Walking along the cobbled streets of Pompeii, one can only imagine the stories that each stone could tell. There would most certainly be countless happy stories and some sad ones… But all of them would fade away before the grand tragedy that struck this amazing place in all its glory. Assaulted by thousands of tourists each day, the site might fool anyone and it could look like a just a magnificent ruins complex. But a trip to Pompeii should also enable a deeper understanding of why this place is so important and interesting. Beyond archaeology and geography, it is evidence to what extent a natural disaster can impact human life. It is truly sad that a great tragedy might have given us the best chance to see history come alive and it took such a heavy death toll in order to show us the reality of life two millennia ago.
My trip to Pompeii started out among the crowds of travelers coming from all around the world. They pour through the ancient streets and invade each of the most famous attractions as soon as the doors open in the morning. It is hard to connect with the place with so many people around, so the wisest thing one could do right away is to get away and find the side alleys and less known gardens. Even during the busiest days of the season, there are still secret corners and less assaulted attractions where one can still get in touch with the soul of Pompeii. My trip to Pompeii lasted for about 3 or 4 hours, walking around without a plan or map. I knew the basic layout of the site and I also knew it was huge… You can literally explore for a full day and they are still unearthing some parts of the ancient city. But with phones and fancy cameras at hand, always on the lookout for scenes to capture, it is easy to forget how this fascinating destination came to be. Best thing a traveler to Pompeii could do is to close their eyes as often as possible and imagine… Then things come alive and you can almost see and feel the life of the city before tragedies struck.
Roman citizens getting on with their lives, merchants and slaves, aristocrats and craftsmen, warriors and children with their destinies cut short in the fateful year of 79 A.D. Closing your eyes again could ignite the cauldrons of Hell and see the top of Mount Vesuvius beginning to smoke and spark. Imagine the terror of the people of Pompeii as ashes and lava started covering their city and homes, some never having time to realize those were the final days. It was truly one of the biggest tragedies of ancient times. Yet it is so hard to grasp this today as thousands of people are always invading what used to be a huge cemetery. I imagine that only night brings true peace at Pompeii, with the shadow of the Vesuvius still looming under the moonlight. Visiting Pompeii is a truly insightful cultural experience, showing one of the most real and evocative images of ancient life in the Roman Empire. The web of cobbled streets, the temples, theaters, workshops and houses give the best history lesson in the world, one where you can see and feel everything. It is like the never ending saga of a city that is trapped in a time loop, reliving the same few hours of a tragedy over and over.
The site of Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located a short distance from Naples, at the foot of the Vesuvius. From Naples, it is fairly easy to take a trip to Pompeii, with the local Circumvesuviana train line stopping at Pompeii Scavi on route to Sorrento. Tickets are very cheap or there is also a card that offers free transportation in the Campania region. Entrance to the archaeological site of Pompeii costs 15 Euros (or free with the Unico Campania Card), while the opening hours are from 9 am to 7 pm (5 pm off-season). Last entrance is always one and half hours before closing time. Nevertheless, you should plan for at least 3 hours of exploring in order to truly understand the significance of the destination. Among the most famous and interesting highlights of Pompeii, make sure to include the Forum, Amphitheater, Large Theatre, Odeon, Large Palaestra, Forum Boarium, Villa Imperiale, Temple of Isis, Temple of Jupiter, Central Baths, Sanctuary of Venus, Basilica, House of the Faun, House of the Tragic Poet, House of the Vettii, Macellum, Forum Baths, House of the Large Fountain, Villa of the Mysteries, Villa of the Large Fountain, House of the Sailor and many others.