City of Ashes: Pompeii

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Roman baths in the city.

After arriving in Naples, we picked up our rental car and headed south to Pompeii, or Pompei. Believe it or not, Devin had never heard of Mt. Vesuvius or Pompeii… except for the Bastille song. Ryann remembers learning about it in Middle School and in High School- always on DBQs or featured in state tests. So to finally visit, would be a tick off that ol’ bucket list. To take a line or two from the song,

“..And the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we love. Gray clouds roll over the hills bringing darkness from above. Close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?”

If one of its citizens could in fact, transport back and forth to Pompeii over the years, it would very much feel like everything has changed. After visiting yourself, you will agree that it is far from being the prosperous and blossoming city of the Roman Empire. Of course, it was destroyed in the volcanic eruption, but what we mean is that the city today is the opposite of thriving. Seeing this, you can expect the rundown hotels, competing with the actual ruins, and the overpriced decent accommodations. So with that, we decided to camp.

Camp Zeus

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Excavators at work on actual bodies.

We chose to camp at Camp Zeus. Honestly, we’re not experts on the area, but this was the best choice we made. The concierge that worked at the desk was extremely helpful, offered tips and information that we needed. In addition to the service, the campsite was only 50 meters away from the entrance to the Pompeii ruins. What?! So in actuality, we think we probably slept atop some unexcavated parts of the former city. Probably, right? The campsite also had bathrooms and showers. Thank goodness. Also, for an additional fee, you could connect to the WiFi. As far as nature goes, well, there were orange trees and a few blades of grass to lay our tent on. No, it wasn’t a family destination that you might find in the mountains of Colorado or the Adirondacks, but it was perfect for what we needed. Lastly, it was especially a great deal. It cost 12 Euros for two people (tent). This included our parking for the next day as well. If you wanted to park nearby to go to the Pompeii site anyway, you’d be paying 4 or 5 Euro for that! We were very thankful we made the choice of camping at Zeus.

After our first night camping, we started our morning visiting Mount Vesuvius. We were very grateful we did it, even though we felt it was a little pricey. We stopped on the way home to eat lunch before going to the ruins later. Lunch was… the Health Inspector would probably have a field day. We kicked ourselves for not eating right next to the campsite/ruins area. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Pompeii Ruins

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Tragic findings restored.

After our less than gourmet lunch, we made it back to the campsite. We freshened up a bit, packed up the tent and walked over to the Ruin entrance. They gave us a map and we were instantly overwhelmed by everything there was: this area will take an hour, this area will take two hours, this area if you have four hours. We knew we needed to get the audio guide to learn anything about all there was to see. And honestly, we just wanted to see the bodies. Horrible, we know, but how you can miss it?

There are some very amazing and awesome things about the Pompeii Ruins:

  • You are free to roam and explore a very large part of the area. It’s incredible that visitors can get so up close and personal to the excavated relics. Maybe it’s because of the great number of what they’ve found, but we don’t even recall many “Do Not Touch” signs. That part about the park is amazing.
  • You can peek in and see excavators right at work. Through a clothed fence, we saw archaeologists working on some of the findings (i.e., BODIES).
  • Stray d  ogs. There are beastly dogs just happily frolicking around the park. Some are huge, similar to Cujo, so beware. But it’s a little funny to see that these dogs have decided to inhabit and take over parts of the Ruins. We also wonder who picks up the dog poop?
  • Various water fountains. For being such a gigantic place, it was wonderful seeing water being spewed from (possibly authentic Pompeii?) statue fountains.
  • The fact that incredibly only 47% of the area has been excavated. They still have so much more to find! Apparently, one problem of progress is that Italy is having difficulty finding skilled and competent archaeologists to stay lon
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    Part of the square with Vesuvius in the background.

    g enough because of the city of Pompeii being so…unlivable.

So, besides those five things, it was really cool seeing everything with our own eyes. It’s incredible to see what the human mind can puzzle piece back together. We picked up one audio guide, where Ryann punched in the numbers to listen and then divulge the information to Devin. Unfortunately, the audio guide kind of sucked. It took entirely too long, included sound effects and just wasn’t made for a visitor who didn’t have all day. There were 0 signs posting any sort of information around the Ruins, by the way. It definitely lacks a lot for tourists unless you have a personal tour guide. Our camp site concierge had recommended against the personal tours, so we don’t know which choice is best. Maybe the best bet would be splurging on a highly-reputable and fun guide. Maybe there are college students that provide cheaper tours? We’re still unsure, but we spent maybe an hour and a half overall at the park. It’s sad, because it is one of the most interesting places in the world, so it’s truly unfortunate it’s not managed or organized to the best that it could be.

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