The ancient city of Pompeii, Italy, known as the lost city is an extraordinary place to visit. Work to expose and preserve Pompeii is still ongoing today. Roughly one-third of the ancient city of Pompeii, Italy is still buried. It is believed that it is more important to restore what has already been revealed leaving the remaining area surrounded by the volcanic ash in order to preserve it for generations to come.
What is Pompeii – The Lost City?
Pompeii, an ancient Roman city, was said to be one of the wealthiest parts of Italy. In 79 AD it was completely engulfed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The eruption spewed rocks and ash into the air burying Pompeii in 30 feet of ash and killing 20,000 people. Because of the way Pompeii was buried in ash its existence was lost to history until the 18th century. The city is now an excavation site where everything from plates, tables, paintings and people were preserved by the eruption. The archaeological areas of Pompei are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Temple of Apollo, dedicated to the Greek and Roman god Apollo, was Pompeii’s most important religious building. The temple’s alter and a number of columns remain standing today due to restoration efforts. I found it extremely eerie standing here with Mt. Vesuvius visible in the background. How terrifying it must have been for the people of Pompeii, Italy when the volcano erupted burying them and their entire city.
Where is Pompeii, Italy?
Pompeii is located in southern Italy close to the Bay of Naples. It is located a few miles southeast of Naples at the base of Mt. Vesuvius. Nearby Mt. Etna, located on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, has also had a history of eruptions and destruction to it’s nearby city of Catania. Mt. Etna’s most violent eruption occurred in 1669 creating widespread destruction to the city of Catania. Pompeii is situated a little over 3-1/2 hours south of the historic medieval hill town of Montepulciano. You can read our post on Montepulciano here.
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The Basilica of Pompeii, standing near the west corner of the Forum, is the oldest and most important public building in Pompeii. Built around 78 BC, it is the best example of pre-Roman architecture in Pompeii. The Basilica served an important role in civil and commercial life. Justice was administered here as well as focusing on the economic life of the city.
The Forum was the center of Pompeii’s religious, political and economic life. It was very large and together with the surrounding public buildings could contain all of the inhabitants of Pompeii. The Romans paved the entire Forum with Travertine, a natural stone similar to marble.
One of the many narrow roads leading off the main street in Pompeii, Italy. These small, narrow roads were used to access private homes in town. Because Pompeii was such an old city it had no proper drainage. Overflow from water supplies such as public fountains ran down the streets along with waste water. This continuously running water would have helped to keep the streets clean.
The ancient steps of Pompeii are worn from years of use. When visiting Pompeii one of the things you will notice is the wear on the streets and steps from centuries of use.
An open courtyard or garden surrounded by rows of pillars was known as a peristyle. The central garden would have contained columns, fountains, tables, and statues. Many of Pompeii’s peristyles have been restored to their original settings based on the traces left behind.
Cobblestone street in Pompeii with large stepping-stones. The stones were used by pedestrians to cross the streets without the need to step into the roads which also served as the town’s drainage and sewage system. Horse drawn carts could simply pass between the spaces in the stones.
Interior of a building in Pompeii used as a laundry. Laundry was done at a Fullonica, it consisted of soaping, rinsing and finishing. The tub shown here was likely used for cleaning delicate fabrics or those only lightly soiled. Clothes in need of a deeper cleaning were actually stomped on by workers in a much deeper tub. The walls shown here display remains of decorated plaster but the design is not clear.
Artistic paintings have been uncovered in Pompeii, Italy. This one is at a thermopolium, the equivalent to a modern day café or bar. Hot and cold food was sold from these counters which would have contained terracotta vessels and a heat source below. This counter has a marble surface. At the rear of the bar is fine stucco work embellished with a painting depicting the god of commerce and the god of wine. There are more than 160 thermopolia in Pompeii.
The statue of Apollo located in the Temple of Apollo. The original statue of Apollo dates from 100 BC and was discovered buried and broken into pieces in 1817. The one picture here in the ruins of Pompeii is a reproduction. The original is now in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
It’s hard to image the streets you are walking on were once those of a lively, thriving city that was entirely buried by the eruption of a volcano in 79 AD not to be discovered again until 1738. I have to wonder what will be discovered when the remaining third of the city is excavated.
Pompeii, Italy was truly one of the highlights to our trip to Italy. It is a site that is sometimes overlooked for the more famous attractions in Italy. If you have an opportunity to visit Pompeii I would highly recommend it, you won’t be disappointed!