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Pompei, the life of stones

World heritage, Pompei is one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world and as Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick wrote, it is the same as every other town, it doesn’t matter if it is dead or alive since Pompei is a journey through the past with its temples, its houses, its theatres, its granaries, its shops, the Gymnasium (the great Palestra) and its Forum. Stones and frescoes are there. But, let’s sort it out.

 The eruption of Vesuvius marked the end of all that, in the morning of 24th August 79 AD. The Vesuvius marked the end and the beginning of an immortal glory for this town of Campania: Pompei was literally destroyed and covered with ash and lapilli that produced a layer of more than three meters. Like a spell, after around 1.700 years the archaeological excavation started thanks to the Bourbon King Charles III who returned Italy the ancient town and one of the greatest symbol of the Roman lifestyle providing many invaluable findings. Non only frescoes and mosaics and statues but even many artefacts that can show how everyday domestic living went on in Pomepi and the Antiquarium and the National Archaeological Museum deserve to be visited too. Pompei is “living archaeology” now thanks to the excavations, an amazing witness of the lifestyle in those ancient times and in the avenue of the Gymnasium or “grande palestra” the same types of plane trees have been planted as well as the “dichondra repens” and the small and perfumed roses that have been seeded again in the Ercule’s Garden. 

There isn’t a fixed route to follow in Pompei but plenty of paths according to your interests and the time you have at your disposal. Let’s mention a number of landmarks. The Forum with its Baths, the Church – where the Court and the economic life were based -, the Amphitheatre and the private houses among which the House of the Faun stands out – it was one of the biggest buildings in the town – it takes its name from the bronze statue of the dancing faun. The House of the Vettii must not be missed too – it is rich in decorations – and the House of Giulia Felice, the House of Lovers and the House of the Gilded Cupids deserve a visit too. The richness of that town was based on its commercial activities; actually there were many different shops, inns and pubs on all corners of the town. In the House of Umbri you can see a sort of lab where the garum was produced and collected, it was a sauce that is similar to the anchovy paste that contributed to the economic development of the town.

 As regards the "brothels" there were plenty of them and they show an erotic art featured by a representation of sex as a natural and bright activity also through the many graffiti on the houses’ walls, on the fountains, on public buildings all over the town. The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosario is one of the most important remains and it marks the beginning of the modern Pompei, it was consecrated in 1891 and it is one of the main churches dedicated to the veneration of the Virgin Mary in Italy. Pompei is ranked the second in the chart of the most visited Italian sites after the Colosseum.

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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