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L’estate a Febbraio

Posted by on February 16, 2014

The weather in Sorrento is finally getting sunny, and life remains just as beautiful as ever.  A trip to Pompeii, scooter rides through the city, a dinner with my friend Morgan’s host family, and days by the water have filled my time in the past week.

Sul mare con le mie amiche Rosie e Morgan.

Al mare con le mie amiche Rosie e Morgan.

Visiting Pompeii was one of the things that I was most excited about doing in Italy.  Lucky for me, it’s just a short thirty minute ride from Sorrento on the Circumvesuvian train.  The trip was part of the Archaeology class I’m taking, and I feel that I learned more in one day in Pompeii than the rest of the month I’ve been here sitting in a classroom.  I loved getting to actually see the city and experience the ways in which the Pompeiians existed as people, not just as a feature in a history textbook.

A Pompeii con le mie amiche Morgan, Tsu, e Haley.

A Pompeii con le mie amiche Morgan, Tsu, e Haley.

One of the most interesting things that my professor Ilaria showed us was one of the buildings that used to hold a Thermopolium, the Roman era version of fast food.  There are dozens of these types of buildings in Pompeii where people used to go to get something to eat for lunch while they were out during their day.  Intricate details like these can only truly be appreciated by visiting the place itself, and it reminds me that the Pompeiians are not just a historical story about an eruption; they were a bustling city by the sea where real people lived and, unfortunately, died.

Pompeii e bello.

Pompeii e bello.

There are two myths about Pompeii that were dispelled for me on this excursion: one, that the bodies “frozen in stone” were caused directly by the volcano, and two, that Pompeii was not evacuated because it was nighttime when the volcano exploded.  In reference to the former: the bodies that are often shown in Pompeii are actually plaster casts.  An archaeologist named Giuseppe Fiorelli sensed the hollow places left by the decayed bodies and filled the void with plaster, creating a cast that preserved the position in which the individual died.  The bones are preserved within the plaster cast, and while this method creates an empathetic response, it is not as practical and educational as examining the bones themselves.  The later is an interesting idea that seems to be fairly wide-spread, but based on the writings of Pliny the Younger, who observed the eruption, we know that the eruption began around noon and reached Pompeii an hour later.  Perhaps this notion stems from the fact that the pumice and ash in the air blocked the sun temporarily and created night in the day.

Un uomo da Pompeii.

Un uomo da Pompeii.

Continuing in the realm of active learning, later during the weekend I went to my friend Morgan’s apartment where her house mother, Mamma Teresa, taught us how to cook an elaborate meal.  We begun with way too much bruschetta for five people, made a huge pot of pasta carbonara, then broccoli and sausage, followed by a big salad, and ended with a giant dish of Tiramisu.  The food was delicious, and I left stuffed, but the best part of the evening was talking to Mamma Teresa.  She’s a retired teacher and is very patient with us when we’re muddling through our mediocre Italian.  I spoke exclusively Italian with her, as she does not speak any English, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had since I’ve been in Italy.  She is warm and loving, and has invited us back with open arms.

Mamma Teresa e molta simpatica!

Mamma Teresa e molta simpatica!

Meanwhile, the sun is shining and I’m in Italy–what could be better?  However, it’s still technically “winter” here, so we get some pretty strange stares from the Italians when we go to the beach in shorts and tank tops on a Sunday afternoon in February.  Granted, it gets pretty cold once the evening sets in, but sitting on the rocks watching the sea swallow the sun as it drifts towards midday in America, it’s totally worth the chilly fingers and toes.

Io e la mia amica Rosie al mare.  Siamo pronti di andare a motorino!

Io e la mia amica Rosie al mare. Siamo pronti di andare a motorino!

One Response to L’estate a Febbraio

  1. Nan McCarry

    Fascinating stuff about Pompeii. And I love the imagery of the sun …

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