Monday and Tuesday we left Rome for Campania to see the sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii as well as the Naples Archaeological Museum. Monday was the holiday for Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome so the entire city shut down which made our departure for Campania especially convenient.
Our first stop was the Naples Archaeological Museum which currently holds my “Favorite Museum on the Trip Thus Far” spot. Full of sculptural masterpieces and mosaics and frescoes of wide renown it was almost a bit overwhelming seeing all that the space had to offer. The Farnese collection as well as the Alexander Mosaic were both particularly enjoyable and impressive.
After lunch in Naples, we took off to Herculaneum. We explored the site from the bottom up and explored it at our own pace. This was my first encounter with a well-preserved ancient city and it was pretty remarkable. The visible layers of volcanic material which buried the town during Vesuvius’s 79 eruption just really impressed upon me the difficulty excavating a site such as Herculaneum.
From Herculaneum we went to the Villa of Oplontis which was blessedly free of crowds (we were the only ones there) especially in comparison to Pompeii the next day. I think it was here where I truly felt the most impressed by the vivacity of the ancient frescos in their ancient context. The colors in many of the surviving frescoes were still so vibrant after years of exposure where I am sure that they have faded after their excavation.
The evening was spent at the Vesuvian Institute where we enjoyed the view of the Bay of Naples, dinner, and rest.
The next day was dedicated entirely to Pompeii. The city itself was a lot vaster than I had previously imagined (even though I knew it was not small) and overwhelming in terms of how many people were present. Many of the houses were closed and spread out and it was very hot. We explored the amphitheater, the forum, the temple of Isis, the Houses of Menander and the Faun, and much much more.
And on the bus I think we all slept.
This blog was originally posted here, with pictures!