Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Tuesday was the first full day of Italian sunshine for almost a week and the weather forecast was predicting more rain in the following days.  Needless to say, the train to the Ruins of Pompeii was packed.  Almost everyone in our car spoke English and I heard fragments of conversation about travels and the weather conditions in Croatia, France, Spain and other cities in Italy.  We passed the time with a couple from North Dakota who were doing the same thing we were - trying to outsmart Mother Nature and find places on the European map which were neither snow-bound nor rain-drenched.  We were all having about the same luck. 

I had never done extensive research about Pompeii, but I had done some reading and I had enjoyed the stories Frosty and Jill told of their trip there.  I thought I understood the situation fairly well, but I soon found I was ill prepared for the magnitude of the ruins or their significance.  The entry alone was amazing.
We were very interested in the Villa of Mysteries so we passed over some of the earlier sites, but there was no way to pass up the Forum.
On we trod down the white cobbled streets.  Stanley was intrigued by the ruts created by chariots.  It's easy to visualize them rounding this corner at top speed.

The Necropoli di Ercolano was a blend the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan, Mexico and La Recoleta Cemetary in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  What extravagance to pay homage to ancestors!  

Finally, we arrived at the Villa of Mysteries, seemingly swimming in a sea of rosemary.  

The primary focus of the long trek to this out-lying site was this fresco in the dining room.  Long thought to be a pictorial interpretation of an initiation rite of  the Dionysian cult, some historians now believe it tells the story of wedding preparation ceremonies.   Regardless of the correct interpretation, its mere survival is remarkable. 

The part I like best is the look on the child's face in the first panel.  It makes no difference which story, if any, is true or whether the child is a girl initiate or a boy reader - the look is priceless!

Considering the nature of the painting with its muted colors, the ropes restricting entry, the issues with light inside the house, and the limits of my camera, photography was not easy or very successful.  Much better photos are available on the web at

Additional art work inside the house was no less interesting nor easier to photograph.  Although it would have been wonderful to see it as it was discovered with all the art work intact, we had been able to see much of it in the Archaeological Museum in Naples the day before.  It must have been a splendid villa and yet it was not unusual or particularly grand by the standards of its day.
The kitchen!  Someone actually stood at this stove stirring up all kinds of delicacies for the folks reclining on the sofas in the dining room.  No doubt he/she was apprehensive about the reception of the new recipe for mussels and equally doubtless was the need for a glass of the same wine he was using in the dish!  
Another look at the beautiful architectural details inside the house.

And a bit of the exterior
 Some detail from the pillars
This fabulous view of Vesuvio is truly what sets this villa apart from any other in Italy.  Can you imagine starting your day with a cup of espresso and this scene?
I was intrigued by all the shops along the way that reminded me so much of small shops in Mexico.  Often part of the family dwelling they still have counters much like this facing the street, ready to serve the specialty of the house.  Me?  I've got a great chicken soup with home-made pasta on the stove.  Can I get you a bowl?
The conglomeration of building materials was fascinating.
Another shop down the street has a much larger format, but I hear they often serve stale bread and yesterday's soup.
A nursery - not ancient - but used to grow the plants for the property.
I don't have a clue.  Any guesses?
The following are pictures of the House of the Faun which takes its name from this statue found in the house.  It is the largest home excavated in the town, taking up an entire city block.

My question - what vegetation did the owner use in this space and what form did it take?  
 Looking down the street to yet another wonder.
I must have at least 20 pictures like this.  Lily pond in front of the entry.  It seems to have been the standard architectural style of private homes.  I saw lots of variations on the theme, but the lily pond - large or small - was a prominent feature in almost all of them.
Have I mentioned columns?  Acres of the ruin consist of individual columns.  
I'm sure I've mentioned columns.
 Terme Stabiane, a huge bath complex.
 Some art work on an exterior wall
and this to let you know you are in the portion of the bath reserved for men.
Just up the street from Terme Stabiane is the brothel. 
 Presently the rules are:  Only ten visitors at a time.  Please wait your turn.  No flash!  
The rules were probably similar when the place was in business.
A little erotic art to put you in the mood . . . 
I thought I might like to get a feel for the business.  The only thing I felt was the HARD bed and the zipper on my jacket was poking me in the ear.  I think it must have been different in the old days.
Another example of the lily pond and columns motif.

An active excavation.  They are doing stratigraphy to determine the ages of all the deposits at Pompeii including prehistoric settlements.
On the way to the theatre, I found this simple altar.  It didn't rate an explanation on my map, but I thought it was lovely.
Grapes have grown in this area since the beginning of time.  They're still here!
 The Teatro Grande.  That's my darling preparing to take the stage!
It is quite the theater with seating for 5,000.

Here we are eagerly waiting for the curtain to rise, but alas, all we saw was an hallucination brought on by extreme fatigue.  We were just about done for the day, in more than one way.
 A quick stop at the Teatro Piccolo, much smaller and more intimate than the large theater, its roofed structure provided much better acoustics for musical events.
I love this big guy holding up the seating arrangement.

 One last look at the Forum.
I wonder if Henry Bacon saw Apollo Temple after a rain before designing the Lincoln Memorial in DC . . . 
I couldn't resist this photo.  Maybe I can recreate this scene at our place in Mexico.  I have all the ingredients:  old walls, pots, and rosemary.  Yeah!  I think I'll take on that challenge.
It was a loooooong day, but an unforgettable one.  Time to get on the train and head back to Naples.  I was looking forward to a supper of bread, cheese, and an unidentified green I found in a grocery store box washed down with Italian Primitivo.   We were way too tired to face a menu in any language.