On day 12, we headed out of Naples bright and early to tour the spectacular archeological sites of Herculaneum, Pompeii and Oplontis. It was a long, hot, dusty day but it was so worth it! The site of Herculaneum was found first, but largely abandoned after Pompeii was found because while Herculaneum was buried in hot mud from the volcano, Pompeii was buried in ash and pumice, which made it much easier to excavate. Herculaneum is much smaller, and fewer tourists visit there. It was our first stop and we spent about an hour and a half, led again by Santiago, our guide from Naples, before heading on to Pompeii.
In Pompeii, we entered the archeological site at the arena, which we had never visited before. In the center, they had erected a giant pyramid which housed a display of some of the human remains uncovered at the site. Since the people of Pompeii were buried in volcanic ash, their body positions at the moment of death were preserved. Seeing them really makes the disaster incredibly real, and it is heartbreaking and difficult to view. There was a mother cradling two small children, a couple curled up together.
After Herculaneum and Pompeii, we had lunch at a great little shop in Oplontis complete with local sparkling red wine and homemade lemoncello. Then on to Villa Poppeae, the villa of Nero’s second wife, unique for it’s many frescoes remaining in situ. Lola Gray should have been exhausted, but she ran from room to room photographing everything she saw! She was particularly taken by the numerous and varied birds found throughout the paintings and made it her mission to photograph them all. Fletcher, meanwhile, stuck close to Santiago to make sure he could hear every bit of information. We ended the day dirty and tired, but with big smiles all around.