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Ancient Pompeii Ruins (Day 11)


pompeii_mapBack in the days of middle school and high school I somehow thought it was a swell idea to take Latin instead of one of the other romance languages offered (Spanish, Italian, French). We explored the daily lives of a Roman family in the various editions of Ecce Romani! (Translates to “Look the Romans!”) and of course we touched upon the city of Pompeii. My Latin teacher even provided us with an English recording narrating the letter Pliny the younger wrote about the destruction. It was amazing seeing the site of the volcanic eruption in person! Guess what? This is also listed as a UNESCO World Site! I underestimated how large the actual site was but there’s a giant map of the grounds as you walk in. You could spend an entire day exploring, but it is unfortunately ruled by tour guides! There’s not much signage or support for you to go around at your own pace. Make sure you pack a water bottle and make your bathroom pit stop before hand as you’ll have difficulty finding one on site.

Johnny passed us off to the local tour guide Louisa, who was a tall, smiley, dark haired woman. She had a very cheery personality, however a strange penchant for calling our group her “babies” and “children”. (Keep in mind the demographic of our group was mostly retirees, grandparents, couples. Or some combination of those.) On such a hot day, she also wore jeans and a black cardigan to lead us through the Pompeii ruins for a few hours. To encourage us to keep going under the beating sun, she made a false patronizing promise.

“If you children are good, at the end of the tour we I will get us all some ice cream.”

Maybe she was joking the entire time, but I did not appreciate being deceived! The prices in the main restaurant area were also extremely expensive.

Louisa lead us through the main entrance way while competing in volume with other passionate tour guides (with no Whisper headset microphone) to a shaded area overlooking several columns with an open grassy field. She explained that it was mainly used for gladiatorial combat practice. How exciting!? It was like we were also reliving the dramatized version on the Spartacus TV Show. Those famous gladiators trained hard for 12+ hours a day to be in prime fighting shape for the performance in the theaters and stadiums. The next stop she showed us the “small” and “large” theater. The steps and seating were well preserved that we could easily walk up and down.

It’s amazing to see how well preserved all of the structures remained after the volcanic eruption froze the city in time. One of the prominent features we noticed through the city were holes on the ground. Louisa pointed out they were parking spots for the Romans to hitch their Chariot. There’s also uneven areas that were higher than others with stones. There would be flooding sometimes during the rainier months so shops and houses were elevated from the ground. In addition, there were pedestrian only walkways where chariots were not permitted. Of course no civilization is complete without their own rendition of phallic objects. The symbols on the ground actually directed the citizens and travelers to know where the brothels were located! One of the tour guides felt the need to point this out by a bottle of water on the symbol.

They even had restaurants in the town and Louisa noted that there were ovens and counter tops for patrons to dine. I was started to get very hungry at this point. I can’t tell you how much I sweated on that day. (Poor outfit choice – I look bald! Welp at least I didn’t need to slather on SPF since every inch of my body was covered.) I also decided then that I needed to get a hair cut badly once we returned from our honeymoon. We of course couldn’t visit Pompeii ruins without checking out the preserved bodies. The most haunting one I saw through the stalls was the one of the baby. They also had families and even pets! One of the most interesting stops, was at a wealthier Roman’s house. You could see intricate mosaic on the floor entrance. It took us almost 20 minutes to wait and see this since another tour group was hogging the spotlighted area! Yes it doesn’t look as impressive in the photo… Maybe it was more the anticipation.

Our last stop was the thermal baths! We also had to wait to enter as other tour groups occupied the space. We finally got a break from the beating sun. There were 3 separate rooms for a hot bath, cool bath and I believe a men only lounging area. The Romans were ingenious to figure out how to take advantage of the aqueducts, natural lighting, and dome architecture to conduct heat. I was dripping in sweat at this point so I would have jumped in the thermal baths myself. Louisa continued her ice cream charade even after the last stop to solicit tips. She left us disappointed and ice cream-less so we sought out Gelato in the restaurant area. Horrified by the prices we passed for this location. How sad no ice cream promised and no Gelato.

What a shame that Pompeii has become such a tourist trap altogether. We ordered a quick lunch from the pizza place. They fired up the expensive personal size pizza at €13 in the oven right behind the counter. It wasn’t the tastiest pizza compared to the one from Naples. To satiate our sweet tooth we shared a cannoli. We still had time to kill so Dana bought another hat similar to his own for his father from a street vendor. Afterwards we browsed the gift shop. There were several portions one for expensive artwork and regular trinkets. One of the employees handed us free samples of their flavored liqueur. We loved the melon and chocolate liqueur so we purchased a 2-pack and consumed the rest back at sad excuse for a hotel room.

Overall Pompeii is a must-see if you are interested in the history! Seeing the preserved ancient town is a sight to behold. However, you will need to find a way to schedule a tour or else you be lost. I suppose you could look up tons of guides beforehand to recognize what to look for. The maps are hard to come by so you could also get lost! It’s definitely uncomfortable to walk around in the middle of summer so I would recommend coming here off-season during the cooler months!

Rating: 3/5 ★★★
Average rating mostly due to our annoying and deceptive local tour guide. Plus not impressed with the overly touristy atmosphere. As a reader aptly pointed out Hurculaneum is also another excellent alternative to consider when visiting the ruins as a day trip!

