Pompeii & Herculaneum

**Warning – there are some pictures that may be disturbing to some people.**

We couldn’t go to the Amalfi Coast and not see Pompeii.  I believe it’s one of those things that you should see in person at some point in your life, if possible, to truly be able to appreciate it.  It’s huge city – approximately 160 acres, and to know what kind of civilization Romans had back then is just amazing.

A bit of history of Pompeii  – Archeologists believe it had a population of roughly 15,000-20,000 people. The area around Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples attracted wealthy vacationers who had summer homes here. It became a destination location for many of Rome’s wealthy citizens, and had many shops, cafes, taverns, brothels and bathhouses. In August of 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted with such force, it blew the top half of the mountain off (which is why the top is not round like most volcanoes). There are records from witnesses who saw the eruption from the other side of the bay, and historians have been able to get an accurate depiction of what happened.  It was so forceful, the debris cloud when 12 miles high into the sky.  This fell to the earth as a fine-grained ash, then larger chunks of rock and pumice….giving the residents plenty of time to flee from Pompeii.  This cloud covered the region in volcanic ash up to 16 feet deep, then superheated lava, ash and rock rushed down the sides of the Mount Vesuvius at 75+mph, covering and preserving the city as it was for the next 2,000+ years.  Pompeii and the approximately 2,000 people who stayed behind, remained buried under all of that ash until 1748 when explorers rediscovered it.  Archeologists believe that about 1/3 of the city still remains buried under ash and earth.  Mount Vesuvius has not erupted since 1944, but it is still considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Experts believe that another eruption is due any day – which would be a catastrophe, since almost 3 million people currently live within 20 miles of the volcano’s crater.

Early Monday morning, we met our driver in our hotel lobby who drove us to Pompeii, which was about 50 minute drive from Sorrento.  Mount Vesuvius is a very prominent site!  You can see the ragged top of the volcano, where that part was literally blown off during the eruption.IMG_3519

We arrived in Pompeii and met our guide for the day.  This is outside the walls of the city.  IMG_3520IMG_3523IMG_3521

This is the original archway that leads into the city.IMG_3525

We started walking along the streets of Pompeii.  We were there pretty early in the day, and in the season, so the crowd level was pretty low.  Where Oldest is standing is the entrance to what was once a shop.IMG_3527IMG_3528IMG_3529IMG_3531

The paved street has 3 raised stones (closer to where the people are in the photo).  These raised stones were stepping stones for people to walk across so they didn’t have to step in dirt, excrement, etc that would be in the street.  IMG_3532

And here the 3 stones signify the end of a road. Speculation is that the stones are for stopping carriages from going any further.IMG_3541

The main square.IMG_3533IMG_3539IMG_3535IMG_3615IMG_3537

Stairs leading up to what was once a secondary floor.IMG_3544IMG_3567

Presumably the kitchen where they would have ovens.IMG_3568

Some of the houses still were in very good condition, and tourists are not allowed to get too close to preserve it.  But the mosaic stone floor is all original – look how good it still looks!IMG_3578IMG_3543

These square basins held water for people to use.  And when they wanted or needed to clean the street – there was a opening on the front that allowed the water to flow out of the basin and wash down the street.IMG_3582IMG_3583

The entrance to the amphitheater.IMG_3553IMG_3551IMG_3557IMG_3558

Our guide told us that we would be visiting the, ehem, “adult” part of Pompeii.  She was very discreet talking to us about this district of the city, and she pointed out this stone.  She told us that these pictures on the stones would show visitors the way to the “ladies of the night.”  Littlest looked at it and asked, “What is that?”  I looked at her, and said, “It’s a drawing of a penis.”  She looked confused for a minute, and then said, “well that looks weird!”  Ahahaha!  I just let the subject alone, but was dying laughing inside!IMG_3549

Up near the ceilings in the brothels are pictures of various sexual acts.  The patrons just had to point to a picture that they wanted, and a specific “lady” for that act would become his companion for the night.IMG_3572IMG_3573

The beds were made of stone!!  Talk about uncomfortable!  And also quite small.IMG_3571IMG_3575

We left the brothels behind and continued on our tour to the food district.  Historians  believe that this set up was used as a sort of “fast food” place for the busy people of Pompeii.  The circles are actually openings where large ceramic pots were located, and they think they use to have various types of soups/drink in them and people could order their food to take away.IMG_3579

This was a bakery.  The ovens are on the left and the grinding mills are all in a row on the right side.  The grinding mills would be filled with wheat, and then either slaves or donkeys would then turn the mill to grind the wheat down into flour.  Archeologists have found that when they examine the teeth of people from this time, that they really don’t find cavities – mainly because there was no sugar in their food, aside from natural sugars found in nature, like honey.  But they did find that their teeth would be chipped and broken.  After seeing these mills, they think that as the mills ground the wheat, small pieces of stone would break off and fall into the dough and then people would chip and break their teeth on a piece of rock they found in their bread!  They think people would know the “quality” bakers because they would have less rocks in their bread.IMG_3580

