It is late morning on August 24th in the year 79AD. A dense black cloud rises from Mount Vesuvius, taking the form of an enormous pine tree. It grows larger by the minute and within a few hours it completely covers the sky. Burning rocks rain down on the city. The Earth trembles and though it is broad daylight, night falls on Pompeii and its surroundings. The most deadly and disastrous phase of the eruption will occur a short time later, at sunrise on August 25th. The sea withdraws and explosions of molten ash and steam burst from the mountain, advancing at hurricane speed, burying trees, people, and everything in its path. The people of Pompeii are terrified and try to flee the city, protecting themselves with pillows and blankets from the falling rocks.
The city is buried in an instant, stopping time and capturing forever a moment of life in ancient Pompeii. Fragments of everyday life--oil lamps, weights, necklaces of precious stones, gladiator helmets, acquaduct and drainage pipes, beds, engravings over the door of the grocers' shops, bronze and iron kitchen utensils, statues of gods, even a lovers' last kiss--are petrified forever in their final moment which is destined to be repeated infinitely. We have found first-hand accounts not too far from Pompeii: two extraordinary and touching letters by Pliny the Younger exist. He was a historian of the era and found himself in the region at the time of the volcanic eruption. His letters narrate what he saw and heard from the few survivors who fled Pompeii in time.
In our guided visit of Pompeii we will try to bring the city back to life for you. We will describe the culture of the time and such things as the role of the family, the relationship between generations, the condition of women, marriage, the role of slaves, the politics and government of the city, the methods of electoral propaganda, even the clothing of the different social classes. We will tell you about trade and commerce, the production of bread, cloth dyeing, and the precious oil produced in Pompeii. We will see various temples and have a glimpse into religious life, its traditions, beliefs, superstitions, and funeral rites. We will see the typology of the Roman houses, its various rooms and their uses, the systems for heating them. The decoration of the houses will teach us about the evolution of different fresco styles and the use of mosaics. We will encounter other aspects of daily life such as dining habits, the foods that were eaten, the famous garum sauce; we will see gardens and acquaducts; we will show you how the lighting systems and the latrines functioned in both public and private spaces. We will explain the public entertainment and recount the fights that broke out between rival groups of fans of opposing gladiator teams; we will see the traces of life in the thermal baths, the taverns and the gambling, the brothels where both men and women prostitutes worked (all of which occurred throughout the empire). We will also see the forum and basilica of Pompeii, the famous houses of the Faun and of the Vettii, the great theatre, the Temple of Isis. These grand and ceremonial places as well as the numerous sites of daily life have stories to tell and secrets to divulge that are as fascinating as they are historically and culturally enriching.