Thursday, January 3, 2019


On our last day in Europe, Bethy had arranged for a driving service to drive us from the Amalfi Coast to Rome where we would fly home. The company we used was Joe Banana, don't be fooled by the name, it is a 5 star driving company. We picked a package that included a stop in Pompeii to tour the ruins, local guide included, as well as a stop at a family owned winery for lunch.

It was so nice to have a local guide to show us around the ruins of Pompeii, he met us at our car and guided us through the masses of people to the entrance, he had already purchased the tickets for us so we didn't have to wait in the super long tickets lines. The ruins of Pompeii are a large labyrinth of stone streets and partially standing buildings, I would have gotten lost in a matter of seconds, and I can't imagine trying to find certain structures on our own.

 Pompeii was buried under 13 to 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.  Largely preserved under the ash, the excavated city offers a unique snapshot of Roman life, frozen at the moment it was buried and providing an extraordinarily detailed insight into the everyday life of its inhabitants. 

Throughout the city, there are several small museums that house some of the smaller and finer objects found in Pompeii. Visitors could easily spend several days touring through the ruins as well as these museums. We only stepped inside one museum, just to get a feel for some of the stunning objects that had been discovered in the rubble after the eruption.

During excavations liquid plaster was used to fill voids in the ash that once held organic remains including wood, human and animal bodies, giving unique and often gruesome images of their last moments.

At its height, Pompeii was a well established sea-side port town that played a major part in the transportation of certain products in the sea trade. Because they were so close to the ocean, artists in Pompeii would often include seashells in their artwork, such as the elegant mosaic pictured below.

Our guide took us around to several different structures and explained what they told us about daily life in ancient Pompeii. This structure, was most likely a store of some sort, V pretended to be the shop keeper and sold us a variety of pretend objects.

Next, we visited the Pompeii Basilica. The basilica was the place where justice was administered as well as a meeting place and business center. It was the most important public building in the city and is the oldest example of its kind.  This building, which was one of the progenitors of the Christian basilicas, was formed by a long rectangular building, such as a greek temple "upside down", ie with colonnades interior rather than exterior.  On one of the short sides of Pompei basilica opened five doors preceded by a vestibule, while the long sides had two doors. Recent excavations and studies have led to the conclusion that the Basilica was covered, probably with a single truss.

While the forum spa and baths is not the largest spa in the city, it is the most elegantly decorated. Here is a description of this building from the pompeii website, it is translated from Italian so the phrasing isn't quite correct, but I kind of like it that way, 

"The Baths were divided into two parts, one for men and one for women. In the part dedicated to men, larger than that of women, two corridors introduce in the locker room ( apodyterium ) from where it passes into the frigidarium , which has in the middle of a circular pool for cold baths, and tepidarium , adorned with splendid stucco of the second half of the first century AD, a large brazier in this environment is preserved, donated by Marcus Nigidius Vaccula, which serve to heat the room. Since tepidarium leads directly into the caldarium , heated by the hot air environment that passed inside the double walls, for hot baths. In the room there are two tanks, the ' alveus for hot baths and labrum for cold baths. 

The entrance leads directly in the women's section ' apodyterium free niches to lay the clothes. Instead there is a pool for the cold water of the frigidarium . Passing through the t epidarium enter the caldarium , with the tub in the niche of the east wall, next to praefornium , and the labrum , and the laver to humidify the environment, placed in the bottom of the niche."

Our tour guide then lead us to The House of the Faun. The House of the Faun  built during the 2nd century BC, was one of the largest and most impressive private residences in Pompeii, Italy, and housed many great pieces of art. It is one of the most luxurious aristocratic houses from the Roman republic, and reflects this period better than most archaeological evidence found even in Rome itself.

The House of the Faun contained the Alexander Mosaic, depicting the Battle of Issus in 333 BC between Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia. This mosaic may be inspired by or copied from a Greek painting finished in the late fourth century BC, probably by the artist Philoxenus of Eretria. Unlike most Pompeian pavements of the late second and early first centuries, this mosaic is made of tesserae, and not the more common opus signinum, or other kinds of stone chips set in mortar.

