the history as well. In AD 79, nearby Mt. Vezuvius erupted and the dust buried Pompei. Thousands of people died. Famous historian Pliny the Elder perished in this tragedy. Pliny the Younger survived and much of our knowledge of Pompei was obtained from his writings.

In the year 1600 AD, the ruins at Pompei were discovered accidentally. Maybe because it was buried in volcanic dust Pompei is remarkably well-preserved. We saw a temple of Apollo/Diana from the Greek period dated to 600 BC.

Some of the other interesting things we saw:

1. A typical Pompei home had an inner courtyard around which the bedroom and other rooms were laid out. The inner courtyard called impluvium collected the rain water and drained it through an under ground cistern. I was reminded of the Nila Muttram (inner courtyard in Tamil) in my grand fatjer’s house which was constructed similarly.

2. There are some 84 fast food bars (our guide insisted on that term) in Pompei. We saw a few of them. The marble counter on which hot soups and other food was served is still intact. Apparently, it was a tradition in Pompei to eat out for lunch.

3. Extremely well-preserved Roman bath complete with a warm water and hot water bath. The place Bath in the UK has well-preserved Roman baths but are much newer than the ones in Pompei.

4. The most famous Pompei artifact – the “fugitives” – these are actual bodies of people buried in Pompei cast in plaster of paris. Archaeologists used this innovative technique to preserve the body in place without damaging it. You can even see the agonized expression on the body. Very sad.

5. We saw a house with a mosaic of a dog at the entrance with an inscription in Latin reading “Beware of Dog”. We completed the tour around 4pm, had a cup of coffee and left Pompei. On our way back, we got stuck in a traffic jam for hours together. Our tour operator told us that there was a gruesome accident in which 2 people were dead. May their souls rest in peace. Our tour operator said that people were stopping just to see what was going on, further slowing the traffic!

The tour bus crawled at a snail’s pace for hours. It took us almost 6 hours to reach our hotel back. Tomorrow we plan to not do anything hectic – just roam in Rome (Ha). More to come tomorrow.