We were looking forward to our visit to Pompeii - but things don't always turn out the way you want. The weather was great the place was amazing - the tour guide was a putz.


Our First Holland America Tour

We had booked a tour of Pompeii through Holland America. The main advantage of their tours is that they will hold the sailing for a short while if you return late. Or, if you are very late, arrange for you to pick up the cruise at the next port.

The tour left at 8:45. We got an early breakfast and went to the staging area. It was then I realized that the tour of Herculaneum might have been a better choice.

There were a number of different tours going to Pompeii. We had picked the shorter one, we could see a bit of Naples before we left at 6:00pm. A LOT of other people had made the same choice. We were in tour group #18, and there were leaving more after us. (There were about five tour groups going to Herculaneum.)

The trip to Pompeii was uneventful with nothing much to see except road and factories. Once at Pompeii we visited at cameo factory which was interesting - but not we had come to see.

Cameo factory
The Romans Perfected the Art of Miniature Sculptured Cameos

Not a Promising Start

After a spiel by our tour guide, Luca, on what to do if you got lost —  which assumed we had a cell phone —  we didn't. The alternative to rejoin the tour the entrance at 12:30.

We then started along a path into Pompeii.

The walls along the outside of the city were interesting. The rows of holes along the wall reminded me of the technique used to build castles. Timbers would extend out from the holes, acting as the supports for the scaffolding for the next stage. However, our guide, Luca, thought we were on a 'route march' going double time. He was well ahead of me by the time I stopped to take picture. A theme that would continue for the rest of the tour.


City Wall
Walls into the City of Pompeii

There were a number large bronze pieces outside the Palestra Grande. I was fascinated by them. I hadn't thought that the Roman's cast bronze -- certainly nothing that big. But, as usual, Luca was way ahead and there wasn't anyone to ask.

I found out later, they were a part of an art exhibition by Igor Mitoraj. They were nice —  but 'out of place'.

Ogor Mitorja Sculpture
Ogor Mitorja Sculpture

“No Time To Say Hello,  goodbye”

Our guide was going at such a fast pace that there wasn't that much time to get a real sense of what life must have been like. Although, he did seem to like brothel, it was one of the few places he stopped to describe in detail.

Bread was the Roman’s staple food. Wheat was imported from all over the empire. There were many bakeries located throughout Pompeii. “Pompeian mills were driven by two donkeys harnessed to a wooden frame.” (reference)

I found that information after we got home — as before there was not explanation of what we were looking at before it was time to ‘push on’

Roman Brick Oven
Roman Brick Oven

Like Julius Caesar, our troubles started at the forum. 

Entrance to the Forum
Entrance to the Forum

Into The Rabbit Hole

When we entered the forum, Luca explained how, when the ash fell on Pompeii, the organic material was burnt. This left hollow spaces in the ash layer. Archaeologists had used plaster to make casts of these spaces. They included everything from people to dogs.

These casts along with a collection of amphora was on display at the west side of the forum. As Cathy tried to get through the crowd to see the display, I stood back keeping one eye on her and the other on Luca. As I feared, Luca was already getting the group together at the far end of the forum. He hadn't noticed two people were missing.

By the time I got Cathy, our group was nowhere in sight.

We had a choice, find someone with a cell phone and call Luca or go back to the entrance.

We chose the later. I had a map which led me a bit astray. I didn’t realize there were two entrances. A 50/50 choice and I blew it.  After a bit of back tracking we arrived back at the right entrance at 12:15. Pleantly of time to meet up with our group.

After waiting for half an hour we realized our group had already left to go back to the ship. Fortunately, there were other groups from Holland America still there. We were able to get a ride back to the ship with one of them them.

NOTE: Inattentive guides are a common problem and not limited to Holland America. We were to take two other of their tours and the guides were excellent.