When I was little, I used to page through a scrapbook that belonged to my parents. They had gone on a trip around Europe before they’d gotten married and had squeezed in as much as they possibly could. They had saved every cent they could to go experience the world and the yellowed pictures were the evidence of how much they saw at that time.
The pictures that always stood out in my mind were those of Pompeii. Twisted rocky figures were pronounceable in the pictures, immortalised in their lava moulds, mouths twisted open. I don’t know why, but I’d never actually seen any other pictures of Pompeii other than those ones.
Getting to Pompeii from Naples is a fairly easy task. We purchased tickets for Pompeii and the trains to get there from the main train station in Naples. The journey takes about an hour in total, and was a very squashed affair, mostly because we chose to go at the same time that all the teenagers of Naples were heading home on the same line. The drop-off station is within walking distance of the entrance to the conserved Pompeii site.
What I wasn’t quite prepared for was how big Pompeii actually is. Not massive like Naples, and yes I realise it was an entire town that got covered, but I still didn’t expect that as much of it would be there as there was. I imagined there would be a few small buildings, maybe a museum structure and perhaps a scattering of ruins. I was so wrong.
The experience in fact comes with a map, detailing the different points of interest within this somewhat creepy town. It includes an old amphitheatre, communal buildings, houses, eateries and everything else that makes up a building really. There are even vineyards that still grow today. The remaining bodies of the townspeople are tucked away in a corner inside a glass booth on the edge of Pompeii.
While there were other tourists around, it’s easy to find secret spots that nobody else has gotten to here. There are buildings to climb into, courtyards hiding pots and fountains, and my most favourite, this beautiful tree we found growing inside a building.
It’s an incredible thing to get a very clear picture of how these people lived. The remnants of what was once there hint at a very sophisticated lifestyle. Eateries with utensils and crockery, intricate tiling work and mosaic as well as double-story houses and brothels all complete the picture of what living here was like ahead of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that covered it all up.
There’s still something haunting and wild about this place, despite how touristy it’s become. There are packs of wild dogs running around (they seemed a little friendlier than the sign declared but I wasn’t taking my chances) and there is soul to these buildings. The locked gates keep an air of mystery about the place and peering through cracks in the walls don’t give much away as to what’s waiting on the other side.
Would I go back? I’m not sure. If I did though, I’d make an effort to do a guided tour here. I think we missed out on a lot of the history and legend behind Pompeii without a guide, but I’d also take the time to explore on my own again because that was really fun. I’d also pack some delicious sandwiches, you’ll see the snacks from the centre on the property weren’t my ideal kind of lunch.