I have been fascianted with Pompeii since first hearing about it, so when a trip to Italy was first broached I enthusiastically said yes and POMPEII. I am fascinated by all aspects of the story. I am fascinated with seeing a city that was stopped in time and preserved across centuries. I am fascinated with the circumstances by which the city was extinguished and why it was forgotten and left untouched for so long.
I loved it. I want to go back and wander in it from dawn until dusk. I was struck with two things. First, the Romans were probably better city planners than we are now. Second, I left Pompeii with the conviction that those people weren’t all that different from us. Ancient history feels really remote, but they enjoyed food and entertainment just as we do. They took pride in their homes and in their work. And they also lived in comfort partially because they eploited people with less power. Not all that much has changed.
Walking the same streets that people walked 2000 years ago, I heard the echoes of the people who once lived there. The whole city felt as though the citizens were just out of sight; they would just duck around a corner moments before I turned it. They would disappear in doorways just before I raised my eyes to them. The armies of French teenagers roving there did a stellar job of throwing this vibe into the trash can.
Our guide Enzo grew up in Pompeii; his dad was a archaeologist who spent most of his career digging there. Enzo pulled no punches with the unruly French teens. I overheard him say bitterly to one of the other guides, “I go to the Louvre and talk in a normal tone of voice and get shushed by everyone. They send their kids here unattended, and they behave like little barbarians.” Although Enzo was very knowledgeable and funny, this was the moment that I knew we had the right guide.
But the obnoxious French teens weren’t enough to tarnish the experience for me. They were a minor annoyance. The next time I go back, I will however avoid field trip season.