Discovering the lost city of Pompeii
Pompeii, the ancient site in southern Italy dramatically captures a Roman town in the shadow of a volcano.
When was the first time you heard about the lost city of Pompeii? This ancient site in southern Italy dramatically captures a Roman town in the shadow of a volcano, exactly as it was 2000 years ago. During your next trip to the Amalfi coast on your private yacht, you will have the perfect opportunity to explore this buried city. The inhabitants of Pompeii were forever caught in a moment of their everyday life by the eruption of the nearby volcano. Today Pompeii is one the most famous Roman sites in the world, but it was just another Roman seaside resort until Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.
Pompeii and the Mount Vesuvius
Your private guide will pick you and your loved ones up early in the morning at Marina Di Stabia and after one last quick espresso onboard, you will be on your way to Pompeii Scavi, one of the three entrances to the ruins.
Pompeii was originally settled by the Etruscan and Greeks and by the first century AD it was a thriving Roman city, with visitors flocking south to spend their holidays relaxing on the Bay of Naples. Pompeii’s population swelled, and by 79 AD it is estimated that around 12,000 people lived in the city, with in the background Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii’s menacing next-door neighbor. Although there were frequent tremors, and a larger earthquake in 62 AD which sent a tsunami as far as Rome, Vesuvius had not erupted for hundreds of years. People did not see it as a real threat, building houses in the foothills and vineyards and gardens in the fertile soils of its slopes. In the autumn of 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius finally broke its silence.
It was one of the world’s most catastrophic eruptions. The force blew the top out of the volcano, sending a plume of ash and rock high up into the sky, visible for hundreds of miles around. Across the Bay of Naples, Pliny the Younger recorded that “Darkness fell, not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a dark room.”
Many residents escaped, but as the ash column started to cool, it rained down on everything within a 15-mile radius. At the end of the eruption Pompeii had disappeared under meters of ash.
The city of Pompeii
The first thing you notice when visiting Pompeii is its size. Although no one knows for sure how big it was originally, the archaeological site is probably larger than you expected it to be. It’s a good thing your chief stewardess told you to put on some comfortable shoes! Your guide will first stop at the bath house and brothel. These were originally located in the port to take care of the sailors’ needs when they arrived into port. It is hard to imagine now that there was a harbor full of boats here, as the eruption added so much material that Pompeii is now 2 kilometers away from the coast. Arriving sailors would come into the baths to steam and cool off before heading upstairs. The ash did an amazing job of preserving Pompeii’s details, from colorful frescoes and mosaics to the underground engineering used to heat the baths. You can even still see the paintings in the brothel entrance showing the positions customers could choose from!
Inside the main city walls, you can walk the paved streets which are laid out just as they would have been before the eruption. You will pass private homes mixed in with shops, restaurants, temples, an amphitheater and even a hotel.
Among the highlights are the Temple of Apollo, Pompeii’s oldest building which dates back to the 6th century BC. There is also the Forum, surrounded by religious and business centers at the heart of Pompeii life, the oldest Roman amphitheater in Italy and the Temple of Isis. Your expert guide will tell you about the grand villas owned by Roman merchants, including the House of Vettii, the frescoed House of Julia Felix and the giant House of the Faun which covers a whole block.
One of the most fascinating sights are the eerie body casts. In 1860, archaeologist Guiseppe Fiorelli realised the empty spaces in the ash around the human bones he found were where the bodies had decomposed. By filling them with plaster, he made a cast of the position they were in when the ashes descended on them, hands shielding their faces or curled up in a fetal position.
The Villa of the Mysteries
The next stop will be the Villa of the Mysteries, just outside Pompeii’s city walls and one of the highlights of the tour. The villa was the vacation home of a wealthy merchant and had a unique location on the waterfront back in the day. The villa survived the eruption relatively unscathed and has one of the best preserved frescoes in Pompeii, with amazing vivid colors. They are also the source of the mystery that gave the villa its name, as no one can agree on what the frescoes show. Is it a young woman preparing for marriage, the life story of the god Dionysos, or women being inducted into a mystery cult dedicated to the Greek god Bacchus? Either way it is spectacular to look at and reminds us that however much we are able to learn about the Romans from the ruins of Pompeii, they still keep a few secrets to themselves.
Near the Amphitheater you will find the house of Venus in the shell. It owes its name to a huge fresco of Venus in a shell on one of the outer walls and is part of a three-part fresco that covers almost the entire wall. The house consists of several rooms full of frescoes that are all built around a courtyard garden.
By now you will probably appreciate that you were picked up so early this morning. When you make your way back to the car to continue your journey, the lost city is revealing its secrets to more and more visitors. Time to relax and visit one of the superb restaurants the Amalfi coast has to offer. At the restaurant one last captivating sight is being revealed to you and your loved ones: your yacht, waiting for you to bring you to your next destination!
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