A Personal Note on Pompeii

Forum, Pompeii

I have been thinking to write this post in such a long time. Pompeii is a very important place for me, it is the place that first triggered my curiosity to travel and so I didn’t want to write a lame post about it hence the long thought on writing about it. So I hope this post gives enough credit to the place.

How all it all began

The first time I heard about Pompeii was when I was in my history class in my local primary school in Leeds, England. I was in year 6, and my curiosity for history was probably provoked by the enthusiasm of my teacher. She was always excited in telling us events in the past, and this one was no exception.

“Do a project on Pompeii!” she once said.

She briefly told us that Pompeii is ancient Roman city which was buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. I immediately had my weekend planned, to spend all day in the city library. Back then, internet wasn’t so happening and library was always packed with people. I borrowed maybe a dozen book, thick ancient Roman history books. Some looked thick, some looked glossy with pictures. I was in heaven.

Forum, Pompeii
Forum, Pompeii

Ever since that project, I couldn’t stop thinking about Pompeii. I wanted, no, I NEEDED to go there to settle my curiosity.

14 years later, I finally got the chance to visit Pompeii. My friends and I were doing a 3 weeks trip and I insisted that we go to Pompeii. After 14 years of waiting, imagining and anxiously wondering whether or not I will make a visit, I finally did. I stayed in Naples (was not in love with Naples, but that’s another story…) and took a train to Pompeii.

Ciao, Pompeii!

That day was sticky hot, the train from Naples was full of people and it was stuffy inside, I was anxious. I wondered if Pompeii would be as I expected, wonderfully old with history marks all over the place, or that it would be disappointing, which meant my 14 years wait was just a waste. I know it might be weird to be anxious like that.  After around 30 minutes, finally we stopped at the Pompei Scavi stop. The station looked ordinary, I mean I wasn’t expecting amazing architecture but the place was a little too ordinary for the extraordinary place I was about to enter. I think I was so scared of being disappointed that I was over thinking everything. I set aside my thought and walked towards the site, seemed that a lot of people were heading the same way that day.

Road in Pompeii
Cobbled-stone street with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Pompeii is massive. It was beyond what I imagined. The weather was scorching hot that day but I didn’t care. I wore my hat and my feet were itching to explore as much as I could. Since I wanted to explore in my own pace, I decided to take an audio guide. I was well and prepared for my “dream” adventure.

Beyond Expectation

When the eruption came to Pompeii, nobody expected anything. People were just doing their daily chores and were not ready for the inevitable fate they were about to face. The city was buried under floods of volcanic ash coming from Vesuvius mountain. Soon enough the city disappeared along with the many lives occupying Pompeii.

I almost could feel how they must’ve felt. The panic, knowing that death was right in front of them, and how they knew there was nowhere to escape. I live near an active volcano (Mount Merapi) and it has erupted a few times, taking many lives and destroying crops and villages. Having to experience all these events somehow helped me to create a bound, an understanding between Pompeii and I.

Statue at Pompeii
Statue at Pompeii

Until now, I still can’t believe that Pompeii was totally buried and basically disappeared from the face of the earth for about 1500 years. In the past, Pompeii was a very vibrant place filled with wealthy people enjoying the life. In this lavish place, people could enjoy luxurious bath houses, cafés and shows at the theatres. In my mind, the city had a promising future.

Frescos at Pompeii
Fading frescos inside the Roman bath

The volcanic ash preserved the city well, allowing me to understand what life was like back then and to walk on the same road as the previous occupants of Pompeii. One of my most memorable walk was through the small amphitheatre and at the back there were cubicles which was believed to be kitchens. I could still see the holes made on the stone tables. My audio guide informed me that it used to be a row of cafés where people would come and enjoy a bite or a drink after seeing the shows at the amphitheatre.

