No trip to the Bay of Naples is complete without investigating the giant on the horizon – the looming Mt. Vesuvius and the haunting reminder of it’s deadly past, Pompeii.
I was quite young when my family and I embarked on a trip to southern Italy but I wasn’t too young as to be unaware of Vesuvius’s history; the images of ash and pumice stone falling from the sky onto a chaotic scene below are painted clearly in impressionable minds.
These are the few but distinct recollections of the hike to the summit: The walk up the slope was a long and windy one, so windy in fact that on several occasions my mum had to physically hold onto my small frame for fear of it being swept into the steaming crater itself. The rock was a strange, red colour, something that I wasn’t used to digging up in the garden. There was a tacky souvenir shop at the top, I thought this was odd.
Of course the city of Pompeii was something different all together, as it stands alone in the world as a site uniquely preserved in horror and history. Although the buildings and artifacts have inevitable crumbled and eroded with time, those covered in ash – the residue from the infamous eruption of 79ad – were permitted the chance to remain petrified, leaving the most remarkable statues to witness today. The couple cuddling, no doubt in fear of the inevitable, and the distorted dog are particularly memorable examples. Another impressively preserved piece of Ancient Rome is the ‘cave canem’ mosaic (translated as ‘beware of the dog’). The great attention and dedication given in its construction (as with any mosaic) made viewing it something that has stuck in my mind to the point of remaking the mosaic for a school project 10 years later; wherein bloomed a greater sense of appreciation for how delicate and fiddly the common classical mosaics are. There is also an amphitheater, once a blood thirsty center of bread and circuses and now the top attraction in a city of the ash fallen dead.
All these and more were viewed on route of a guided tour through the cobbled streets under a fiery and relentless sun. I’d recommend temporarily suppressing the urge to explore alone since many on the best Pompeii gems are hidden and would otherwise be missed; like the suggestive symbol on the pavement that indicated the presence of a brothel – something that I as an absentminded 7 year old stepped on and oh did the adults laugh.
The collaboration of natural beauty, the humbling of humanity and historic significance should call for Pompeii to be inked onto everyone’s bucket list; but with the presence of Vesuvius overshadowing it’s past, what’s not to say that it can do it again?
NOTE: More pictures to come on this post – they are currently lost in a sea of boxes in the basement ^^