Pompeii has always exerted a special influence on me. The sudden destruction, the charred remains, the mountain-volcano waiting to errupt again, have made me aware of the volatility of life and at the same time provided a link to the past that I always wanted to explore. In this post I will trace some of my steps in Pompeii, and then to Herculaneum (Ercolano), the less known buried town.
The city of Pompei is not easy to visit. There are busy spots where people are overflowing, and the quiet spots, where you can enjoy the site. One of the them is the cemetery road. As if the visitors want to leave the dead in their peace, when the whole city is dead. Apparently, one part is more dead than the other.
But this is the place where the dead can be alive, as in Hanhold’s dellusions (Gradiva, a novel by W. Jensen). Hanhold is a young archaeologist who comes to Pompei and has these visions of a woman resembling “Gradiva” walking the empty streets of Pompei during the night. After reading Jensen’s novel, Freud wrote one his best texts “Delusion and Dream in Jensen’s Gradiva”.
In any case, were Hanhold with use today, he would be chasing his female dream figure “Gradiva” in one of these streets that take you to the cemetery of Pompeii.
The busy streets of Pompei are literally packed with visitors.
Bacchus was very popular in the city where people knew how to have a good time. This fresco is outside a tavern.
Paintings were very popular in Pompei. A lot of artists were trained by the Greeks. This one is inside one of the houses of Pompei.
There are some spectacular villas all over the city, with gardens that look like this. This is in the middle of the city!
The most spectacular of these villas, in terms of frescos is the Villa of the Mysteries.
These paintings are powerful and colourful! They give you a totally different pespective of life and arts in the Greco-Roman world.
Overall, the site is huge, busy to the extreme and requires multiple visits for the visitor to absorb and feel the environment. Not an easy task, considering that the heat can be severe during the day.
Leaving the colourful crouds and the busy streets of Pompei, it is imperative to visit the sleepy city of Ercolano, a few kilometers northwest.
After driving on the fantastic A1 which is like a ditch with many narrow lanes with cars doing well over 100 km/hour in all lanes, I Arrived in the town of Ercolano, which is a rather depressing town built on top of a hill, looking over the Naples Bay. I followed the signs to “Scavi” and found myself in an empty parking lot, from which I walked one kilometer in narrow streets in order to get to the netrance of the Herculaneum site. It is worh every meter of it!
Ercolano is an oasis of tranquility after Pompei. It was a smaller and wealthier city than Pompeii. Today is much lesser known in the world. Which explains the fact that there were in al about 20 visitors compared to the thoussands of Pompeii.
Here you can really sense the past. The visitors are scattered and quiet. The place exhumes serenity and is much better preserved compared to Pompei. The structures are almost intact in places, and you have the feeling that you trully are in another age.
The place is so inviting that you want to sit down and get a cup of coffee!
The painted columns are my favourites!
The streets in Ercolano are narrower than the ones in Pompei. The environment is more intimate, and really takes you many many centuries back !
This wonderful mosaic of Neptune and Amphitrite is a fine example of art in the first century AD.
I left Herculaneum with a sense of true discovery and inner peace.