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Day 4: Pompeii

Our destination for today was the famous ruined city of Pompeii. Pompeii, which is situated about 30km south of Naples, is easy to visit for a day trip as one of the main entrances to the site is located next to the station of Pompei Scavi on the Circumvesuviana train line.  When we got to the station in Naples this morning, we therefore caught one of the same trains as yesterday in the direction of Sorrento, with the tickets being even cheaper this time (a mere €2.80!) because we weren't going quite as far. The train journey to Pompei Scavi is supposed to take around 35 minutes, though our train took slightly longer because it was temporarily delayed by a passenger being taken ill.

As soon as you step off the train at Pompei Scavi you are confronted by a bunch of stalls with people trying to sell tours and tickets. From reading the guidebook in advance, I knew that these were all 'unofficial' and that the actual entrance tickets are only on sale at the ticket office inside the main gate. It costs €13 for a normal entrance ticket; the touts outside seemed to be charging €15 for whatever they were selling.

Having successfully avoided being ripped off, we walked through the gate and joined the ticket queue. I'd read that queues at Pompeii could be quite long, but actually we only had to wait for five minutes or so before we got to a ticket counter. We had no problem purchasing tickets but we obviously failed somewhere because we realised somewhat belatedly that every other tourist in Pompeii except from us had also acquired a helpful free map! Initially I didn't think not having a map would be too much of a problem, but it turned out I had no concept of quite how enormous Pompeii is.

As soon as we'd finished buying the tickets, we turned around and got our first view of the ruins.


After passing through the ticket control, the route into the site leads up this rather steep path.


Soon we were inside and exploring the first of many ruined houses....


...and admiring our first mosaics.


Pompeii is in a really beautiful location.


Our attention was soon caught by this striking statue, which is situated in what was the Temple of Venus, built on a panoramic viewpoint at the edge of the town.


Around the corner from here is Pompeii's visitor centre, which featured a bookshop, some pottery exhibits and an audiovisual display.... but no leaflets or maps!


We watched the audiovisual display though and it was full of informative details about life in Pompeii, which was originally founded in the sixth or seventh century BC, becoming part of the Roman Empire from the fourth century BC onwards. 


It was in 79AD that Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius. The volcano constantly appears on the horizon as you walk around the town (and the cloudy weather today made it look quite menacing!)


In the absence of a map, we decided to try and follow the (rather sparse!) signposts towards the main sites which had been mentioned in the audiovisual display. Our first stop was the basilica.


This was one of the most important public buildings in Pompeii, because it was home to the courthouse.


At the far end of the basilica you can walk down into another of the most important areas; the forum.


The forum was huge....


...and parts of it are still amazingly well-preserved.


At the far end are the remains of the Temple of Jupiter.


The forum seemed to be the prime location for tour groups to congregate, so after a while we decided to strike out onto a quieter side street on our own.


We had no idea where we were going, but with views like this it didn't really seem to matter :)


It didn't take long until we had lost most of the other tourists, and as we walked along we were able to get fascinating glimpses inside the ruined houses.


What we would perhaps have realised more quickly if we'd had a map was that some of the small side streets are dead ends; either because the town comes to an end or because certain sites are closed of for restoration or further excavation. So after a while we had to turn around and retrace our steps.


Next time we chose a slightly wider street.


Some of the grander houses were located on this street.


We explored the garden of this one, which is known as the House of the Faun.


It got its name from this statue of a dancing faun, which is in its grounds.


More impressive than the faun though are the mosaics.


Especially this one, which depicts Alexander the Great in battle.


Once we'd finished exploring the House of the Faun, we set off down another side road. We were trying to find Pompeii's amphitheatre, which we knew was somewhere on the far side of the town.


We passed lots of interesting buildings on the way...


...and concluded that Romans must all have been quite narrow if they were able to fit through archways like this.


In places we could see the remnants of some sort of signs or graffiti on the walls, which was quite exciting.


We walked for what felt like miles and found no trace of the amphitheatre, but we did find the house of Octavius Quartio.


This house was really fascinating because you could see the remains of the painted walls.


Some of them were really bright and colourful...


...while others seemed to depict elaborate battle scenes.


The house had an impressive garden too.


We emerged back onto one of the main streets and continued walking. Eventually we caught sight of the amphitheatre on the horizon :)


It was made of a very dark sort of stone, but it was impressively big...


...especially once you were inside.


We walked around the edge of the amphitheatre...


...and found the Palestra.


This is the athletics field where the men of Pompeii would have come to keep fit. It is surrounded by some impressive porticoes.


We were near the edge of the town now and we could see the more modern town of Pompei in the distance.


We'd been walking around Pompeii for around four hours now (it really is enormous!) and so we were pretty tired and hungry. But before we left there was one more must-see sight that I wanted to try and find, so we set off through the streets once again.


I was looking for a building known as the House of the Tragic Poet. Who he was and why he was tragic I'm not sure, but the house is home to one of the most famous mosaics in Pompeii.


We knew it was somewhere to the north of the forum, so we retraced our steps to there.


Eventually we found the right house, and this is the mosaic. The text says "Cave canem" which is Latin for "Beware of the dog" xD I would certainly want to beware of a dog that looks as scary as this one!


By this point we had seen all the things I definitely wanted to see, though probably still only a fraction of everything there is to see at Pompeii. I would definitely come back (although next time with a picnic and a map!) to explore more :)


Edited by Clare

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