During every vacation that my family takes together, I insist that we must visit various historical sites. When we travelled to France, I fought for a detour to Normandy. When in London, I dragged them around to various sites from books (221 B Baker street, being the most recognizable). Finally, when in Rome I asked for a day trip to Pompeii. Given my endless fascination with everything involving Roman history, Pompeii called to me more than any other historical site (and Italy has plenty).
Pompeii, a city that was preserved in volcano ash, gave an insight to the everyday Roman life that no amount of Percy Jackson books could parallel. To ensure that we didn’t miss any of the history, the company Rome Tours arranged a personal guide, Margaret, for us. The move was probably one of our best decision throughout all our travels. Every step was filled with history that we never would have picked up on by ourselves. The ground itself was full of facts beyond our imaginations. The people of Pompeii had built in reflective stones that lit a path to the harbor for merchants and sailors at night. The raised rocks between streets were crosswalks because the streets doubled as sewers. Every turn revealed more facts and anecdotes from the city that was frozen in time.
When we first entered Pompeii, the first thing we encountered was the gladiator dorms and their training grounds. As we walked deeper into the city, Margaret revealed that this street was the route the gladiator would have taken to the arena. She carefully pointed out drawings on the walls that the gladiator had craved on their way to the fights. Seeing what would have counted as ancient graffiti separates Pompeii from other ruins. The ash allowed every part of life to be preserved from the large arenas to the small graffiti on the walls.
Further into the city, Margret started pointing out what each of the building remains were used for and what had been discovered in them. She told the story of how several of the bakery shops were uncovered with bread still in the oven. The bread had been preserved like the rest of the city. In one of the ovens, up to 20 loaves of bread had been found. Along with the bakeries, Margaret pointed out several sites that were the “restaurants” in Pompeii. They were set up in a bar format with large pots of food in them. Margaret described how citizens of Pompeii would walk into the building and scoop the food from the various vases. In other words, these were the Roman version of “fast food.” Fast food, apparently, is a worldwide, of all ages, phenomenon.
The small or forgotten parts of basic city life in ancient Rome became my favorite part of Italy. Every postcard in Italy might be a picture of the colosseum or of the David, but when ask how my trip was, I repeat the stories of the graffiti on the walls, the stones in the streets, and the bread in the ovens. For a person in love with history and the Roman empire, Pompeii will prove the highlight of Italy.
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