Pompeii, Ruin Arising
Pompeii has always stimulated curiosity in me, ever since I was a young girl and learned how Mt. Vesuvius erupted and decimated an entire town at the foot of the mountain.
If you are someone who, like me, loves the CSI shows, the sensationalism of the Vesuvius fall-out in Pompeii brings shivers up and down the spine.
Pompeii Exhibit in San Diego
In 2008, the Pompeii exhibit came to the San Diego Natural History Museum. It was fascinating. We learned about the man who had tried to protect his wife from the advancing river of lava by enclosing her with his own body. Both of them were transformed into a statue of pumice. And a dog that had been tied to a post was caught in his frenzied attempts to escape.
It was sad that so many had so little warning of Nature’s fury and could not get away. They perished and yet they are preserved as a vital piece of history. So they live on.
This year, we cruised on the Norwegian Epic which touched in on the ports of Southern Italy.
The Real Pompeii
One day we toured Pompeii. We were so excited! The bus trip from the Naples port took only about 20 minutes. You can see Mt. Vesuvius rising to the east, dormant for that day. When asked what the people would do if the volcano erupted, the tour operator quipped, “Well, it would solve the unemployment problem at least.”
It was a beautiful day for a stroll among the ruins of Pompeii. As we approached, we noted that there were workers on scaffolding, doing their part to preserve the ruins and uncover more of its treasures. This is a constant occurrence. They are still unearthing new, exciting discoveries.
The Sculptures of Igor Mitoraj
We were fortunate to be able to see the works of French-Polish sculptor, Igor Mitoraj, before the official unveiling in May 2016. Mitoraj passed away at the age of 70 in 2014 so he was not there to witness the effect his works had on a world audience.
30 large-scale sculptures depicting mythological characters are strategically positioned within the archeological site of Pompeii – from the Forum to the Basilica, from the Gladiators’ Barracks to the Via dell’Abbondanza. Pompeii Superintendent Massimo Osanna noted: “Mythological gods and heroes populate the streets and the squares of the city buried by Vesuvius, emerging like dreams from the ruins.” Mitoraj himself added, “There are no theories, there are no explanations. The works impose themselves on me – I am their slave.” He also said that his models were based on people living today and not in the past.
The day we arrived, there was bustling activity in the booths where orange juice and cameos are sold by vendors. Red poppies were full blown within the ruins where plant life has taken over.
We walked through the brothel which still has erotic art on the walls and where the “beds” are rather short. There are stone penises in certain passageways that point toward the bordello. We saw graffiti in the bath house – a bird scratched into the marble.
The sculptures by MItoraj seem to belong where they have been positioned. And they really add so much beauty and depth to the ruins. I was so happy to be able to see them.
On the way out, Mark bartered for a cameo for me made of lava even though the vendor kept insisting the mother-of-pearl one would be better against my skin. The Vesuvian lava cameo is more rare, though, and it really makes a wonderful conversation piece and stirs the memory of our stroll around Pompeii and all its wonders.
If you decide you would like to go and explore Pompeii, I suggest going in the off-season. In the summer, the heat may be stifling. Also, hordes of tourists added to the extreme humidity might make it a rather unpleasant experience. November through April are the best times. So mark your calendar!