 

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Categories: Review, Travel, YelpTags: , , ,

32 comments

  1. Great post. Lots of good details. I was just there in April it was nice to revisit. I’d recommend posting individual photos- I would love to see them and on my phone they look too small.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this. Maybe I’ll add this on my bucket list!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I first learned about Pompeii when I was pretty little. Ever since I knew that you could actually go and see it, I’ve wanted to go. Thanks for the tip about joining a tour or getting a guide. I would probably try to do it on my own, but I don’t want to end up lost!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re very welcome Brianna! Yeah I think there are many options of tour guides to choose from. I think the ones with the headsets are helpful since the group next to us had a guy that seemed like he was straining to shout out all of the facts to his group of 15!

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  4. Pompeii is on my travel bucket list! I can relate to the crowd and sweat 😁 I visited Rome in summer. I think I hardly got a picture without a crowd in the background

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    • Yeah tell me about it I had to use some very clever cropping to get rid of all the other tourists haha. I guess the trick for some other people is to wake up very early too for the photo-ops! The hotel we stayed at in Rome unfortunately had terrible AC (along with a slew of other bad experiences) as well haha. Hope you get to visit Pompeii! 😀

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  5. Thank you for sharing this interesting experience in Pompeii, I am now adding this to my list when i get the chance! Thanks for the great tip as well to come during off-season 🙂

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  6. Visiting Pompeii sounds amazing but I wonder if there is an off-season to avoid the crowd. I guess it’s the main inconvenience for visiting such a unique place!

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  7. Pompeii must be unforgettable – but I wonder if there is an off-season to avoid the crowd. I guess that’s the inconvenience of a site as unique as this.

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  8. I love Pompeii! It was one of the biggest highlights of my RTW trip, and I thought it completely lived up to all the bucket list hype. It’s such an incredibly large attraction – it can be easy to forget that Pompeii was an entire thriving city when it was destroyed. I wound up not having time to see some of the other ruins in the area. Apparently Herculaneum (or Ercolano in Italian) is even more well preserved!

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    • That’s amazing! I’m so glad to hear that it was one of the highlights :D. How long did you spend there/did you also have a tour guide? Oh wow that is awesome to note I just looked up Hurculaneum and saw an article comparing the two. Apparently it was damaged differently and the town was more affluent so there are more complete building structures but not as many of the preserved plastered bodies! Quite fascinating. Thanks for sharing!! Did you get a chance to visit Hurculaneum as well?

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  9. I learnt Latin at school too, although most of it I’ve forgotten 😂 I’d love to visit Pompeii, it looks like somewhere that would definitely fire your imagination…with or without a tour guide! Imagine the place filled for a gladiator tournament, it would be wonderful! And I’m sure you’d get better gelato outside of the tourist areas anyway, so I really hope you didn’t miss out?!

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    • Haha I barely remember any Latin at this point either! Except maybe quid facit or ubi est! Yeah it’s definitely amazing how well preserved the grounds were AND they’re constantly excavating new sections! Yeah thankfully we found other Gelato options on our trip that were much better. Our favorite to date was still from Amalfi!

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  10. I was a bit of a Latin nerd in middle school, and this post is totally bringing it back! How incredible would this be before the tourist traps?! It sounds like a cool place, but I’m sorry about the tour guide :/

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    • Aw do you still use Latin at all these days? I think I’ve forgotten most of the phrases I learned. Did you guys also use the Ecce Romani text books? Yeah I think going in a less popular tourist season can also help! Ah well I think the Tour Guide was just trying to be funny but I was overheating and hangry after 2.5 hours of walking around baking in the sun!

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  11. Your right that it’s amazing how the structures remained so well preserved after the volcanic eruption. That’s hilarious that there were symbols on the ground to direct citizens and travelers to the brothels! Thanks for an interesting post.

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  12. Hi 🙂 I nominated you for the Blogger Recognition Award! Congrats http://www.thelostromanian.com/blogger-recognition-award/

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  13. Thanks for taking us along on your journey! My parents have visited Pompeii, and I hope I get to as well. I’m sure that seeing the preserved bodies is somewhat emotional. I can’t imagine the terror in those final hours.

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    • It was my pleasure ;D, I’d definitely go back in a cooler less crowded month. I hope you get the chance to go as well! Right it’s so amazing to see their last expression preserved and what they were doing. There was even a dog mid-action in one of the cases!

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  14. I would LOVE to visit Pompeii!
    Your photos make it look amazing despite all the sweat and tourists. Maybe it’d be better to visit in winter!?

    Also, it is sooo cool that you were able to learn latin in school. I would have loved that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes it’s an amazing place hope you get a chance to stop by! Thank you ;). I tried to just pick the best photos haha. It was quite a challenge being short and the location being quite crowded at times. Latin was fun but not as useful as I hoped today. I also took 1 year of French and can barely remember anything.

      I tried replying to your Goat Mountain post reply but for some reason I’m getting an error.
      “Oh ouch $100 per person is quite steep. Was it an especially long zip line? I think the only other time I’ve done zip lining was actually on a cruise and it was around the $80 price point. If only they had some promotions! Good to know though! “

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      • I think the reason the zip line was sooo pricey is because it is so long, it basically takes you onto a different mountain…then you climb up a tower to get enough height to go back the other way…

        It does look amaaazing though.

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