I have to admit, I’m jaded. My dad was an anthropologist who dabbled in archaeology and some of my earliest memories are being dragged around ruins. When I was seven my family helped excavate a Roman cistern (garbage pile), and in college I helped excavate a 5th century B.C. Etruscan tomb. (I know just enough to be dangerous.)
When we lived in Rome it always amazed me that tourists would pile onto a bus for a 4-hour ride (each way) to see Pompei when Ostia Antica
(the ancient port city of Rome) was a half hour away by subway and you could sunbathe on black sand beaches (volcanic sand) when you were through seeing the ruins. Ostia also has far more “quilty” floors. (Remember my now out-of-print Classic Quilts: Patchwork Designs From Ancient Rome?
) But, Pompei is more well-known and we had the time, and Jen had never been, so we went.
Pompei, is also larger, more thoroughly excavated, and does have one thing others do not: plaster casts of volcano victims.
Archaeologists in the mid-19th century poured liquid plaster into hollow areas they found (made by decomposing bodies) and after the plaster hardened, they dug them up. There are several “bodies” are scattered through the ruins in Plexiglas boxes so covered with dust they are almost impossible to see.
The best place to see them (these) is to look in the fenced in area with the roof on the western side of the Forum. If you look among the amphorae (ceramic pots) you’ll see them outside their dusty displays towards the back.
Pompei also has great roads with stepping stones for pedestrian crosswalks. (It is thought that the streets were inundated with water from overflowing public fountains, which helped to keep them clean.) You can see ruts in the stones made by the wheels of ancient carts and chariots.
Pompei could use some more road signs, directional markers, and some descriptive text, although I’m sure the later would cut into guidebook sales. It could also use a few more toilets and a bike path. (I’m kidding, I’m kidding! About the bike path.)