By: Hannah Dolling, Foster Undergraduate who participated in the Rome Core Abroad Program
Although I spent most of my time in Rome during the Foster Rome Program, the whole group got to take a trip south for a weekend so that we could explore the ancient city of Pompeii! Since I’m a bit of a history nerd, this was one of the coolest experiences I had abroad.
The morning we set off to see the city, I suddenly remembered a book that I had read around the age of 7 or or 8. It was “Vacation under the Volcano” from the Magic Tree House series. That story was inspired by the ancient city that I was about to see and the little kid in me was ecstatic.
We had an amazing tour guide, Pascuele, who had been giving this very tour for 42 years. Before we went in, he told us about some of the re-creations of people that lived in ancient Pompeii that we would see inside. Archaeologists had studied the recovered bodies and created representations that depicted the position of their bodies at the time of their death. For example, we saw a statue of a child covering his mouth, supposedly trying to block the volcanic ash. It was stories like these that made the experience of touring Pompeii a very surreal one.
Nothing but the roofs of the city had been restored, so stepping in the city was like taking a step back in time. Our first stop was the large, open-air theater. We then ventured into the residential areas, where our guide pointed out small details like the raised stepping stones that served as crosswalks on the roads, and the holes in the sidewalks that gave the residents a place to tie up their horses.
Pascuele then took us to a house that we could walk through. In the center there was a beautiful garden with a walkway surrounding it. We got a look into each of the rooms that led off from the walkway: a dining room, a guest bedroom, and the main entryway.
After this we saw the world’s oldest remaining red light district, a building that women were not allowed access into until 20 years ago! The explicit paintings decorating this building are one of the sites that Pompeii is most widely known for.
To finish up our tour, we had an incredible view of Vesuvius, the volcano that had brought the city to its end by burying it in volcanic ash. It’s amazing to me that thousands of years later, people from all over the world can still see this city and hear its story. Coming from the United States, it was truly fascinating to see something this old in more or less its original state.
It was experiences like these that made my time in Italy so unforgettable. Learning about places in history class is one thing, but seeing it for yourself is another. Going on cultural visits like this only makes me more curious about the world I live in. Studying abroad has been a life changing experience and because of it I plan to travel much more in the future!