Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Italy with a university group on a guided art history trip. I had not visited Italy before, so I decided to visit some additional locations while I was there.
Pompeii was the first excursion on my schedule. The high-speed train between Rome and Naples was an easy and affordable way to visit this fascinating site for a quick day trip. I had never taken a train in Europe and I was surprised at just how simple it was to navigate. TrenItalia was on time and didn’t require as much advance check-in time as I had thought. After arriving around 8:15 a.m. for my 9:00 a.m. departure, I realized that an arrival about 20 minutes prior to the departure would have been fine. It was nice to not have quite so much to deal with in the way of security checks and packing restrictions. Traveling onboard the train also allowed time to pass by quickly — I was able to relax, enjoy the scenery from Rome to Pompeii, catch up on my email, and even get some reading done during the hour-long journey.
The ruins at Pompeii were fascinating, and I enjoyed the guided excursion even more than I expected. I was surprised by how easy it was to imagine life in the city in 79 A.D. I found the ruins to be more complete, and definitely more extensive than the others I have seen. From the bathhouse to the bakery, to the parlors, and the gardens of the homes — I could really visualize the routines of daily life so much better than I ever anticipated.
There was much more detail surviving than I expected, with mosaics in the floor and on the walls still visible. I saw one example of a floor in a room that was completely tiled with a decorative mosaic border that is reminiscent of the sea. Florenzia, my guide from Absolute Italy, explained everything so well that it really helped to paint the pictures of daily life in the area.
Experiencing Pompeii helped me to learn about the daily life of the Romans that lived here centuries ago. I easily envisioned the horses and carts driving through the streets – there are even still existing ruts for the wheels, and there are white reflecting stones still embedded to help make your way in the dark. It was natural to imagine people on foot stopping at a fountain for a drink of water and conversation. There are elevated stepping stones in the roads that are were used as crosswalks because the streets were also used as the drainage channels. I wonder just how many people before me have walked these same streets.
As someone that enjoys history, I usually am excited to see architecture that is over 100 years old. In Pompeii I was able to drink from a fountain that is nearly 2,000 years old. I felt so much of the site’s legendary past while visiting the vast ruins, and had a sense of wonder at the sheer number of people who have come before me.
Although the main purpose of my trip to Italy was to learn art history with a university group, the impressions of some of the other historic places that I experienced in Italy will resonate with me for quite some time. I would encourage anyone in Rome to take the time for a guided day trip to Pompeii so that you can experience the same discoveries of history.