This bucket list item was completed on 3rd July 2016 in Pompeii, Italy.
I started skydiving at the beginning of 2015, and by this point, I think it is safe to say that it was consuming my life (in a good way). I had just enjoyed an amazing summer of jumping, but winter was setting in and I wanted to keep jumping. That is when I found out about Grand Turismo.
Grand Turismo is run by Fiona from Skydive Auckland and is branded as the ultimate skydiving holiday. Each July, Fiona takes a bunch of beginner/intermediate jumpers over to Fano, Italy to jump. The conditions are always good, and the wine is always flowing. It really is the ultimate skydiving holiday.
I paid my registration fee and then began to figure out whether I could fit in some bucket list items while I was in Italy. Pompeii jumped out at me right away. I had always found the story of Pompeii fascinating and I wanted to experience it firsthand.
A long day of travel had me arriving into Naples around dinner time on 2nd July. Since Naples is the home of pizza, I thought it would be rude not to go out and sample some of the local recipes. I settled into a nice, little, family-run restaurant and ordered a divaola pizza.
I enjoyed my Peroni beer as I waited for my pizza. When it arrived, I was practically drooling because I was so hungry. It was a massive pizza, but I inhaled the whole thing in a matter of minutes. The only thing I needed after the pizza was a solid sleep.
I slept like a baby that night and woke up feeling fresh, ready to check out Pompeii. Upon arriving at Pompeii, we were introduced to our tour guide and were given radios with headphones to listen to her speak as we walked around the city.
It was cool enough to see the old stone architecture, but I am glad that I had the headphones because she was full of great facts. She started with the history of Pompeii and how it was a thriving city until the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, which subsequently blanketed the city in several metres of hot ash.
The eruption killed approximately 16,000 people and the hot ash formed casts around bodies that were killed instantly. This is what Pompeii is most famous for today.
To walk through the city and stare at Mount Vesuvius in the distance was a peculiar feeling. I tried to envision what it was like at the moment that Mount Vesuvius erupted. What was going through the minds of those living in Pompeii? What did everyone try to do? You can form more of a connection with historical events when you step onto the ground where these events have taken place.
The facts didn’t stop there though. As we were so close to Naples, the tour guide mentioned how Naples was the home of pizza. Again something I already knew, but did you know that when pizza was invented several centuries ago, the tomato did not exist in Europe? This blew me away!
When we think of pizza, we think of a tomato-based pizza. The tomato was only introduced to Europe, from the Americas, in the 16th century. When pizza was first invented, it was only topped with oil and seasonings. This evolved into a white sauce, and now, tomato-based pizzas are the norm.
Jumping back to Pompeii: while the architecture of the city was stunning, there was not the same infrastructure as we are used to today. There were no sewage systems, which meant that the sewage had to flow down the streets. For this reason, the rich typically lived at the top of the city and the poor lived at the bottom.
Most times it was easy enough to hop over the sewage flow, but in times of heavy rains, the people needed a way of crossing the street without stepping in sewage. These raised stones were used to form crossing points on several streets. Don’t they look like our crosswalks today?
As we continued to walk through the city, the tour guide began to point out these clay penises that were found on the sidewalks or on building facades. Each time we found one, we continued to walk in the direction that it was pointing. Eventually it led us to this.
The penises led us straight to the city’s brothel. This was the form of signage that they used to guide people towards the brothel. It was clearly an effective system as we found the brothel without any trouble. They did not have proper beds, so they had to do their business on these stone beds with some cushions and blankets for comfort. Not ideal…
After the tour of the city and the fun facts were over, they drove us up to Mount Vesuvius to get the volcano’s perspective. From here, we could look down into the crater, and also, look down on Pompeii. It seems so harmless now, but during the eruption, it would have been anything but harmless.
It was great that the tour included both locations. This really closed the loop on this historical event, in my opinion. I was glad to cross this one off my list, and as a bonus, I now have lots of cool facts that I can use to impress my friends.
Have you been to Pompeii or Mount Vesuvius? Let me know in the comments below. Make sure to check back for my next post, which will discuss the lesson learned by completing this item. Want to be notified when it is posted? Subscribe below.