Pompeii – an Ancient City Frozen in Time

Pompeii – an Ancient City Frozen in Time

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“And the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we love
Great clouds roll over the hills bringing darkness from above

But if you close your eyes does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes does it almost feel like you’ve been here before?”

Bastille – Pompeii

The Earth harbors many secrets and treasures that lie beneath the surface. Once in a while we discover one and get a glimpse of our turbulent past. Like Pompeii, an ancient city frozen in time. We walk through the streets of a town that disappeared overnight centuries ago. As we close our eyes, we imagine people that walked before us. We can almost see the bustle of everyday life, hear children’s laughter in the streets and smell fresh bread from a local bakery. It almost feels like nothing’s changed at all. But then we open our eyes and look around again. Now, we see the ruins, feel the anguish of people facing certain death and we can almost smell volcanic ash descending on Pompeii.

Some of the buildings in Pompeii.

Pompeii Story

While we generally knew the story of Pompeii going in, seeing the archaeological site in person still impacted us greatly. On August 24th, 79 A.D., volcanic ash spewed violently from nearby Mt. Vesuvius. In a matter of two days, eruption covered the entire town of Pompeii under 17 feet of burning ash, destroying everything in its path. Life in one of the most active and splendid Roman centers came to a permanent standstill.

A cast of petrified remains on Pompeii’s citizen. You can also see pottery found during excavations.

For almost 1700 years, Pompeii remained untouched under ash, to be discovered in 1748 by explorers. Underneath all that dust, Pompeii was exactly as it had been centuries ago. Its buildings were intact and people were frozen right where they fell. Today, the ancient Roman town is one of the most significant proofs of Roman civilizations and provides an insight into art, technology, and customs of the past.

The Roman Civilization

As we walked through Pompeii, we were amazed by the sheer size of the site. At 150 acres, the walled city of Pompeii is the world’s largest excavation and archaeological site. Because of its circumstances it’s also amazingly well preserved. Being hidden from elements under ash saved the stone and brick buildings, frescoes on the walls, pottery, roads and sidewalks. We can still find remnants of water pipes along the sidewalks that delivered drinking water to homes and businesses.

Painting on the wall in one of the houses.

We couldn’t help but admire the roads. Romans lowered the streets so that rain and waste would be washed away to the sea. They raised stones for pedestrians crossing the street – making them narrow enough to allow wagons to pass in between. They also embedded small white pieces of marble  between the paving stones to reflect light in the dark allowing view of the road at night. We could see where the stones have been worn away by the wagon wheels passing through.

The wagon wheels have worn down the street stones in places. You can also see the stepping stones in the middle of the street.

Every detail in Pompeii seems very well thought out and created with a purpose. It’s amazing to realize that so long ago Romans have already invented many things that we consider modern amenities. From water and heating systems to building and street design – Romans were way ahead of their time. While the story of Pompeii’s falling is a sad one, we’re so glad that we have a window into the daily life of Romans from so long ago.

View of Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background.

Tips for Visiting Pompeii

Here are a few key tips for making the most out of your visit to Pompeii:

  • Get an official guide – there is so much history and information about Pompeii that a good guide will point out to you. It’s definitely worth the investment. Make sure to sign up for a guide with a small group.
  • Tours from Rome – we took a day trip from Rome to Pompeii and Amalfi coast and it worked great, but we do wish we would have had more time to explore on our own.
  • Bring water, bug spray and sun screen – you’ll be outside, mostly in the sun during the visit and it gets hot.
  • Come early – as with all tourist attractions, try to avoid crowds by coming early. You will spent several hours in Pompeii.
  • Do some research – read up about Pompeii and the Roman Empire before visiting, you’ll be able to appreciate the history more.
  • Wear good shoes – the streets are uneven and sometimes slippery.
  • Bring cash – the ticket office does not accept credit cards. Best option is to buy tickets online and avoid the line.
Inside of a Roman bakery or a restaurant.

We never thought that we’d love Pompeii so much and that it would touch us so deeply. But it did. This was definitely a highlight of our Italy trip. If you’re planning on visiting the Amalfi coast, make sure to plan a visit to Pompeii. Especially, that we don’t really know how much longer Pompeii will be there as it is today. Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on mainland Europe and is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Mount Vesuvius erupted several times in each of the last three centuries, but there has not been an eruption since 1944…

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