Napoli, Pompei and Sorrento
We were picked up at the hotel by a taxi at 7 o'clock - Italian time that is 7.30 European time. We went to Naples (Napoli) by bus, where we had a sightseeing. The picture shows Santa Chiara Monastery.

Naples was founded about 600 B.C. by Greek colonists. During that period the Greeks had difficulty in providing food for their population. Pretty much the same way Northern America was populated from Europe in the 19th century. Because of the deficit of women in Greece, only men were sent out. Then they had to either buy or steel their wives from the local tribes. This first foundation was called Palaepolis; at a later date further colonists from Cuma made a new settlement beside this ancient village and called it Neapolis, the new city. The city retained its Greek traditions, customs and language for many centuries after its conquest by the Roman about 320 B.C.

For the entire duration of the Roman Empire the city was celebrated as a rich and elegant cultural centre, where the Roman emperors and aristocracy came to spend the summer months in their sumptuous villas along the Posillipo coast and as far as Sorrento on one side of the bay.

Naples regained its independence under the Dukes of Naples from 763 to 1139. In 1504 Naples and Sicily together became a province of the Spanish kingdom and were ruled by a Spain for 200 years. After the Garibaldi liberation and the subsequent unification of Italy, the people of Naples voted for the annexation of Naples into the newly estabilished Kingdom of Italy.

Then we drove along the beautiful coastline along the bay of Naples and had a glimps of The Isle of Capri. Next time we have to go there.
Let us start with some history, before entering the city. Pompei was founded on an area created by a prehistoric lavaflow near the Sarno river, not far from the sea.

The city was founded by Greek immigrants, who ruled over the Gulf of Naples. Then the area was dominated by the Etruscans (525-474). After their defeat, the city again was subjected to the rule of the Greeks (474-425).

The struggle for supremacy in the territory of Campania was resolved by another civilization, that of Samnites who came down from the mountains of the Sannio regions. The archaeological excavations have revealed a number of buildings, of Sannitic type, as well as various sculptural and pictorial works referable to the same period.

For more than 3 centuries Pompei remained under their influence, until the end of the III century when the Roman conquered Campania region. Pompei at first was declared "socia" of Rome and it maintained its own institutions and language, then in the year 80 BC. became a Roman colony with the name of "Colonia Veneria Cornelia Pompeii". From then Pompei was a city with Roman language, customs, architecture, political and administrative life.

In 62 A.D. a violent earthquake struck the Campania region. Pompei was seriously damaged, but the city was economically strong and flourishing and this permitted its quickly reconstruction. Few years later, on 2 August 79 A.D. mount Vesuvious suddenly began to erupt.

During 3 days and night the city was completely buried by an enormous mass of volcanic ash and small pumice stones. The same happened to a couple of other cities in the neighbourhood. A detailed descriptions of the eruption was supplied by Plinius the elder, who died during the catastrophe (it is said, that "couriosity killed him"). Of these victims - approx. 2.000 out of 22.000 inhabitants died from suffocation - a tangible and gruesome record remains. The space left by the corpses found was filled by liquid plaster. Most corpses have been moved to the museum in Naples.

Faune's home In 1748, under the rule of Charles of Borbone, the excavations revealed the most part of the public and private buildings as the Forum and the House of the Faune (picture). Today, three fifths of the city have been brought to light.

The city of Pompei form a circuit of over 3 km. defended by a number of gates. They provide direct access to the main thoroughfares of the town. Within this circuit of walls Pompei discloses a town plan which is substantially of Roman type.

The heart of the city was the Forum, a large rectangular space surrounded by a double colonnade and a number of important public buildings.

Even if it was situated towards the west and not actually in the center of the town, it was the area in which all the commerce, economic and politic activities were made.

Here was also the Basilica, an elegant great building probably built in the 2nd century BC, where private and public justice was administered. It was divided onto three aisles by a series of robust columns with a portico and a podium for the presiding magistrate.