Kitchen, Pompeii
It was believed that this was a kitchen

In no time, I felt comfortable – observing Roman baths, going inside a former brothel with fading frescos on its ceiling for “inspirational positions” and also feeling completely lost in time at its Temple of Apollo. There are plaster casts of the eruption victims, a lot of them are being displayed at the Garden of the Fugitives. These are not actually the original ones, only a plaster copy as most of the original artifacts and plaster casts are safely kept and displayed at the Naples National Archeological Museum. However, this fact didn’t ease my sadness when I saw them. It was heartbreaking.

Brothel at Pompeii
One of the paintings at the Roman brothel

I will be back

Given the huge site, I of course didn’t get the chance to see every corner of it. The heat was also very disturbing, which made me super sweaty. I hope to be back to this stunning site in the future, preferably in the cool weather of Spring or Autumn. Oh Pompeii, I do hope to be back.

Victim of Pompeii eruption
One of the plaster casts

I left Pompeii with a great satisfaction. The trip filled my greatest travel curiosity and it’s the perfect example of a realization of my dream. Never stop dreaming people! Dream big, live more!

How DEW travelled there

I took the train from Naples train station, the station to reach Pompeii is located in the basement. The name of the line is Circumvesusiana, which will cost you around  €1,80 to €3,20 and around 45 minutes to get there. From the station I walked to the site. Pompeii is not the only site buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, do check out other sites as well such as Villa Oplontis and Herculaneum. There are several type of tickets, it’s worth buying a pass for 5 sites (€22) if you are in the area for several days to check out the other sites for a cheaper price.

37 Comment

  1. Great blog. I have always dreamed of visiting Italy and Pompeii is inside the bucket lists. Hope to make it to this great historical site one day 🙂

    1. Thank you Paulo for the kind words. I hope one day you get the chance to see Pompeii too, truly one of the world’s greatest history site!

  2. I’ve been to Italy couple times before but how on earth I didn’t visit this amazing site?
    Love your story! I am now so curious and gotta browse about the history of Pompeii :*

    1. Oh Pompeii is my absolute favourite in Italy, so happy that I finally made it there. You must come visit there someday Deb, such a different dimension!

  3. I love your back story on why you wanted to visit Pompeii. To be honest, it wasn’t on my list of places to visit but after reading this, it is!

    1. Glad to hear it Megan! If your love history and cobbled-stone streets then this place will probably blow you away. Let me know if you manage to go to Pompeii 🙂

  4. It’s amazing to me that after thousands of years – and of course the volcano – that the colored frescos have remained intact. It’s absolutely amazing! I also have no idea that the area was so large. I’ve seen some TV specials on it but they basically make it look like just a town square, not a large city. Very interesting!

    1. I know, that was really surprising to me too. You could even see some of the walls decoration! Pompeii is a whole town on its own, it’s just like visiting a small town, I think you would need at least a whole day or two times visiting.

  5. I too have always been fascinated by Pompeii. Thanks for including the tips on how to get there from Naples!

    1. Hi Helen, Pompeii is truly a great place and especially a perfect place to gain better understanding of the ancient Roman’s way of life!

  6. Just like you, I first heard about Pompeii in elementary school. Except I still haven’t been there and it has been 50 years—not a mere 14, since I decided I would go someday. It is clearly way past time to make good on that promise to myself.

    1. Hi Suzanne, I hope you can visit Pompeii one day. Truly a spectacular place and definitely worth the wait 🙂

  7. Wonderful post Aggy. It’s always such a risk when you visit a longed for destination. I know I’ve been to places that have disappointed having been looking forward to it…..

    1. Thank you Jo! That’s so true, I was so glad Pompeii lived up to my expectations!

  8. Pompei sounds fascinating! I’d love to check it out myself one day.

    1. It’s definitely a great destination, Britanny 🙂

  9. The history of Pompeii is so interesting and worth reading about! If I ever make it there, I will make sure to read some stories beforehand!

    1. Knowing the history of Pompeii definitely helped me connect to the place better. It’s a great history to read on, so interesting!

  10. I had a huge fascination with Pompeii from school too (think it came from a Latin course we had to do where all the characters lived in Pompeii and got killed by the eruption!) and was so pleased to finally make it out there a couple of years ago. Such a fascinating place and somewhere I could easily spend days wandering around.

