Impressions of Italy: Pompeii

After visiting Rome, we headed to the Amalfi Coast but not before taking a side trip to Pompeii.

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It was early morning when we left Rome. (See my previous article on Rome here). We left Rome and headed to Naples by train.  The train ride was about 45 minutes and we passed some very pretty countryside. Once we got off the train in Naples, we headed across the street and got our rental car.  It was a process, and took almost two hours, but after a lot of waiting and having a cappuccino in the cafe next door, we were off to Pompeii.

Pompeii does not disappoint!  For those who may not know much about Pompeii, it was a Roman city that was in the matter of hours on a summer day in 79 C.E., was covered in volcanic ash during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, on which slopes Pompeii is located on.  Thousands died the day Vesuvius erupted, catching most in the daily events of their lives.  Pompeii remained buried under all the ash until the turn of the last century. 

As you enter into Pompeii, near the entrance by the ticket booths, there is a section where there is just space after space with the various artifacts that were found during the excavation.  The artifacts include human remains of the ancient Pompeians who died that day during the eruption of Vesuvius.  And there are a lot of recovered remains, the photograph below is just one of many that can seen among all the amphora and pottery of daily life.  Gives you a chance to remember that people frequented the streets and homes you are about to visit in this deserted ghost town of nearly 2000 years.

The remains of a person who died during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E.

Today much of the town has been uncovered and a number of homes are open for visitors.  You walk down street after street and pop into and out of ancient first century Roman homes and just marvel at the mosaics on the floors and the paintings on the walls. 

One of many Frescos found in the homes in Pompeii, Italy.

One of the things that struck me as we wandered through the ruins was how large of a town this was!  And I could easily see how it was a vibrant city in it’s day. I was also struck by the number of “fast food” diners that the ancient Romans had available to them.  Almost on every corner and block you would pass by a place which had a bar with cutouts for pots for serving food to locals who would drop by for a bit to eat.  

Ancient Roman street restaurant with places to keep food stuffs for sale to those looking to get a bite to eat.

I also found it entertaining (I guess it’s a guy thing), that every now and then you can find a male phallus carved into the stone indicating that you were near a brothel. As Pompeii was a port town, I guess you need to have places for the sailors to unwind and enjoy themselves. 

A carving of a phallus advertising the presence of a brothel (Lupinare) in ancient Pompeii.

To get to Pompeii, we took the train from Rome which was about 45 minutes.  Then we rented a car just across the street from the train station (Hertz). Renting a car in Naples is a process, and it took us around an hour to get the paperwork completed and the car rented. Then we headed down to Pompeii which is right off the E-45.  

Now, we were there in August, and it was hot and miserable.  If you are there in the summer, expect a lot of people. There were times I had to wait for the crowds to move on to take any photographs.  Also bring lots of water, there are places you can buy water and other items, but remember, there is a crowd and long lines. I would suggest going during a cooler time. I’d also suggest that you would need pretty much a full day to visit and do the site some justice.  You do have to purchase a ticket for entrance, but the cost was fair. 

As far as photography is concerned, there are possibilities for some good shots.  But most of your shots are going to be of ruins and ancient buildings, and is more geared towards travel photography than landscape photograph per se. You should have a camera with the capability of shooting good shots with ISOs around 1200 and 2400, especially inside in many of the homes as the light is iffy at best.  If it is sunny, you will find yourself contending with high contrast images, as the limestone reflects a lot of the direct sunlight and the shadows are really dark.  I found that my 24-70mm lens was the lens I used most, with the occasional use of my 70-200mm telephoto for close shots. 

Other Posts in this Series "Impressions of Italy"

Previous Post: Visiting the Eternal City: Rome!
Next Post: Impressions of Italy: The Uffizi and The Academy Museums







David Cote is a landscape and travel photographer who helps aspiring photographers develop the confidence and habits they need to improve their photography skills. If not selling photography at art shows or online, he can be found sharing his love and knowledge of photography with other aspiring photographers.

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