My first stop in Europe was Naples, Italy. I had studied up on the city and realized that the best use of my time was to take a short train ride to the nearby town of Pompeii to check out some ancient ruins. Sure enough, I realized all four of my roommates were doing the same thing so I latched on to them and away we went first thing in the morning.
After booking our tickets, we soon found out the ancient city in ruins is spelled Pompeii, with two “i's”, while the modern city only has one “i” at the end. Our tickets took us to the modern city but it was okay because that was literally just above the ruins.
Fortunately, it didn't take us long to get oriented and mapped up inside the city of ruins. Before starting we stopped by an information center that encouraged us to use headsets. If you ever go to Pompeii without a tour guide, I would highly suggest finding an audio set. Without the headset I would have been clueless as to what I was looking at.
The short history is that Pompeii was a very important city back in the early days of Italy. It was very wealthy and very powerful, that was until it was hit by a earthquake and then again by a volcano that covered it in lava, ash and mud and therefore preserved the entire city just as it was on the day of the explosion in 79 A.D.
The coolest part about touring Pompeii is that it was literally just a preserved city that hundreds of tourists were given free reign over. There were no signs other than names of the more interesting buildings, and there was very little restriction as to where we could and could not go. I really enjoyed walking right up in and under and on everything that was thousands of years old. I respected it, definitely, but connecting with it was even cooler.
Some of my favorite parts of the city were looking at all the old frescoes that have been preserved. It's amazing to think that throughout all these years something as frivolous as art has survived.
Other surviving art pieces included pottery, jewelry and gorgeous dishes.
I also enjoyed the ampitheatre, the bath house and the garden of the fugitives, which was actually just casts of dead bodies just as they were when they too got preserved by a giant volcano.
But best of all was the brothel! The brothel was amazing because the audio tape told us so much! First of all the italian word for brothel is Lupanare which means she-wolf. Inside the Lupanare we saw five different beds that were made out of concrete, this was to discourage lingering on the customer's part. Above the bedroom doors were several erotic paintings from that time period. I found these fascinating. The audio book explained that “obscenity” wasn't something the society was familiar with at the time. Pompeii was the city of Venus, the goddess of love, therefore it was the city of love. They believed that sex and love were common parts of everyday life and encouraged men to do enjoy doing so. Therefore the brothel was well attended and well marked. In fact, the patrons were encouraged to leave feedback in graffiti on the walls—sort of an ancient TripAdvisor!