Fascinating but very sad. Such was our inevitable reaction on our 1987 visit to what history may well call the lost city of Pompeii. Once a prosperous and culturally advanced city close to Naples in southern Italy, a devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried it and its citizens in 79 AD. Some 16,000 people are believed to have perished under layers of lava and pumice. Pompeii is famous for the casts the hot ash formed around victims of the eruptions. Victims suffocated on ash in the air, which then covered them and preserved amazing details of their clothing and faces.
Archeological excavations found the buried city remarkably intact, with bodies of victims almost magically preserved, along with public and residential buildings and their contents, including vivid examples of Roman art.
Led by an excellent tour guide, we traversed streets notable for their traces of ancient chariots to view classical temples, ornate private homes and evidence that Pompeiians’ homes were equipped with running water.
There were even posted street signs to ensure visitors’ convenience. A menacing sight throughout our amblings was the looming spectre of Mount Vesuvius, described as the only active volcano in mainland Europe. Its last eruption was in 1944 but is still considered a great danger to Naples and other cities in that region.