One of my favorite days thus far has been the day we visited the ruins of Pompeii. I was very surprised to find how enormous the city was. I remember learning about Mount. Vesuvius in my 6th grade world geography class. We watched a movie about how detrimental the explosion was and how so many people lost their lives. We were even shown pictures of the preserved bodies, lying in their agonized state. Since then, the history of Pompeii was always interesting…like a ghost story that we were told at sleepovers. I had this romanticized version in my head of what this city would look like. Visiting it in person was an altogether different experience. It wasn’t really a ghost town at all. The history that has been preserved is so active and rich in the culture of southern Italy. The memory of the town is kept alive through the people that live in those areas. Touring Pompeii it and learning about it helped bring that story to life and give it a much more tangible sense of reality.
As we walked into one of the better preserved homes, our tour guide invited us to glance around and try to imagine what it would have looked like back then. Upon entering the front door, we stood in a pretty decent-sized foyer (or atrium). There was a sunken basin in the center that was used to capture and store rainwater, which we later learned was called the impluvium. The atriums were typically enclosed and had the appearance of a courtyard and was surrounded by small bedrooms. They were the interior portions of home gardens. As you move deeper into the house, you pass through what is called the tablinum, which acts as a sort of divider between the inner and outer garden. You then enter the main garden, called the peristylium. This garden is a much bigger, uncovered courtyard-type garden with an enclosed walkway that borders it. In some of the wealthier homes, there were even multiple peristyliums, getting bigger and grander as you moved deeper into the house. Several of the houses we got to tour, I noticed, contained wells in the garden areas. Our tour guide explained to us how the well groomed gardens were a sign of wealth and were a major part of the entertainment of guests in the homes.
It was very interesting to me to see how well preserved many of these homes were. You could even still see very intricate details on the frescos on the bedroom walls. We learned in lecture that Pompeii is on UNESCO’s list of places of incredible and universal value which is one of the reasons that this site is so well protected and preserved. I, for one, am so grateful that it is because there is such a rich and interesting history there that all of us should get to see and be a part of. Walking through the ruins made a small part of me feel like I was actually there, living that life. It made it real, no longer just a ghost story. Until next time, Grazie and gig ‘em!