Next stop was the bakery. Difficult as it is to trace the origin and development of a commercial corn-grinding industry in Pompeii, there seems no doubt that it was becoming steadily more important in the later Republic. By the early days of the Empire the citizens of Pompeii seem already to have been largely dependent for their bread upon commercial bakeries. The commercial mills were enlarged versions of the hand mill or quern. The only tolerably complete specimen of a such mill is that discovered under the ashes of Pompeii where thirty-one of them were found. The machinery for the production of bread consists of millstones in porous lava, very compact tough stone so there were no risks of its losing tiny fragments in the grinding process which might be mixed with the flour. The form of these mills resembles an hourglass with a biconical or hollow catullus which rotates above on a cone-shaped pivot (meta), set on base in masonry and surrounded by a paved floor on which the animals yoked to the beams inserted in the catullus walked.

In his explanations of different sites, our tour guide had several visual aids of he would show us on his iPad.

House of the Bear is a private residence that stands on the Via Augustali. This colorful Pompeii residence gets its name from a mosaic of a wounded bear. It was one of the first decorations discovered in the House of the Bear, yet it was not the last. The resident has some of the most splendid mosaics that adore walls and floors. The entrance hall leads directly to the atrium with the central impluvium or indoor pool for collecting rainwater, which fell through a hole in the roof. The atrium has a beautiful mosaic floor, which consists of a black and white geometric pattern, complemented by a wide frame framing the central image.

In the back of the house, there is a richly decorated fountain, fully lined with brightly colored tesseram and shells. The fountain consists of gables installed above the arched niche. Water flowed from a small rectangular hole in the center of the niche to flow into the semicircular pool below.

We ended our visit with a quick tour of the two theaters of Pompeii. The theatre area of Pompeii is located in the southwest region of the city. There are three main buildings that make up this area: the Large Theatre, the Odeon (small theatre), and the Quadriporticus. This served as an entertainment and meeting center of the city.Pompeii had two stone theaters of its own nearly two decades before the first permanent stone theatre was erected in Rome in the 50s BCE. Most of the theatres were adapted for gladiatorial performances during the reign of the Roman empire.

The Large Theatre was built into a natural hill in the second century BC. This theatre sat roughly 5,000 spectators and is one of the original permanent stone theatres to stand in Rome

The Odeon was a smaller roofed theatre, theatrum tectum, that sat 1500 spectators built in 80 BC. The theatre follows the plan of other Roman theatres and odeon structures. Where the Large Theatre was used primarily for staging drama, the Odeon was intended for a more educated audience, as well as a musical concert performance.

The Quadriporticus served as a passage, porticos post scans, behind the scene of the theatre. It was a covered walkway used by spectators to either travel between events, or just gain cover from the rain. The Quadriporticus was a classic feature of most Hellenic Theaters codified by Vitruvius in De architectura.  The interior area of this courtyard was transformed into gladiatorial housing and gyms.

After our fascinating and extensive tour of the ruins, we said goodbye to our exuberant Pompeiian guide and met back up with our driver who drove us to a lovely local winery for lunch. We dined in the backyard of their home which was perfect for V,  she could run around to her hearts content. She also loved the swing set, our cute driver was enthralled with V and would push her on the swings while she giggled. V loved our driver, she thought he was handsome and referred to him as her boyfriend a couple of times.

V and I were obsessed with the family's adorable and super friendly dog. He loved to play with V on the grass or sit on my feet during lunch. It was the perfect relaxation we needed after our busy time in the ruins. In order to fit in as much as possible while at Pompeii, we were walking quickly and always felt in a little bit of a rush. The ruins were also insanely hot, and we all were exhausted from the heat. So this laid back, casual lunch was the perfect way for us to slow down, cool down, fuel up and get ready for our long drive to Rome.

Lunch consisted of a cheese board with locally sourced honey, juicy grapes from their vineyard, and fresh, homemade pasta in a delectable, light red sauce. It hit the spot.

After lunch, we loaded up in our car and drove several hours to Rome. We mostly slept, it was so nice to have someone else in charge of the transportation so we could fully relax without having to worry about looking up directions or missing our stop. We arrived in Rome fairly late, so we ordered room service and watched halloween movies. The next morning we packed up and flew home to Utah. 

This trip holds a very fond place in my heart. We created so many fun memories, some happy, some silly, and some we call recall fondly now that enough time has passed .... We met so many wonderful and beautiful people who enriched our experience more than they will ever know. We saw gorgeous works of art and architecture as well as stunning natural landscapes and formations. And best of all, we got to celebrate with our dear family and meet new family members. Many thanks to everyone who made this trip so special.