Pompeii, The World’s Most Famous Outdoor Museum

I have fond memories of my visit to Pompeii, Italy. As a child Pompeii was something I’d always wanted to see. And we all know the tragic story of an ancient Roman city wiped out by the volcanic power of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Despite the tragedy, there is no doubt a sense of mystery that has shrouded the area for centuries.

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Pompeii remained hidden under molten rock for 1,500 years until Spanish engineer, Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre helped unearth it in 1748. Many of the objects enveloped in the hardened rock were well-preserved due to lack of air and water. This is what makes Pompeii truly special and unlike many of the other ancient ruins in Italy.

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Furthermore, the ruins of Pompeii are situated in an extremely fertile and lush area (as volcanic land usually is). Just take a look at how green the area surrounding the ruins is.

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Some of the ruins are cordoned off so you cannot get really close, but close enough to see the structures of the ancient buildings.

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The remains of massive columns are evident all over the site – this was once a grand and splendid city with incredible architecture.

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Just for you to get an idea of how wide these columns actually are…

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And don’t forget that Pompeii is really one attraction where tourists flock to from all corners of the globe. So peace and quite cannot be guaranteed!

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You’ll also get to see the remains of a highly-decorated and colourful facade. Just look at the bright colours on the walls and the attention to detail on the mosaic floor…It’s amazing to think about how alive and magical Pompeii must have been prior to the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius.

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I absolutely loved this floor mosaic of a black dog with a little white strip on his snout! Ancient Romans were known for their love of domestic animals and they often featured dogs in mosaics and other decorative elements.

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And as with most ancient Roman cities there’s an amphitheatre of course! This is the only place where you can really sit down and relax on site at Pompeii as there aren’t many places to do so.

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Even this water fountain has been somewhat modernised. Prior to the volcanic eruption in 79AD she spurted water from her mouth and she still does so today!

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Some clay pots once used for food storage pictured below:

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And we all know the very famous image of a man’s body well-preserved throughout the centuries – a man who died lying down and covering his eyes from the lava and volcanic ash.

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During the excavation of the city, plaster was poured into holes in the hardened ash layers. The plaster formations that were created took the shape of the human bodies of those who died during the eruption. The bodies had disintegrated of course but their formation remained in tact in the solidified lava and ash. In fact, most of these plaster casts can be found at the Archaeological Museum of Naples, so if you want to see those, an additional trip to the museum is recommended. There are unfortunately only a few plaster casts of bodies to be found at Pompeii (not nearly enough as I had hoped to see).

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Next, can you guess what these holes in the marble were used for? Clay pots were once placed into the holes and the structure was basically used for food storage (you’ll see ancient clay pots in the environs depicted below too).

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You’ll also get to take a look inside an ancient sauna / spa at Pompeii. Just imagine how intricate and colourful these reliefs once were.

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Even these little guys seemed to have insight into what would happen next. They’re literally holding up the walls of Pompeii.

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I enjoyed my time at Pompeii quite a lot. It’s just one of those attractions you have to see especially if you have an interest in ancient Rome. But to be honest, I enjoyed my time at Ostia Antica near Rome more (this is probably because I saw Ostia Antica first before Pompeii).

My recommendation is that you first see Pompeii and then Ostia Antica later on, otherwise you might be a little disappointed. Of course one shouldn’t really compare, since both archeological sights have a different history. But personally I found Ostia Antica to be a little more aesthetically pleasing and interesting (and a lot less crowded). Nonetheless, both sites are worth the visit and you really should see both as they are complementary, steeped in their own history and make fantastic day trips.

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Elizabeth Joss

Elizabeth Joss is the founder and main writer at The Museum Times. She works as a university lecturer by day and is an avid travel blogger and arts and culture enthusiast by night. Elizabeth started The Museum Times out of the need to give smaller, lesser-known museums more exposure.

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