The miraculous town of Pompei should have been one of the highlights of our visit to Italy but sadly we found this incredible first century AD site suffering from poor preservation, unimaginative presentation and spoiled by numerous competing guides speaking loudly in different languages – many to large groups.
Exploring this town hidden and preserved under a blanket of volcanic ash for from 79 AD until 1748 when the first excavations were made, was still amazing but could have been so much more amazing!
If there had been well produced information and interpretation instead of reliance on pushy guides that visitors have to pay for, some of whom could – very likely – have been ill informed and sprouting rubbish, how much better the experience would have been.
Many of the buildings were shored up and closed off and looked as though they had been neglected for years, with many of the once-lost wonders hidden for a second time – behind ugly fences rather than under volcanic ash.
Some repairs were badly done and looked as though they’d been made by someone with no experience of archeology at all. We later found out that this was exactly the case – there had been widespread corruption with contracts awarded to undeserving and unethical contractors who had contacts with the Mafia.
While there were many wonders to marvel at, apparently many more have been lost to the world and recent UNESCO restoration is slow and laborious even though we are told that the mafia are no longer in control.
Before driving across Italy to Pompeii we had walked from our parking spot at the Marina on the outskirts of the Adriatic coastal town of Polignano a Mare along a lovely coastal path into the historic centre.￼
From the cliff top path we could see in the distance the old part of the gorgeously situated town perched on a 20 metre-high limestone rock above the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic.
The origins of this enchanting place date back to the 4th century BC when Greek settlers founded the city and later it became part of the Roman Empire.
To this day a Roman road bridge which we crossed when we arrived, still provides dramatic backdrop to the beach below.
The tiny old town, reached through the Porta Vecchia gate, combines charming, white-washed streets with beautiful old churches such as the Chiesa Matrice. Following the twist and turns of alleyways we found three panoramic terraces which had breathtaking views over the beautiful coastline.
The beaches near to the town are small and flanked by cliffs from which people apparently love to dive during the summer months.
We found a poster that showed how crowded the beaches get and were heartily thankful we had visited during the off season.