All joking aside, Pompeii is a magnificent place to spend serious time. On this visit, we went twice . . . and will return (several times) again. If you plan your day carefully, pack a picnic lunch, and are in good physical shape you might be able to see everything in the 163 acres that makes up the ruins. But more is being excavated daily, making your assertion that you “saw everything” meaningless in a year.
Our tactic is to just go for a visit every five years or so, to see what’s new. This visit, for example, gave us the newly-opened Casa del Criptiportico, notable for its two levels to be explored. There are (children’s?) etchings in a wall and a magnificent fresco depicting Mercury and a multicolored snake, sacred to the people of Pompeii.
Also worth a special visit is the Casa del Menandro. This home is not named after a noble of that name but a fresco of the Greek playwright Menandro who was a favorite of the mistress of the house*. The residence also features a lovely central garden area with interior walls painted with stylized flowers. A room off of the garden has four pillars and a tiled area. (This picture is my absolute favorite of all taken at Pompeii. It captures so much of what we love about this place.)
Here are a few more images to pique your interest:
From Pompeii we went to Naples, and the contrast was striking. Pompei (the city, not the ruins) is utterly Italian — bold, bright, delicious, and a little brash. Naples is loud, aggressive, rude, and thinks brash is for weaklings. Just driving in to get to our lunch place ratcheted blood pressure and made our heads pound. (It was also very dirty as a garbage strike was in process.) Individuals are, as always, quite lovely and helpful.
While we didn’t do it this trip (ran out of time), the Naples Archeological Museum is a necessary visit to fully appreciate the glory of Pompeii (and Ercolano and elsewhere) — it’s where all the good stuff is kept. When Pompeii was first discovered Naples was still an independent city-state, and the ruler there happily plundered the place to enrich and glorify his rule. (John once heard somewhere refer to it as treating Pompeii as an “art mine”, and while it sounds weird it actually works really well.) Here you will find the originals of the bronzes found, and many of the frescoes and mosaics. These pictures are from our first visit.
We finished the day with a meal on a characteristic piazza, some old building having been converted to a hub for cafes. Children ran around the place with their dogs, friends met up for a drink, and life generally rolled by amiably. We nibbled our pizza and a surprisingly-good eggplant parmesan, then settled down for a long summer’s nap. Tomorrow, we have a late addition to the itinerary – a day trip to Florence (which sounds bonkers on its own) for a once-in-a-generation exhibition.
*- a note about the stories in Pompeii, and about the place in general. The Italian sensibility regarding authenticity is more… flexible than some (including us) might like. They will proudly put a spotlight on a magnificent mosaic, and only careful reading (or a visit to the right museum) will reveal that the actual mosaic was long since removed and a replica is in its place. You might be amazed at how well a floor has held up only to find out that it didn’t really, but was carefully restored. Likewise, the stories you are told about Pompeii may be based on documents or inscriptions found on site, but they may also be “reasonable assumptions” based on the evidence, with no distinction made between the two. We suggest you just relax about it or you’ll go crazy.