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Capua, Herculaneum, Pompeii, Stabiae and Oplontis

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Hi everbody,



My interest in ancient Rome really leapfrogged six weeks ago when I visited all sites in the title. My brother-in-law and I were there for five days - and I want to go back! I have been interested in Rome ever since I was a Boy. This went as far as me wanting to study archaeology after school. However, this caused some uproar from my parents and other relatives so I did architecture instead - sigh!

Anyway, my youngest son ended his dinosaur-Phase last year (every young lad has a dinosaur-phase) and this marked the beginning of the volcano-phase. Talking about volcanoes, Pompeii is never far away. As we now live in the wonderful age of the Internet, I came acoss material I could only have dreamed of so far. I visited Pompeii for the first time in 1982, but this was only for a day. The more I studied Ancient Rome earlier this year, the more I wanted to go back to Pompeii. I have three young children and clearly spending a while visiting dusty ol sites wouldn't exactly fit their idea of a nice holiday so I decided to ask my brother-in law instead if he wanted to join in. He immediatly agreed.

So we took off for a two-hour flight to Naples on a Saturday morning and arrived there at lunchtime. We got the hire-car and drove to the hotel. Our first trip that day took us to the magnifcent Amphitheatre at Capua. The site is enormously impressive! It was a sizzling hot day and we were pleased to examine the cool underground cellars and cells. So much is still intact beneath the Arena. 



Isn't that splendid? I love these stairs! How many spectators actually walked here and watched the gruesome spectacle?

Capua is easily recogniseable as one of the wealthiest cities in Campania. (Almost) Everything was tidy and clean. A far cry from what most of the Bay of Naples looks like!
On Sunday we had Herculaneum on our list. We decided not to go strolling around by ourselves but to take part in a guided tour. The tour-guide waits until enough people have gathered and then takes you on a two-hour tour and after that you pay him/her how much you feel it was worth! It was worth every penny! On these tours you get to see so much more than walking around there guideless!
The house of the Telephus Relief:
What we weren't aware of is that Italy virtually closes down between 12:00 and 16:00! By the time we found a restaurant that was open, of course after 16:00 we were starving! We ate on the western slope of Mount Vesuvius overlooking Naples when a severe thunderstorm crossed us! What a sight!
Looking Sourth we couldn't even see Capri anymore!
Monday morning: Pompeii. The weather was attrocious! It was belting down! Anyway - better than being baked in the sun I thought! We were there at opening hours: at ten. Thousands of people flocked into the ancient city. Let me give you some advice: if you go to Pompeii - go there in the early afternoon. By then the crowds will have dispersed and a lot of people even left!
Shortly before midday it stopped raining:
I quite like this view because the Forum in Roman days was a crowded place. And this is what it was like on that Monday - it was a crowded place. When I was there in 1982 I had the impression that I was the only one there! And that was in Summer too.
This view is now my screensaver:
My brother-in-law doesn't like being in a crowd, there were too many people. We decided to leave. So after about five hours in Pompeii we drove up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius. You have to walk about the last mile or so. It was unbelievable! It Pompeii it was 34C° - on the top of Mount Vesuvius it was only 16°C! 
Pompeii as seen from Mount Vesuvius: Pompeii is the greyish shade in the upper left corner. You can make out the Forum:
Tuesday: off to Stabiae! From here is where Pliny the Elder witnessed the Reuption in 79 ad. Here you can see yours truly very impressed by the sight. We are 15km from Vesuvius! And no, the volcano is not erupting, it is just clouds forming around the crater.
Well, I have just tried to post and I have been told that I have posted more pictures than I'm allowed. I will delete the following and post it tomorrow once this has been approved by the moderators.
See you tomorrow!



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Hello Peter!


Welcome to UNRV! Thanks a lot for sharing your photos with us. I too have had the pleasure of visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum and your pics brought back memories.  :)

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Thanks Aurelia,


did you get to see some of the other sites? In the Villa San Marco, the Villa Adriane and in Oplontis we were about the only visitors there. More on that below :)


Here's part two on my terip to the Bay of Naples:


The Villa San Marco in Stabiae. What a relief this was from crowded Pompeii! There was no-one there but my brother-in-law and me! We were there for three hours, taking pictures and filming the place. The frescoes were untouched by tourists. In Pompeii all the frescoes have graffiti scratched onto them by the tourists, these here were untouched! What a pleasant change! It is incredibal that we are 15km (10 miles) from Vesuvius and this place was still completely covered by ashes and pumice!


