The other really impressive thing about Pompeii was the sheer scale of some of the remaining buildings. One of the facilities was a big arena that included a swimming pool (now completely grassed over but still visible as a sloped depression in the earth).
The other amazing building was the amphitheatre, which is thought to be the oldest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire, predating the Colosseum. The entire structure, unlike the Colosseum, is intact (though many parts are grassed over), allowing you to see the symmetric shape of the facility.
We only spent an afternoon in Pompeii, far too short a time to see everything we wanted to see. But we had to drive on to Positano.
From Rome, we drove the Autostrade to the Amalfi Coast. Our first stop was originally to be Naples, but we decided that the hazards of taking a car into Naples outweighted our desire to see the city. We accordingly gave Naples a miss and (after some maneuvers because we missed the exit) got to Pompeii.
After Rome, which was clean and had its antiquities tucked away into well-defined corners, usually in pretty bad shape (the Forum is nothing but broken blocks and chunks of marble), our first view of Pompeii was a surprise. The city is both more and less well preserved than one might imagine. After reading National Geographic articles about the discoveries from this excavation, the initial reality of the site is a let-down. It’s extremely dusty and has been utterly stripped of ornament—all the good pieces went to museums, mostly in Naples.
However, as we started looking closer and entering some of the dwellings (some of which have intact ceilings, most of which had intact walls), we started to be blown away. Many of the dwellings had gorgeous frescoes on the walls; some had incredible mosaics.
The continuation of our trip can be found on the pages below: