Saturday, March 1, 2014

Tour of Pompeii with Ada

This is not exactly a post about Paris, but I wanted to post it here in case anyone is searching the Internet for info about tour guides in Pompeii, or all of the Naples area. This is a review that Judy put on TripAdvisor.

Tony, Ada and Judy at Herculaneum
"I have been fascinated by Pompeii since our first visit many years ago. I have wanted to go back and have an in depth tour of both Pompeii and Herculaneum. Surprise! My husband arranged for a trip back to Pompeii. He read many reviews of private guides and chose the Best without a doubt. Ada is a 5 STAR guide. She met us at our hotel and kept us enthralled for an entire day at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Her enthusiasm and knowledge was unrivaled. Through her sensitive descriptions, she brought to life the sights, sounds and smells of daily living in Pompeii and Herculaneum.  We could see how much passion she has for these remarkable places. This was a day that my husband and I will never forget. Thank you, Ada, for making my dream come true. Our highest recommendation."

This trip really was a dream come true. Ada was truly a fantastic guide that we can't recommend enough. As usual, Judy did a lot of reading in advance. She recommends reading anything by Mary Beard (non-fiction). We both read Pompeii by Robert Harris which, although fiction, is loaded with factual information. Pompeii lay under meters of ash and pumice until the 1800's when it was "discovered" and the excavations began. The excavations are still going on.

The day began at the Hotel Amleto where Ada met us. Then, after an orientation outside the walls of Pompeii, we entered into the plaza next to the large and small theaters.

This is where we got our first taste of how the inhabitants entertained themselves 2000 years ago. The important men sat at the bottom near the stage, then the rest of the men sat in the middle rows and the women and slaves sat or stood at the top. The seats were number so everyone had their particular spot. Can you imagine, "Hey Citizen, you are in my seats. I have XXXIV and XXXV."
The stage itself was high-tech for the day with curtains that rose up from the floor of the stage and empty boxes that acted like woofers. So much was preserved because the city was inundated with ash and lava so quickly that archaeologists can recreate much of the daily life.

There is so much to see and appreciate there that I'll just give a few highlights.

The upper crust lived pretty well with large homes. One entered into an atrium with an open ceiling and a pool that collected water to be used when needed. Then came rooms for sleeping, dining, etc and most had a large courtyard in the middle of the house. Often slaves slept upstairs. Fire was a problem in Pompeii due to the number of open fires for cooking, lighting, etc. Sometimes, if access to the upper floors was via a wooden stairway, the "un-hired" help were stranded and became victims of the fires.

The main business street was referred to as Via Abbondanza because of the multitude of shops located on this street. Ada brought to life all the activity that could take place along this street. The photo below shows the stepping stone crosswalks that kept the locals from having to cross in the garbage covered streets. In the foreground are ruts from the wagon wheels of the merchants. Artifacts found allowed scientists to determine what type of commerce took place and from graffiti on the walls, one could learn much about the important people and the daily activities.

Speaking of daily activities, there seemed to be a lot of brothels as sex was considered a natural activity as long as it was between the correct classes. The upper classes didn't need to frequent the brothels as they had their slaves to provide that service. If you didn't know where to find a brothel all you had to do was follow one of the many phallic symbols on the corners of key streets pointing the way. Inside, you could select your pleasure from a menu of murals painted on the wall. The equivalent of "for a good time, call ..." was scratched on the wall.

But the real scene of activity was the Forum where the civil and religious buildings and monuments were located. Here is what is left of the Forum of Pompeii. Mt Vesuvius is in the background. Before the eruption, the cone rose about 3 times higher. It was about 14000 feet high. The columns in the photo supported the roof of the Temple of Jupiter. I love this view...

There are so many other interesting buildings to see and explore like the Basilica which was a court house where legal matters were administered and the baths. The baths were a place for socializing as well as for cleanliness. There were separate baths for men and women each with cold, warm and hot water. The Pompeians may have bathed several times a day but rarely changed the water, so... I'm just sayin'...

The exit brought us back to where our initial orientation took place and this final view of the city of Pompeii. Time for a glass of wine and a few slices of pizza before heading to Herculaneum.

There is so much to see that we came back on our last day in Pompeii. Although it was raining, we enjoyed seeing things we hadn't had time for before. Judy ran into some girls from her college sorority in the Amphitheater. They were from Texas A&M and only about 50 years younger. Yikes!
I'd like to see Spartacus fight his way through these puddles...

And no trip to Pompeii would be complete without seeing the sad scene of 13 bodies of victims who were caught in the crush of ash, pumice and lava and died on the spot trying to escape. Plaster was injected into the cavities in the ash after the bodies decayed and the molds were made. It is quite emotional to look at these people, both children and adults, in their death throes. Much can be learned even from these heartbreaking scenes.

Oh, did I mention it was raining? Well, maybe in Pompeii, but I think you can see in this photo that there is snow on top of Vesuvius. It is about 4000 ft to the top now so it isn't surprising. Great way to end the few terrific days in Pompeii (plus we had a few more slices of pizza.) Ciao.
One last comment for anyone who stumbles onto this page while searching the internet. We did this tour a long time ago on our own with only the map from the ticket office. We remembered almost nothing about that tour other than we needed to come back some day with a guide. It is not inexpensive but it can make all the difference in the world, especially with a guide like Ada. You can find her online at