Now this is impressive! You can see this volcanic rock which was spewn out of Vesuvius in the 79 ad eruption. You can see the damage to the pavement where it impacted! And we are ten miles away from Versuvius! Archaeologists decided to leave this rock where it is!


Interior view of the Villa San Marco:


After about three hours we decided to look for the Via Ariana. Here too we were the only visitors. In a conversation with the lady guiding the site, we mentioned wanting to go to Oplontis. For some strange reason we were advised not to go there! This was some sort of insight into the rivalling amongst archaeological groupes. We later found out why we were advised not to go to Oplontis: Oplontis receives government funding while the sites Stabiae don't. 


I wouldn't say that the Via Ariana was dissapointment, but it is severely damaged! Nonetheless the frescoes are very impressive.


We went to Oplontis after all. Here we only had time to visit the Via Poppea and of all sites we saw, this one left the biggest impact on me. I don't know why, perhaps it's because this building is so amazing, and very well preserved and lovingly taken care of.


The frescoes inside the Via Poppea are outstanding!


Even remains of doors cast in plaster-of paris can be seen.



Excavation started here in the 1980s thus relativly new techniques are being used - one can tell! It was in Oplontis where I was free to gather some pebbles of pumice from the 79 ad eruption of Vesuvius. They are right here in front of me now as I write this. I will treasure them!


I hope you enjoyed my little narrative on my tour to Pompeii and other sites. I surely enjoyed sharing it with you!


Thank you for bearing with me till the end.


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Thanks, I thought I would compare a few experiences in dealing with the logistics. My last Pompeii visit was on maybe the most crowded day of the year... a Sunday during culture week when all state museums were free and full of Naples folks out for a picnic and socializing. I got in at opening time and used a successful theme park strategy of racing to the opposite side away from the main entrance and working my way back towards the mob (which tend to dally by the first things they encounter).


I started with a very newly opened little villa with widely publicized frescos, and it was surreal to have it all to myself for 20 minutes. As the crowds filtered nearby, I mopped up the back areas. By the time I hit central areas, I could see I made a mistake by not making reservations for some closed off villas. I had seen in forums how even Italian speakers had trouble using the quirky reservation web site, but I hadn't known so darn many of the villas are now by reservation only. It soon became difficult to even walk thru the crowds, so I hopped a few train stations to peaceful Poppea.


All my earlier visits (spring or fall) had little problems with crowds. On a week stay in Capri I took advantage of the extreme late hours Pompeii was open (9pm? still sunlit!). Any time my daily outings such as hiking the Amalfi coast ended a bit earlier than expected, I would hit Pompeii before grabbing a ferry to Capri. It was nearly deserted and in cooldown mode, although the ground radiated the remains of inhuman heat... nice.


Years earlier, there just didn't seem to be that many tourists. I remember cursing my luck at one of the the most famous villas because there was one tour group inside, blocking my view. I should have followed them at a distance because they next headed toward a dazzling villa that is now closed indefinitely. I hate those freeloaders that hook up and crowd out tours, but at a distance I could have made up for the fact the site was out of guide maps that day.


At Herculeum, I have always had trouble seeing what the fuss is about. Maybe because I never had a guided tour (my first Pompeii visit was with a charming but not very educational guide). Herculeum seems to have closed their cafe (unlike Pompeii which put one in a WW2 bomb crater), but I did find a vending machine in a little building with bathrooms (possibly for staff?). I leave Herc for last during days when I may have been too busy for lunch and am getting crazed for electrolytes or whatever.

Edited by caesar novus

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Very cool photos, Peter. Thanks again for sharing.


did you get to see some of the other sites? In the Villa San Marco, the Villa Adriane and in Oplontis we were about the only visitors there. More on that below :)


Unfortunately, Pompeii and Herculaneum are the only two sites I've visited around Naples. The other one I've visited is Paestum, further down south (click on pic below).



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