In this wide area there were also the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Jupiter and the Macellum, a covered market built during the imperial period, seat of commerce with various trading-stalls distributed along its four sides.

Temple of Jupiter

Pompei was a very fertile land: the gardens were famous for their vegetables, grapevine, olives, honey and "spelta" a special type of wheat which permitted two harvests a year. Another trade place were the Building of Eumachia, priestess of Venus, seat of the "Fullones" corporation, used for the auction of wool, garments and other clothes product.

With the passage of time, the center of business and the new flourishing civic nucleus came to be transferred to Via dell'Abbondanza, a street which starts out from the Forum and cuts through the town from west to east to the Porta Salerno. The street was characterized by a series of shops and house along its course: the Thermopolion of Asellina was a shop that preserve intact its counters and amphorae for the pouring out of drinks. Today you see amphoras meant to contain wines from different areas as Cyprus, Crete etc.

Along the "Abbondanza" road were many pubs and eating place even bread stores with big cone millstones (see picture) pushed by mules and slaves for the production of flour and bread and "garum" stores, a favourite dried fish sauce made from tunafish. Moreover there were many little artisan stores scattered all over the city.

Thermal baths had great importance in the every day life: the Forum thermae, the stabian ones and the central ones were contained the "calidarium" (hot bath), the "tepidarium" (warm bath) and the "frigidarium" (cold bath); some other rooms served as dressing rooms. The largest baths were the Stabian Baths, built in the Samnite period and reconstructed in the Imperial period. The stucco decoration, dating from the Flavian period, is some of the finest surviving.

Body care was continued in the "Grande Palestra" a huge rectangular area designed for gymnastic exercises. It measured over 100 metres along each side. A large pool was situated at its centre.

Close by is the great elliptic Anfiteatro, where the gladiator games were helt. Built in 80 BC: it could accommodate up to 12.000 spectators.
Plays were held in the Large and in the Small theatres. The first, which it dated from the Hellenistic period (200-150 B.C.) had a capacity of 5000 spectators and was used for classical performance, comedies and tragedies; in the Small Theatre (Odeon, built between 80-75 B.C) were held musical auditions and mime performances.

A rich variety of houses, architectural styles and the utilization of space help us to reconstruct the organaization and the domestic life.

A typical roman house had a rectangular plan of variable width.. The Vestibulum is the entrance way. It led into the Fauces thorough which one passed into the Atrium, a rectangular or square space with the Impluvium, a central cistern into which the rain water drained from the roof.

The bedrooms constituted the Cubicola, while the Tablinium were a meeting place for the family at the end of the entrance hall. We saw a villa with 6 bedrooms, besides rooms om first floor for slaves.

Very often privet bathhouses were added with separate rooms for the Frigidarium, Tepidarium and Calidarium.

In the course of the years the building became more and more complex. They were enriched by warm and brilliantly coloured decorations with mythologic, heroic and fantastic subjects. The many houses of remarkable beauty include the House of the Vettii, one of the most interesting examples of a rich merchant's house, while the Villa of Mysteries is perhaps the most important building in the whole of Pompeii. Its most interesting feature is a cycle of paintings dating from the 1st century B.C. which decorate the walls of one of the rooms in the centre of the house. The frescos into the House of Vettii, House of Venus and in the Mistery Villa are beautiful examples of these decorations.

Before going back to Rome we drove along the most beautiful coastline of the world (?) and made a short stop in Sorrento. The ride back took place in thunder and lightning. We were beginning to fear, that Vesuvio and Jupiter again had become angry with the people. But although Birgit got sick for several hours in the bus, we managed to reach Hotel Kennedy. I think, that visiting Pompei was the greatest experience we had on this trip to Italy.

One day, after we had returned to Denmark, we were telling Jørgen, a collegue of Birgit of the standard of living in Pompei (you know beautiful houses, running water, heated houses etc). Jørgen, who has been working in underdeveloped countries for some years, said that even today 2.000 years later most of the world's population were worse off than the people of Pompei (not considering the slaves of course).