So when I left off in part 2.1, Adele and I had just entered the ruins of Pompeii. We’d forgotten to grab a map so she whipped out her mobile and Google mapped the ruins. If you plan on going to the ruins, wear flat shoes, it’s a bit up and down and the original roads can be tricky to maneuver due to the carriage tracks, as Adele informed me.
We headed to the main piazza, where the people of Pompeii (mostly men) would have spent their time discussing everything from politics to local gossip. I didn’t take many photos inside the ruins, for several reasons.
- I want to actually look at the ruins and take it all in, not see it through a camera lens
- There are much better photos online than anything I could ever take
- It’s unlikely that I will ever look at the photos again anyway, and if I do have a sudden desire to do so, I will just google it
Alongside the main square, there are some storage areas which house some of the artefacts that were found during the excavations. These included some casts of the bodies that were found. The first is of a person who appears to be praying. The second is of a dog and the third is of a toddler or small child. I can’t imagine the fear people must have experienced when everyone around them started dying. Adele explained that most of the people died before the eruption because of the poisonous gas Vesuvius had been releasing. People tried to escape on boats but it was already too late; the gases had done their damage and most of the people died.
Our tour also included the baths (no longer working) and some of the richer houses, where you can still see paint on the walls and mosaics on the floor. The artistic talent was astonishing and the mosaics were seriously impressive, made from the tiniest of tiles. You can almost imagine them walking around the gardens in togas and sandals. Then we headed off to the brothel – or the Lupanar, as it’s known. “Lupanar” was the Latin word for brothel and it literally means “wolf den” and the prostitutes were fittingly called “lupa”, or female wolves. The walls of the Lupanar are decorated with erotic paintings, which seem to serve rather like a menu of what customers could ask for. The Lupanar is on two floors but only the downstairs is open. There were ten rooms at the Lupanar, making it the biggest brothel in Pompeii and, as well as the erotic wall art, you can also see ancient graffitti on the walls, which, according to Wikipedia (!), includes messages like “Here I f****d many girls”. Hmm, it seems that ancient civilisations weren’t much different from our own! The beds were made of solid rock with just a mattress on the top and seemed really small. Adele informed me that the people of Pompeii were not known for their stature.
After the brothel, we headed of in search of the amphitheatre, which, just to warn you, is at the top of a lot of steps! After a rather breathtaking climb, in which I concluded that the people of Pompeii may have been short but I bet they had really big calf muscles, and a short walk past a smaller amphitheatre (where we stopped to catch our breath after the steps), we came to the entrance of the main amphitheatre. As soon as you walk inside, you are faced with the impression of how entertainment would have been in ancient Pompeii. The amphitheatre at Pompeii is the oldest-surviving example from that time. The gladiatorial events would have been viewed much like modern day football matches, where, in 59 AD, a deadly brawl between Pomperian and Nucerian hooligans led to a ten-year ban on the events. So, brothels and hooligans – things really haven’t changed much in 2000 years! At the moment, it is home to a wooden pyramid that houses the casts of some of the bodies found in Pompeii. Unfortunately, it was closed (Adele thinks it’s because it was free-entrance!). We sat on the pyramid and enjoyed some late afternoon sun before we managed to summon up enough energy to head back into Pompeii town for some gelato.
We were a little disappointed that we hadn’t been able to see many of the famous casts of the people found in the ruins but luckily for us, Pompeii had one more surprise in store.
As we neared the exit, we caught sight of two large metal and glass buildings with people milling around. We soon realised that these buildings held the famous body casts. It was an unnerving experience approaching the displays. Some people were actually in tears. I didn’t take many pictures as it felt disrespectful. There was a very solemn atmosphere. Some of the casts can be seen trying to escape or holding onto their loved ones for safety. It’s a truly sobering experience but one that I would recommend to anyone.
After that we headed off for some of what had been promised to be the best gelato I had ever eaten. Now, anyone who knows me knows how much I love gelato. I’m pretty sure I ate it almost every day during the summer. My favourite gelato place in Sulmona is La Rotonda (more about this later) and their gelato is to die for. Seriously, I would kill someone for this gelato. So this Pompeii gelato had some big boots to fill. I was dubious at first but I knew I had come to the right place when I walked in and saw a tap that ran with chocolate, not water. I chose a chocolate and cherry flavour (I can’t remember the name) but it was delicious. No, more than that. All the adjectives in the world couldn’t describe it. We sat outside and watched the people of Pompeii go about their business. The square was in rather a sorry state, with streamers and confetti everywhere after the Carnevale celebrations.
On the way home, we passed by a rather interesting home. Adele explained that the man who lived there was very religious and patriotic, hence the religious murals on the house and the Italian flags on the fence. Beside the house there was a large kennel block, where the man cared for stray dogs he found on the street. A few years ago, some people reported him and, instead of helping him, the local council told him that he had to get rid of most of the dogs. He was doing a service for them, something that they should have been doing themselves, and, instead of helping, they decided to restrict the number of dogs he could keep. The dogs I could see were well-cared for and the kennel was in good standards. But this really says a lot about how the majority of people see stray dogs in this country. Spay and neuter, people! But apparently that’s cruel.
We headed back to the house, where Adele picked some oranges from the tree in her garden for some fresh juice before we crashed on the sofa with Alice for the next few hours.
To be continued…
P.S I actually have no idea how many parts there will be to this three-part series!