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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 18 Jun 2014

Location: Italy

MapThe next day we entered our own Time Machine, and crossed off one of the reasons we had come to Sorrento in the first place – Pompeii. With advice from our helpful landlady, we hired our own personal guide called Rafaelle, and headed to the archaeological site early to beat the crowds. When we walked through the entrance gate at 9am, dark black clouds were hanging overhead, the smell of rain was in the air and it seemed as if we had the entire site to ourselves. We could see why an early start was so important.

Not long into the tour, it started to rain, and Rafaelle ducked us into someone’s house. Of course they weren’t home, as they had vacated their home on the morning of 24th August in 79AD, when the nearby volcano erupted and destroyed their city by burying it under 6 metres of ash. The weight of that settling ash caused every roof in the city to collapse, but fortunately this house had recently had its roof restored, providing us with shelter for the storm. The timing of the lightning and thunder were almost instantaneous, so the storm must have been directly overhead. The lightning show was spectacular, the thunder deafening. It was a surreal moment, stuck in someone’s home from two thousand years ago, watching nature’s most spectacular show of force.

We walked through the remains of homes, shops, baths, council chambers, even a brothel, with paintings of what services they had to offer. By midday our tour guide had completed his contract, and he left us to continue exploring this fascinating place on our own. Unfortunately by this time the crowds were here in force, seemingly the same ten thousand people who we had encountered at Florence’s David, and Pisa’s Tower. I think I recognised every one of them – Allison says they must be following us.

I still had to visit one last Pompeii attraction to satisfy the aging hippie in me. The amphitheatre in Pompeii is a large oval-shaped arena, completely empty and surrounded by stone seating . Back in October 1971, this was the venue for a unique rock concert, when Pink Floyd played live for no-one other than a bunch of sound and camera men . The concert was filmed and released as “Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii”, and it became quite legendary as a snapshot of the famous band before “Dark Side of the Moon” was released in 1973. I felt a connection with history from 40 years ago and 2000 years ago.