Italy - Pompeii and the Bay of Naples
The explosive eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 devastated lives and livelihoods throughout the Bay of Naples. It also preserved for posterity the evidence of those lives - of ordinary people who were caught in an extraordinary disaster.
Instead of being tidied away, worn out, disposed of, recycled or built over, their private possessions, dwellings and even their mortal remains have been preserved at one particular moment to provide a snapshot of life nearly 2000 years ago. Here lie unique examples of Roman culture from a time when the relatively new Roman Empire was at its most vigorous, with a physically and socially mobile population expressing wealth and status in an astonishing variety of ways. For three hundred years, since excavations began at the beginning of the 18th century, a picture of how people lived and died here has been slowly emerging. The story of these excavations is the history of archaeology itself.
The very first Bare Bones Tour we devised was Bare Bones Pompeii – it is a programme which is perfect for this approach. We stay in a hotel in the modern town of Pompeii, within easy walking distance of the site, the Circumvesuviana Railway, which makes transport around the Bay of Naples simple, and the main square of the town which has lots of restaurants and trattorie to choose from.
This part of Italy has a character all its own, and it is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in its exuberant approach to life, whilst always having companions with whom to share the experience (if you so choose). The Guide Lecturers always offer their company for dinner for those who want this, and there is always a different group of people setting out together to see where the best dinner is to be had that night, and discussing what they have seen that day. The next day there is much swapping of experiences and suggestions about where to go next.
The archaeology, it goes without saying, is beyond compare. Even though parts of Pompeii and Herculaneum have been open to the elements for decades, and in some cases centuries, the preservation is remarkable, and the sense of lives lived and lost very tangible. New work is being carried out all the time; houses are closed for restoration and then reopened in a gloriously renovated state. New excavations and surveys are ongoing, and allow more insights into how the infrastructure of the Roman Empire and individual citizens worked in the 1st century AD. It is a wonderful tour, and the treasures of the museum in Naples are really glorious.
Walk from hotel into the ancient city of Pompeii and spend the whole day on foot here. About two-thirds of the 66 ha town has been excavated, including the complete wall circuit. No other site so vividly illustrates the reality and dimensions of a Roman town. Buildings still stand which were damaged by a devastating earthquake in AD62, before being shaken and buried by events in August AD79 and then excavated bit by bit from 1748 onwards. The site represents a unique mix of incredible preservation and lost opportunities, tangible tragedy and vibrant everyday life. Wall-paintings, stucco, mosaics, street graffiti and corner fountains still survive in a remarkably good state. Stroll from the amphitheatre to the forum, taking in baths, shops, bars and fullers’ premises en route. Visit private houses to admire the decor, take in the view from the top of the walls, see the ancestors’ tombs and finish at the wealthy suburban Villa of the Mysteries. Walk back to our hotel to digest what you have seen.
ChoiceIt may suit you better, and you may get a good deal on flights from your local airport. EasyJet, for example, has flights to Naples from Edinburgh, Liverpool and Bristol as well as Stansted. You could extend your holiday before or after the tour: perhaps take the train north to Rome, or spend a few days exploring the lovely Amalfi coast
6 nights B&B in a simple but comfortable hotel just outside Pompeii’s walls, a short distance from the Circumvesuviana railway station
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