Monte Vesuvio and Pompeii

Day 4 – Monte Vesuvio and Pompeii

Daily Wrap-Up

One Word
  • Barb: Antique
  • Mike: Vesuvio
  • Jen: Craftmanship
Two Words
  • Barb: Memory jogging
  • Mike: Decorative brickwork
  • Jen: Colorful marble
Three or Four Words
  • Barb: Mosaic tile floors
  • Mike: Irregular mosaic tiles
  • Jen: Feast for the imagination
One Sentence
  • Barb: Pompeii opens a window on the lives of the ancients.
  • Mike: I want to travel back in time and witness a day in the life of Pompeii before the eruption.
  • Jen: I walked in the footsteps of ancient Romans.
Mt. Vesuvius and the Forum in Pompeii

Vesuvio (Mt. Vesuvius) and the Forum in Pompeii. (Jen and Barb)

Today’s themes: Time, Everyday life, Craftsmanship

I confess I knew very little about Pompeii prior to reading about Roman history and watching two classes from The Great Courses in preparation for our visit. The tragic story of Pompeii is riveting. It was a resort town. People came for the baths, i.e., hot springs, I presume. The baths were the first structures built in the 4th century BC.

In 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted. People didn’t even know it was a volcano, it had been dormant so long. Gases killed Pompeii residents and visitors, and then ash buried them and the city.

In the mid 1700s a woman wanted to have a well dug. When workers emerged from the well with statues and ceramic artifacts, she called in historians and scientists. The science of archaeology was born, and Pompeii was rediscovered.


Pompeii was built more than 2,000 years ago. The US isn’t 250 years old. There is nothing in my experience that compares to the time frame of 2,000+ years ago. It’s hard for me to fathom that length of time. I find it overwhelming. I know that there are certain universal human thoughts and feelings, and I try to imagine those in that time period. It’s fun, but of course I’m only guessing, and I want to know, not just guess.

Pompeii Bath

The baths were the first things built on the site of Pompeii, so they are the oldest, built around 300-something BC.

Everyday Life

Some of the most evocative artifacts are the plaster casts of people. On that fateful August day in AD 79, the sky was dark, the sea was rough (no escaping by boat), and the air was full of gas and ash. People collapsed and died, then were buried (preserved) by ash. Their bodies disintegrated. Archaeologists found hollow cavities filled with bones.

They discovered they could use the hollow cavities as molds, fill them with plaster, and get the shapes of the people as they had died. The models are haunting. They hammer home the final experience of these people, and they make the people of the time more real to me, feel more similar to me.

Plaster person of Pompeii sitting

A plaster person of Pompeii sitting.

Plaster Person of Pompeii lying down

A plaster person of Pompeii in an eternal slumber.

The remains of the buildings, the roads with ruts from wagon wheels, and the paintings and artifacts help me imagine the everyday lives of these people. We watched a little girl pick up pebbles in the road, and I easily envisioned her in a tunic and sandals.

Pompeii Marble Serving Counter

Individual houses didn’t have kitchens. People would get cooked meals from vendors. I imagine this might be the shop of a food vendor with a stove behind the counter and giant ceramic pots built into the counter. On the other hand, those pots would be impossible to clean. What do you think this might be? There were a bunch of places with this kind of counter.

Wagon Ruts on Pompeii Road

This is a Pompeii Road. People walked on it and wagons drove on it. The big stones in the center served as stepping stones for walkers, so they could avoid road muck, and the wagons rolled through the spaces between the rocks. See the ruts? Clever, eh?


The beauty and endurance of the stone- and brickwork inspire awe. The engineering of the huge structures is impressive, and the time taken to carve beautiful details and decorate with extensive tile mosaics commands respect. These are not made-in-China, cheap, disposable things.

Mosaic tile floor in Pompeii

Tiny ceramic tiles carefully placed. I especially like the irregular shapes of the tiles and how they work so well together.

I want to live in a world where these things are valued as they were obviously valued then. I want to make things like this, things that cannot be rushed, things that take time and care and skill to make.

I love this place!

The Basilica in Pompeii

The Basilica in Pompeii. They used plaster-covered bricks for the pillars. I like how the bricks form scallops.

Categories: Italy, Travel

6 replies »

  1. I’m a little surprised that you love it there–it’s so different from the wide open spaces in Alaska, which I know you love. I’m thrilled, though, that you’re having such fun. Ken pours over every post, nodding, chuckling, and saying things like, “Yep. She’s got that right!” He’s re-living his days there through you. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am loving the visit–and the Pompeii ruins in particular–but I prefer living in AK, for sure. So far, the only place I can even imagine living is on one of the terraced farms along the Amalfi Coast.

  3. Love it Jen! Love it all! I’ve been to the Amalfi coast years ago, staying in Positano for a handful of days. Your trip is bringing back such good memories. Also, I just love the blog format and pictures. I could use some help making mine more professional and attractive. Could use your help, maybe?!

  4. Did you walk the Sentiero Degli Dei while you were in Positano, Amy? What did you do there?

    I’m happy to talk blog with you, too. I’ve set up a number of them now. I really like the blog arena.