Saturday, 14 November 2015

Revisiting Pompeii: Why You Should Make the Journey Twice

Pompeii, Italy (Pompeii, Italia) 
Ahh Pompeii, where archaeological dreams are realised. If you're a longtime follower of my blog (hello mum, dad, Finn and Katie) then you'll know that I visited Pompeii two years ago. That didn't stop my enthusiasm for seeing it again. We were in the area, after all, and I loved it so much the first time I wanted a refresher. Also, our roadtrip companion Fabienne had not seen it, and she studied archaeology! At university! And so, we went. 
As in 2013, I purchased an audio guide to be aurally led along the dusty streets and informed about the eating habits of the ancient Romans (I had not forgotten the "pickle made of fish", and I was not disappointed to hear it again). Of course, much of the site was exactly as I had remembered it. The forum had stuck in my mind and being back in the flesh was like being transported into a memory. As we had entered just as the site opened for the morning we were bombarded with a tour group horde that would make the Huns wet themselves, so we skipped ahead a few numbers on the audio guide list to get some fresh air. 
The bath house that had just been opened two years before was still one of my favourite parts of Pompeii for all the details that were still visible. 
Look at that ceiling! Beautifully preserved. We managed to be the only ones in there briefly by fleeing all the tour groups who were gawking over the forum, but barely managed to make it out alive once the throngs pushed their way in. 
What was different were the villas that were open to the public. These change when the archaeological teams are assigned to new areas, so we were able to see abodes that were closed the first time. That's reason number two that you have to revisit!
One of the villas that we were unable to see last time was the best ever! The frescoes were so intact and striking, and can you believe that there was no one else there?! Not a single tour group came to that house, probably because it was off the beaten track. The brothel, on the other hand, was packed and I could barely move without elbowing someone. Sure, the brothel is interesting and you should definitely see it, but you should also see everything else you possibly can! Without a tour group, you can wander as you like and see anything you want with the help of your trusty map (free with audio guide).
Take a gander at this ornate fresco. Honestly, no one else was there! These were some of the best preserved frescoes of the lot! I do have an amusing anecdote about tour guides, though. We overheard one guy going totally off-script (I hope) saying "Now, I will show you a goddess. Nee-keh. Nee-keh! Look! She is a goddess." It didn't stop there, he kept going in that vein for a while. 
So to summarise, what are the three reasons you should visit Pompeii not once, but twice? (And probably more than that?)
1. It might not be open to the public in time due to degradation, government mismanagement and earthquakes! Many of the frescoes are not protected under glass so anyone can damage them. Even when they're not trying to, you can see scrape marks where people's bags have rubbed against the walls and chipped off the ancient plaster. This will happen if it's not protected! I've also nudged a wall on occasion and felt immediately guilty. 
2. They are frequently changing which parts are open or closed for further excavations and restorations, so two visits with a little time between them means more to see! That awesome villa with all the great frescoes wasn't open on our first visit, but I hope it's open on my third!
3. Such a large site can be difficult to fully absorb in one sitting. On both visits we spent much of the day exploring, and by the end of a full day walking and reading and listening and oohing and ahhing you're pretty exhausted. I suggest picking a general circuit on your first trip and then reversing it on your second for this very reason. 
And to finish I will leave you with a few reminders: bring plenty of water, be prepared to walk a lot, don't join a tour group unless you have to, and plan to come back soon y'hear?