Friday, December 2, 2011
After a ride on the bus from Rome, we arrive at Pompeii, one of the world's biggest archeological sites. The exterior of the site is uneventful and there are a handful of vendors outside the gates. It has been ten years since our last visit to the "dig" and we were anticipating an eventful stop. We meet our guide Maria and she is pleseant and takes us through the gates. Pompeii was a grand Roman city until 79 AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted and sent volcanic ash to rain on the citizens of the area around the volcano elminating all its inhabitants. To understand the plight of Pompeii, it is necessary to know that the citizens did not know that they lived next to an active volcano they thought it was onlt a mountain. Next, in 62 or 63 AD there was a great earthquake that rocked the area but still the citizens did not understand that this was the precurser to the eruption. Vesuvius erupted more times to present in 472, 1631, and 1944 as well only serving to further hide the devastation of the original eruption.
Today, Pompeii still has a dense population at its feet and the next devastation seems inevitable. However, from a tourist and visitor perspective this is a dream into the past of a grand and luxurious Roman city. There are 37 bakeries in the city, a Roman spa with heating in the ceiling and floors, and a brothel. The informal devastation of the site is that it has fallen under budgetary cuts in recent years that led to subpar unkeep and preservation of the buildings and collapses of two of them. In the news today the world preservation agency UNESCO - an agency through the United Nations based in Paris, FR has agreed to assist the Italian Government in improving there efforts to continue Pompeii's rich heritage. UNESCO agreed to provide the expertise and Italy hasd agreed to provide the finances. In the current budget state of Italy, it remains how thisw effort and partnership will unfold. The fate of the city and the site seems as uncertain as the capricious nature of its volcano.