Then men’s bathhouse.  Women had their own, separate bathhouse (but we didn’t see that).  This was the first room of the bathhouse, and the coolest. IMG_3589

This was the second room of the bathhouse.  It had a very ornate ceiling.IMG_3593

These were cubbies where patrons could put their clothes and shoes while in the bathhouse.IMG_3594IMG_3596

This room was interesting because the ceiling was ribbed.  They think it was constructed this way because this was the hottest room in the bathhouse, and the humidity levels would create condensation on ceiling, and instead of having the water drop down on the patrons of the bathhouse, the drops could roll down the ridges instead.IMG_3597

Storage area for artifacts archeologists have discovered.  Just look at the condition of the pots!!  IMG_3603IMG_3607

A cast of a real person who perished.IMG_3608IMG_3610

A dog who had been chained that perished.IMG_3611

Heading out of Pompeii’s walls.  This statue is not of Pompeiian times, but added later.IMG_3616IMG_3621IMG_3618

More ruins of houses and shops around the city.IMG_3619IMG_3620IMG_3623IMG_3624

After we toured Pompeii, we said goodbye to our guide and met back up with our driver.  We then drove about 25 minutes to the city of Herculaneum, located Northwest of Pompeii.  I will be honest and say that I had not heard of this city before, so didn’t really know what to expect.  From hearing previous accounts, I just knew that it was MUCH smaller than Pompeii, and the ruins were in MUCH better condition.  Both Pompeii and Herculaneum are UNESCO World Heritage sites, so we were excited to visit.

Herculaneum was preserved because of how it was buried.  While Pompeii was buried under 13-16 feet of ash and rock, Herculaneum was buried under 75 feet of lava.  Because of this and the special condition of the ground humidity, things like the wooden framework of the houses, wooden furniture, pieces of clothing, and even food were perfectly preserved.  Archeologists have found carbonized loaves of bread that had been left in ovens!

Because it was covered in lava, it has been much more difficult to excavate in Herculaneum.  They think only about 20% of the city has been uncovered.  In Herculaneum, you can see how over the generations, people have built on top of older generations.  It’s actually quite amazing to see.  IMG_3627IMG_3628IMG_3629IMG_3631IMG_3632IMG_3633IMG_3634IMG_3644IMG_3652IMG_3648

It was actually much easier to walk around and picture exactly how people lived here.  Everything is much more intact.IMG_3642

Original frescos that decorated the walls.  You can tell that back in the day, these cities must have been very colorful with all of the red, yellow, orange and blue hues of color they used in their decoration.IMG_3641IMG_3640IMG_3639IMG_3656IMG_3655IMG_3661IMG_3662

Original mosaic tile floor.IMG_3636

While the ancient Romans were true innovators, they never knew they were slowly killing themselves.  This is a lead pipe that carried water through their streets that they drank from.IMG_3645

Pots and vats that held food and drink.IMG_3649IMG_3650IMG_3653


When they built their infrastructure, they used this honeycomb method to build their walls.  And it seems to have worked very well! IMG_3677IMG_3679

It was thought that the people of Herculaneum had evacuated because no one was found in the city during excavation.  Instead, in 1982, the skeletons of the people of Herculaneum were found sheltering down in the boat sheds.

The extreme heat from the pyroclastic  surges incinerated their flesh within seconds and resulted in many people’s brains bursting from the pressure and heat, leaving holes in the skull. Up to 20 individuals were found in each boat shed chamber and 300 skeletons in total were excavated. IMG_3682IMG_3683IMG_3684IMG_3686IMG_3687IMG_3689IMG_3690

I cannot even describe what a somber site this was.  It brought tears to my eyes just thinking of the terror these poor people went through in their last few minutes.  It took me a while just to be able to really take it all in.  The horror of it will haunt me for a long time.

MyMan and I really enjoyed Herculaneum much more than Pompeii, even with having a guide in Pompeii.  The differences in their preservation is so interesting, especially having the same history.  Quite remarkable, really.

After we finished walking through Herculaneum, it was time to drive back to the hotel.IMG_3691

We asked the hotel concierge their recommendation for a nice dinner, as it was our last night in Sorrento.  They suggested Ristorante Bagni Sant’Anna – and the views were just beautiful.  It was the perfect way to end our stay in Amalfi Coast.IMG_1039

Mount Vesuvius in the background!IMG_1041IMG_3702IMG_1052


The Amalfi Coast and it’s town are just breath taking!  I am so happy that we decided to come early for our Disney Italy trip and visit this area!  So much history, and rich culture can be found here.  Truly an inspiring place to visit.






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