It was a stormy, blustery morning two weeks ago when we got to Sorrento, Italy. The city itself is supposed to be beautiful and viewed from the sea we could understand why it’s such a popular destination. Sorrento is the starting (or ending) point of the well-known Amalfi Drive, the narrow road that connects it to Amalfi along the high cliffs overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. But for us this thrilling drive would have to wait for our next visit as today we set off to see the ruins of nearby ancient Pompeii.
Pompeii was the Roman city destroyed by the eruption of nearby Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. The city was buried by volcanic ash and 2,000 of the 20,000 inhabitants died. Presumably the other 18,000 beat cleats out of there after a series of earthquakes and most of the poor folks left were slaves looking after the place. It was long thought that the victims died of suffocation from the ash but a study published in 2010 reported that most of the deaths were due to extreme heat (up to 482 degrees F.) rather than suffocation. In any case, the city remained buried under about 25 meters of ash until it was re-discovered in 1748 and was then excavated over several years. So, while it’s little comfort to the people who were left in Pompeii, the city was remarkably preserved by the mountain of ash that covered it and it’s now a UNESCO world heritage site and major tourist attraction. One of the big tourist draws are the somewhat macabre plaster-cast figures of people that died in the city. These were made by pouring plaster into the spaces left by decomposed remains and they’re now displayed along with other artifacts found at the site.
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