Friday, November 28, 2008


Here are some pictures to the excavated ancient Roman town of Pompeii. The most famous archeological site in the world, it was buried under a storm of ash and cinders from the massive Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD. It was lost for 1,700 years and only reappeared after accidental discoveries led to its identification in 1748.

17 years before the eruption of Vesuvius the town experienced an earthquake which damaged many buildings. The inhabitants repaired cracks in foundations and walls with these bricks.

A shot of the volcano in the background. You can see the cone, covered by clouds.

The welfare state was alive and well even in the first century. This was a device for measuring the allotment of grain per person or family depending on their status and rank.

An altar that was dedicated to Jove.

This is a building which holds the hundred upon hundreds of amphorae and other artifacts that are waiting to be cataloged. All are originals.

A plaster cast of a dog which died during the eruption. You can see its muscles twisted in agony. The ash and lava which covered people and animals solidified, leaving a void the shape of the body after it had decomposed. This void was then filled with plaster, and the ash removed, leaving archeologists with these casts.

A cast of a woman covering her mouth trying to escape the sulfurous gasses.

An anchor, amid miscellaneous other artifacts.

This was an ancient safe. The metal is quite corroded as you can see.

This is one of the streets of the town. The large stones in the middle were so that pedestrians could traverse the muddy streets which were often filled with sewage, and also served to block areas of town from carts and other animal-drawn vehicles.

They had street signs back then too. This was the street of the porters which led to the market.

The house of a very wealthy family. This is the central atrium.

The interior of the house. The doors lead to bedrooms. Note the mosaic on the floor.

This was the equivalent of a fast-food restaurant back then. The openings are large jugs built into a stone counter with a fire underneath to keep soup and other foods warm.

Another view of the street, with two exits for sewage and rain water also visible. These openings led into the cloaca, the main sewer of the city.

This was the shop of a baker. You can see a flour mill in the foreground and a stone oven (not very different from the ones still used to make pizzas in today) in the background.

Another house, this time showing the room dedicated to the family gods, complete with the little shrine where offerings were left to statues.

An elaborately painted room. These frescoes are all original.

Augustin, mom, and Andrew walking through the 2,000 year old city.

A large square in front of the theater where patrons gathered at intermission.

The theater itself.

Next we visited the modern town of Pompeii to visit the famous church of Our Lady of Pompeii. Here is the facade from the outside, in the evening.

The stunning ceiling.

The image of Our Lady of Pompeii above the main altar.

Last picture - some of the beautiful mosaics in the apse.

Water Buffalo

We had the opportunity to visit a farm where Water Buffalo are raised to produce Italy's famous Mozzarella. Unfortunately the cheese-making process wasn't in progress when we were there so I didn't get very many pictures.

These are some of the 500 Water Buffalo on the farm. True Mozzarella is not made from regular cow milk, but must be made from Water Buffalo milk.

A little calf out by her lonesome.

Walking to the sales room to buy some Mozzarella, butter......

...and even a cone of Water Buffalo milk ice cream!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Paestum - the Doric city

This post contains pictures from our wonderful day trip south of Naples to the ruins of Paestum. The city of Paestum is one of the best manifestations of Greek culture in Southern Italy. To get there, we took the scenic Costiera Amalfitana, the road which winds along the Amalfi coast to Salerno. The scenery is gorgeous, even if you don't want to look down the cliff you're driving along. We had a clear, sunny day which offered us glimpses of the coastline such as this one.

These houses don't even look real, they look like something made out of Legos.

We stopped in a ceramics shop to look around for a time. The merchandise was all lovely, but no pictures were allowed, so I only grabbed a shot of the outside of the showroom.

Not a bad place to have a house, wouldn't you say?

The city of Salerno, scene of the Allied invasion during WWII.

The cliff sides are heavily terraced, which allows the farmers to grow grapes, olives, and citrus trees.

Ahh, here we are at Paestum. The city of Paestum was originally founded as Poseidonia by Greek colonists in the 7th century BC. It sided with Pyrrus during his war against Rome, suffered the reprisals that come with choosing the side that ends up defeated, and vowed never again to go against the might of Rome. Eventually as Rome gained control of the Italian peninsula the Greek colony of Poseidonia was completely amalgamated into a Roman town, renamed Paestum. When Hannibal invaded Southern Italy, the inhabitants chose the winning side (Rome), and were rewarded with many privileges after the war. The city fell into decline as the Roman Empire fell, and eventually disease rendered it abandoned and uninhabited. It was heavily plundered as an archaeological site by everyone from wandering Romans to conquering Barbarians, but, perhaps out of fear for the deities to whom the temples of the city were dedicated, the temples were not destroyed. Today they remain the best examples of Doric architecture in the world.

This is the Temple of Athena, constructed at the end of the 6th century BC. It is an excellent example of Doric Architecture, with 6 fluted columns across the width and 13 along the sides, resting upon a pavement of stone. Keep in mind that all the temples you are about to see pictures of were constructed without mortar or cement.

Andrew whistling among the ruins.

Me near a column.

Another shot of the Temple of Athena from the back.

We then walked along a road to the Temple of Hera, which you can see here in the distance.

If only stones could speak. How many Greeks and later Romans walked along this same street to the temples? As you can see, although the houses and shops on the sides are no more, the stones which make up the street are in perfect order. An interesting development is the addition of a sidewalk, an improvement added by the Romans.

Mom hanging out on a pedestal in a patch of alyssium.

A Latin inscription on a fallen piece of a monument.

Andrew and Augustin admiring the ruins with the Temple of Athena in the background.

A section of one of the wealthier houses from the Greek era, complete with Greek mosaic work on the floor.

A glimpse of the Temple of Hera as we approached.

Time for a family shot!

The three younger kids had fun jumping off the steps.

Alex standing in front of this masterpiece.

Mom and dad standing in the central nave with the altar behind them, and the mountains in the background.

If this picture doesn't scream Greek, I don't know what does.

The last one of the three major temples was also dedicated to Hera. It is missing the roof, but is still impressive. It is also the largest of the three, and was constructed in the 5th century BC.

A detail of the capitals. Again, notice that there is no mortar or cement used.

Looking inside the temple down the central nave to where the altar would have stood, facing East. (Interesting orientation...)

This is all that remains of the Comitium, where local citizens gathered to elect magistrates and other officials. It also fulfilled the functions of a modern city hall.

The vault.

All that remains of the small Temple of Peace.

Alex musing in the ruins of the theater.

Last shot of the day, the sun setting behind the Temple of Hera. Goodbye Paestum!!!