06 Sep Visiting Pompeii
We did a lot of cool things in Rome, but both of us agree that the best thing we did in Italy was our Pompeii tour.
I was fascinated by the tragic history of Pompeii, by stories of people fleeing the volcanic hail from Vesuvius, many unwittingly running out the gate straight into the path of the volcano. Many survivors went back the day after the eruption to look for relatives, only to be engulfed by poisonous gases and killed. One story that particularly stuck with me was that of two bodies found entwined by the back door of a house– one had been wearing a gold ring, clutching money and a silver key; had they been overcome by smoke as they struggled to escape?
It’s hard not to conjure images of ground zero or people running from the Asian tsunami as you walk around the ruins, the outline of Vesuvius looming above you. Especially haunting are the skeletons of victims, encased in plaster in the exact positions they fell – one man with his arm shielding his face from debris. You can just make out teeth, finger bones and part of a skull when you look closely.
What also amazed us about our visit to Pompeii was just how well the city was preserved; you could walk along the high streets and see where the shops and houses had stood on either side, you could sit in the theatres, visit the markets and the public baths. You can see just how similar Pompeii was to our cities, how people lived, worked and socialised; what they ate and how they organised their lives. To visit Pompeii is to understand just how similar societies are, even set so many years apart.
One of the saddest and most disturbing parts of our Pompeii tour, for me, was seeing the red light district. Female slaves, some only children were brought into brothels to service men and the sailors who frequently docked in Pompeii. You can make out the phallic symbols carved into paving stones directing men towards the brothels; inside which there are pictures on the walls of all the ‘services’ men could buy and tiny rooms with stone beds inside where women were forced to work. Many of these women would die from sexually transmitted diseases or during childbirth; the average life expectancy for women back then was 29, while men lived to around 40. It really was the ancient version of sex trafficking – something that many women and children still suffer today.
Our visit to Pompeii stuck in my mind for days afterwards and has inspired me to read more about ancient Rome and the history of Pompeii – it was definitely well worth the three hour bus journey.
Cost of Pompeii tickets – entrance to Pompeii cost €11 (£8.50) per person. The cost of our bus trip, plus tour guide was €49.50 (£39) each. You can also book tours online for Pompeii. You can find out more about how much we spent on our two week trip to Rome here.
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