On our final day in Italy, we visited Pompeii. I could have spent another day wandering around this extraordinary archaelogical site.

Temple of Jupiter. Breathtaking.

During the excavation that took place in the 1800s by Giuseppe Fiorelli, plaster casts were made of the cavities left in the ashes that covered the decomposing bodies of Pompeiians who did not escape the volcanic blast of 79 A.D. A little creepy.

Pompeiians typically ate their midday meal at thermopolia (fast food restaurants) such as this one. Hot food and drinks were served from jars sunk into the counter and then eaten sitting down in a back room. Eighty-nine such establishments were found in Pompeii.

Along the main commercial street called Via dell’Abbondanza, Pompeiians shopped and dined. You could hear the gossip and friendly chatter as Pompeiians greeted each other on their daily errands. The sidewalks were built higher than usual to create a sluice through which water carried waste down the stone streets deeply rutted by carriage wheels. Large stepping stones level with the sidewalk were placed in the middle of the street and used as crosswalks. Special wheels were made for the chariots of Pompeii to accomodate the crosswalks. Colorful frescoes decorated storefronts and political graffiti spotted the walls along the way.

Along the Via dell’Abbondanza, Venus in the Shell was found in a house that was damaged by a bomb that fell on Pompeii in 1943. This fresco is a good example of how Pompeiians decorated even modest homes with beautiful artwork. I think it was just a fancy precursor to wallpaper.

This view of the House of the Faun is one of the iconic images of Pompeii. Although it was the largest dwelling in the city, we don’t know the identity of its owner.