Pompeii on Your Own from Naples

 

Pompeii, Naples, Italy

As we planned our trip to Pompeii, we considered several options: a ship excursion, taking the train, etc, but then discovered a relatively new option: the City Sightseeing Bus. This company is well known for their Hop on Hop off bus tours, but this is a specially designated bus for a direct trip to Pompeii.

The company defines your trip as Race 1, Race 2 or Race 3 and your are to leave and return at the time assigned for your “race.” In the low season, there are only two races and ours was the first, leaving at 9:40 AM.

We purchased the tickets online before our trip and the company sends a voucher by email. We walked from the ship on the main pathway and visually located Castel Nuovo on the left. We walked past the Castel and the City Sightseeing Booth was on the left. We redeemed our voucher for the tickets, boarded the bus and it took off on time. The narrated trip was perhaps 45 minutes.

The bus drops off the passengers by the International Tourism Office and you walk through the souvenir areas to find the Pompeii ticket office.

We used Rick Steve’s audio app and written info from his book since the map from the site was way too complicated. The entrance, Porta Marina, had been a harbor before Vesuvius blew and filled it with volcanic debris in 79 AD.

Five miles to the north is Mount Vesuvius. When it blew, Pompeiians had no idea they were living under a volcano. It had not erupted for 1,200 years! The ash, which buried the entire city, helped to save it from the sixth-century barbarians who plundered other towns.

Pompeii’s streets were once quite sophisticated. These original basalt stepping-stones let pedestrians cross without getting their sandals wet when the streets were flooded with water to clean them. You can still see the well-worn ruts from the chariots. The sidewalks were paved with bits of broken pots and studded with selective bits of white marble to help people get around in the dark, either by moonlight or with the help of lamps.

The Forum was Pompeii’s commercial, religious, and political center. Pompeii’s citizens gathered here to shop, talk politicians, and socialize. Business took place in the important buildings that lined the piazza. The Temple of Jupiter, dedicated to the supreme god of the Roman pantheon, dominates the Forum.

The Basilica was the first-century palace of justice. The big central call is flanked by rows of columns marking off narrower side aisles. Frescoes and mosaics were all over Pompeii.

Via Abbondanza was Pompeii’s main street and is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants.

The Fish and Produce Market now holds casts of Pompeiians eerily captured in their last moments.

There are many collections of pottery and other artifacts in this market display. The casts of people were quite dramatic and there was a sad one of a young child who died immediately after the volcanic eruption.

The Baths of the Forum had six public baths with hot, warm, or cold baths. In the caldarium or steam bathroom, the double floor was heated from below.

A “Fast Food Joint” (Rick Steves’ name for it) was right across the street from the baths (photo on the right.) Most ancient Romans didn’t cook at home for themselves, so these “take out” restaurants were commonplace. The holes in the counters held the pots for food.

The House of the Tragic Poet is a typical Roman style home with two family-owned shops. In the entryway is the famous “Beware of the Dog” mosaic. A richly frescoed dining room is off the garden.

The House of the Faun welcomed us with two shrines above the entryway- one dedicated to the gods and the other to this wealthy family’s ancestors. It is Pompeii’s largest home and has the statue of the Dancing Faun.

The House of the Vettii (above) is Pompeii’s best-preserved home once owned by two wealthy merchant brothers. The prominent picture of a huge erection probably maybe wasn’t meant to be pornographic. Note the goldsmith scale indicating that only with a balance of fertility and money can you have an abundance. The Romans were all about abundance and decadence.

The Bakery and Mill show a brick oven and stubby stone towers that are grinders shaped like an hourglass. A wooden apparatus with two horizontal arms allowed the later to be turned by either human or animal power. The grain was poured into the upper hollow of the catillus and came out the bottom, ground into flour. Many carbonized loaves were found here during excavation. Each neighborhood had a bakery like this.

The Brothel or Lupanare was a simple place with beds and pillows made of stone. It contained ten cubicles that have small panels of erotic scenes.

Our guide in Corinth told us the word prostitute comes from the practice of temple prostitution, where the women stood in front of (pro) the temple statues. Pro+ statues= prostitute.Most prostitutes in Pompeii were of Greek or Eastern origin, and they were required to pay taxes for their services under the decadent emperor Caligula.

The Theater sat 5,000 people in three sets of seats. The square stones above the cheap seats once supported a canvas rooftop.

There are about eighteen Christian crosses carved into masonry throughout Pompeii, which proves Christians were there during that time. In 61 AD, during a visit to the nearby harbor town in Puteoli, the Apostle Paul also mentioned the presence of a Christian community there, thirty miles west of Pompeii. Acts 28:13-14.

From there, we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day, we reached Puteoli. 14 There we found some brothers and sisters who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.”

There is also a Vivit Cross and an inscription in Insula 1.13 and the Meges Stamp Rigi in Pompeii, which reads “Audi Christianos” or “Listen to the Christians.” It was roped off, so we couldn’t see it.