Journeying further south, we departed Rome on the train bound for Pompeii where we would be based for the next few days to explore the area around the Bay of Naples. This is a beautiful part of the country not to be missed. The sun-drenched coastline is dotted with cities and little rural villages, surrounded by steep mountains and limestone cliffs that plunge right into the deep blue Mediterranean. It’s a wonderful little region with lots of things to see and explore, great food (pizza was by far the best here), and a much more relaxed and slower pace of life than other parts of Italy. I think one week would be ideal enough for a visit, but we had to cram in as much as we could in four days.
We arrived at the station around noon and made our way into town to check into our hostel. Pompeii is recognized as the ancient Roman city, now in ruins following the dramatic and violent 79 AD eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius. However, the nearby town of Pompei is still alive and well with a population of about 25,000 people. It’s a nice little town. It mostly caters to tourists who come and visit the ruins, but it had a nice charm to it. The center of town boasts a grand Catholic cathedral with fountains and a large grassy piazza before its doors.
Our hostel was very nice as well–friendly staff, nice courtyard area to relax in, the rooms were quite nice, close to the center of town. Even during the busy summer season it was a fairly inexpensive place to stay. If you ever find yourself in Pompei I’d recommend staying at Agora Hostel Deluxe! The only downfall was there wasn’t a kitchen there to cook our own food, which really wasn’t that big of a deal anyway because we were in Italy–the land of good food! So basically every day for dinner we would go out into town for a meal. Which for the most part was pizza every night. With Naples, the birthplace of pizza, just 20 minutes away by train, the pizza in Pompei was incredible. Definitely some of the best I’ve had and for only 5 euros you get a whole pie that’s big enough for two people, which I guiltlessly devoured all to myself. It was so good!
After check-in we wandered over to the ruins of Pompeii just on the outskirts of town. We paid the entry fee and entered, free to explore the ancient city for the rest of the day.
Pompeii was fascinating. It’s actually quite big, stretching out for about 170 acres, making it one of the largest excavation sites in the world. Once a prosperous city that was a popular summer vacationing spot for wealthy Romans, the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii and the nearby city of Herculaneum under nearly 17 feet of ash and volcanic debris. Several thousand people perished and the city was forgotten about for nearly 1700 hundred years. What’s even more incredible is how well preserved the city actually is. Even 2000 years later, you can still see the mosaics, paintings, and even grafitti that decorate the walls inside the houses. And, displayed throughout various parts of the ruins, you can see the casts of the Roman victims frozen in time in their final moments.
We spent hours here wandering the ancient streets. It reminded me of walking through the ruins of Machu Picchu, another ancient city forgotten for centuries. All you can do as you walk through the old stone buildings is letting your mind to wander and imagine what life was like back in the day.