Today six of us took the optional tour to Pompei, three hours away by bus. Along the way, our tour leader, Barbara, led us in a very interesting discussion about funeral and death practices in Italy as we passed a cemetery. You see, Italy is a very small country in terms of land area, yet it is home to 60 million people. What will happen to all those bodies when they die?
What Barbara noticed when she visited the U.S. was the large number of funeral homes because apparently they do not have an equivalent here in Italy. Suppose you are sick and die in the hospital, the hospital has a special room where family and friends pay their respects after the hospital prepares your body. They put your body in a coffin with a glass top right there in the special room.
Then if you elect to have a casket burial rather than cremation, you decide how many years you want to stay in the ground — 10, 20 or 30 years, with the longer term being the most expensive. When your term is up, they dig you and your casket out of the ground and burn the whole thing. Then the space is given to someone else for another term.
We stopped for lunch just five minutes away from the ruins of the ancient city of Pompei where we met up with our local guide, Marco. What I was overwhelmed with was the vastness of the area with ancient structures. Even though only about 800 people lived here, we walked around for two hours yet Marco told us we had only seen 5% of the total buildings. It would have taken at least 15-20 minutes up the hill to reach one of the largest homes which had a total of 80 rooms. Yet we saw all the government buildings, the banks, the courts, and yes, the red light district which was identified by phallic symbols mounted in stone on the outside walls. Inside were ancient erotic paintings which showed people in intimate positions. Some people considered Pompei the Sodom and Gomorrah of its time, and when it was buried by the volcano, it was considered payback for its sinful ways. We also saw two large amphitheaters, one outdoor and the other indoor, and both of them had amazing acoustics.
On the three hour ride back to Rome, we got amazing views of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed Pompei in 79 AD but last erupted in 1944, and could erupt again at any time.
When we got back to the hotel, we rejoined the rest of our tour group and we went out to dinner at D’Alessio, where ten of us ladies had eaten lunch a few days earlier. I had an amazing seafood pasta!