    1. Ah sounds great! I’m so glad I was interested in my history class, always an inspiration for my travels 😉

  11. well, to be honest I just heard about Pompeii when it became a title of the movie, sadly I haven’t watch it. But thanks to your post, finally I know about it and the history 😀
    great post Aggy 🙂

    1. Thanks Mei, glad you finally know about Pompeii. Truly is a great destination, hope you get to visit the place one day 🙂

  12. Now you’ve got me longing to visit Pompeii. Great information here and I enjoyed your personal story. Isn’t it interesting how different experiences or places spark our desires to travel. I’m so glad that Pompeii met and exceeded your expectations. That’s a wonderful thing when you’ve been dreaming about a place for a long time.

    1. Thanks Cathy! I really did enjoy Pompeii and was so happy that it was up to my expectation!

  13. I loved reading this, Aggy!

    I studied Classical History and Mythology at university, so it was a dream come true to visit Pompeii in 2007. Like you, I was filled with anticipation for what I would see there. The size of Pompeii – this massive living, breathing city that got frozen in time – was the most surprising thing for me. I had no idea of the scale.

    I think that’s what makes it so heartbreaking – that so many people had lived here, and subsequently died in the eruption.

    Nevertheless, I always recommend visiting Pompeii, as it was one of the most memorable days I’ve had on any of my travels. It’s lovely to read an account by a person who was as equally mesmerised.

    Kasha x

    1. Wow that’s such a great topic to study! I loved being in Pompeii, and was definitely surprised by its scale. I hope I get to come back again one day! Thanks Kasha, really glad you enjoyed reading my post 🙂

  14. A beautiful story and personal account of your experience of Pompei. I’m always intrigued with what got people started to travel. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Monica, Pompeii truly is a special place 🙂

  15. Great post, Aggy! I went to Pompeii last January and was amazed at how easy it was to connect with the past, despite the fact it happened almost 2000 odd years ago! I’m so pleased I got to study it in further depth at university.

    Hope you manage to get back soon 🙂

    x

    1. Agree Emily! So very happy that I made it there, and you’re a lucky girl for being able to learn it in depth!

  16. Nice to read ur post about Pompeii …

    It must be great to explore the historical site like Pompeii and see with your own eyes! I think I need to watch the movie first now!! 🙂

    1. Haha I myself have not even seen the movie! Pompeii is just an amazing place!

  17. OK there need to be more teachers who inspire like that!! I’m so happy for you that you got to realize your dream and visit the site. And that you didn’t leave disappointed!

    I’ve been there twice and remember those visits fondly (also those Italian hotties on Vespas talking to our group later, but that’s another story…).

    1. I certainly agree, teachers like this definitely inspire people to travel and be curious! I hope to come back to Pompeii again, preferably on a less hot day! (and I would like to know the rest of that Italian hotties story :P)

  18. […] I talked about my love for Pompeii before and why the place is so personal to me, however little did I know that when I arrived to Pompeii to purchase a ticket, I was able to choose a ticket just to enter Pompeii, or a ticket for several other sites (at a slightly higher price). When I knew about this I immediately bought the ticket for multiple sites as I have never heard of the other sites before and it was a bargain since the ticket could last for several days. […]

  19. aaakkkk… I got goosebumps reading this post. The story is a bit like me with Greece. It was my World Cultures class in high school that got me wanting to travel the world, especially the old civilizations with Greece as one of them. So I think I know how you feel about Pompeii, just like how I felt when I finally went to Greece. I couldn’t wait to write post after post about my trip there, but I did wait a long time just to find the right moment and the perfect company to go there (because I’m not fond of traveling solo). *hug Aggy*

    1. Awww so glad you like my post! It’s always great when your lifelong dream comes true, especially in places as amazing as Pompeii and Greece! I love your Greece posts too, I can sense your love and admiration for the country! *hugs back*

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