Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Pompeii was mostly destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 metres of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in August in 79 BC. The people and buildings of Pompeii were covered in up to twelve different layers of tephra, which rained down for about 6 hours. By the time of its destruction the population of Pompeii was approximately 20,000, with a complex water system, an amphitheatre, gymnasium and a port.

Pompeii was lost for about 1500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader rediscovery almost 150 years later by Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748. The objects that lay beneath the city have been well preserved for centuries because of the lack of air and moisture. 

The blocks in the road allowed pedestrians to cross the street without having to step onto the road itself which doubled up as Pompeii's drainage and sewage disposal system. The spaces between the blocks allowed horse-drawn carts to pass along the road.

In 89 BC, after the final occupation of the city by Roman General Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Pompeii was finally annexed to the Roman Republic. During this period, Pompeii underwent a vast process of infrastructural development. These include an amphitheatre, a palaestra with a central natatorium or swimming pool, and an aqueduct that provided water for more than 25 street fountains, at least four public baths, and a large number of private houses (domūs) and businesses.

A snapshot of Roman life in the 1st century: the baths, many houses, and some out-of-town villas like the Villa of the Mysteries remain well preserved.

Rich reds adorning paintings in Pompeii were originally ochre – Italian researchers say that sensuous ”Pompeian red” is the result of an accident. Before Mount Vesuvius blew its top and buried the city, it emitted high-temperature gas which turned the original yellow color that dark red. It’s not an entirely new discovery – ochre was also the main color at Herculaneum, sister city also buried by Vesuvius.

The amphitheatre has been cited by modern scholars as a model of sophisticated design, particularly in the area of crowd control. In 1971 Pink Floyd recorded the live concert film Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, performing six songs in the amphitheatre. The audience consisted only of the film's production crew and some local children.

The origin of the word Pompeii would appear to be the Oscan word for the number five, pompe, which suggests that either the community consisted of five hamlets or, perhaps, it was settled by a family group (gens Pompeia).

Pompeii has been a tourist destination for over 250 years. Today it has UNESCO World Heritage Site status and is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2,5 million visitors every year.

Pompeii: The Mystery Of People Frozen In Time 

Yet no-one has been able to unravel the full story that is at the heart of our fascination: how did those bodies become frozen in time? For the first time the BBC has been granted unique access to these strange, ghost-like body casts that populate the ruins and, using the latest forensic technology, the chance to peer beneath the surface of the plaster in order to rebuild the faces of two of the people who were killed in this terrible tragedy. 

Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii 

Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii is a 1972 concert film directed by Adrian Maben. Although the band are playing a typical live set from this point in their career, the film is notable for having no audience. The main footage in and around the Pompeii amphitheatre was filmed over four days in October 1971. The film has subsequently been released on video numerous times, and in 2003 a "Director's Cut" DVD appeared which combines the original footage from 1971 with more contemporary shots of space and the area around Pompeii, assembled by Maben. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Villa San Michele & Monte Solaro, Capri

The Villa San Michele was built around the turn of the 20th century by the Swedish physician, Axel Munthe, on the ruins of the Roman Emperor Tiberius's villa, on the Isle of Capri, Italy. Its gardens have panoramic views of Capri town and its marina, the Sorrentine Peninsula and Mount Vesuvius.

Villa San Michele on Capri is not a residence in the ordinary meaning of the word. It is rather the bearer of Axel Munthe’s thoughts and feelings about beauty and the great questions of life.

Seldom do literature and reality come together so successfully as in case of San Michele. In the year 1929 the publication of the original English edition of Dr. Axel Munthe’s "The Story of San Michele" was such a bestseller that it went immediately into a second edition, and by the following year readers were traveling to Capri to see the home of the author named in the title.

The number of objects in marble, stone, mosaic, and terracotta total around 655. There are around 530 in wood, metal, ceramics and textiles. The collection can be said to be divided into several main themes, such as nature and animal images, as well as death and dying. 

Axel Munthe, the son of a chemist, was born at Oskarshamn in 1857 and grew up in Vimmerby and Stockholm, Sweden. After completing a preparatory degree in medicine at Uppsala University in 1876, he was sent in the autumn of that same year to Menton on the French Riviera for the sake of his lungs. It was in this connection that he visited Capri for the first time.

The Egyptian Sphinx, half lion, half woman. When the Roman emperor Tiberius lived on the island, the sphinx was already 1000 years old. We’ll probably never know how Axel Munthe found his sphinx. It probably doesn’t even come from the island, but it does come from Egypt and it has adorned a villa in the Roman Empire. Now the fantasy creature is on the last outpost of Axel Munthe’s villa looking towards the rising sun in the east.

Inside the chapel there is another masterpiece from Egypt, the so-called Horus falcon.

The architecture is there to emphasize the magnificence of the landscape, at the same time forming a worthy framework for the works of art. In this respect the park plays an important role.

Monte Solaro

Monte Solaro, soaring 589 meters above sea level, is the highest and most panoramic point on the island of Capri. Here the view extends across the whole of the island of Capri, the surrounding Bay of Naples, the Amalfi Coast and as far as the distant mountains of Calabria.

The easiest way to get to Monte Solaro is by chairlift. The journey to the top takes about 12 minutes. 

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