I took a day off work to go visit Oplontis and Villa Regina last Thursday. These are the two smaller ruin sites, after Pompeii and Herculaneum, that were destroyed in the volcanic eruption of 79 AD.
I visited Oplontis first. It was one large villa (some incredibly rich person’s show-off summer place by the sea) that is largely excavated, except for part that is still buried under the neighboring road and a gun factory. The villa is known for its many peacocks that are painted all over the place as well as mythological themes up the wazoo. The walls still have a majority of wall paintings and the floor tiling. Archaeologists have put a ton of walls and columns back in place as well. And the villa has a gigantic swimming pool.
Then I went to Villa Regina, which is quite tiny compared to Oplontis and especially Pompeii. Outside of a large room full of partially buried, gigantic wine amphorae, there is not much to those ruins. The best part of Villa Regina was the museum on the property. It is not too big, but it houses some very important artifacts found at the site as well as some from Pompeii. You can see a full loaf of bread, various grains and nuts, fishing nets, shells, pots, a plaster cast of a dog, a cast of the woman who was living at the villa with her scarf over her face (as she was suffocating to death from the volcano’s deadly fumes), glass tear jars and perfume jars, paintings, etc.
These villas are nothing compared to the grand, albeit empty Pompeii, and the small, dense, tiled, and fascinating Herculaneum. My order for my favorite ruins is happens to be directly proportional to their sizes-Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, and lastly, Villa Regina.
Saturday, October 8th 2011, I went solo to Paestum, pronounced by the locals like Pay-ay-stoom. Justin did not feel like going. It was a tour through the military, so I wasn’t really alone or anything. It was a 2 hour bus ride which was scenic, so it wasn’t too boring. A few of the photos are taken from the bus when we were passing through Salerno, which has great views of the sea, part of the Almalfi Coast, and Capri. Overall, it was a nice one-time trip.
First I went to a Mozzarella Factory. It was less of a factory than just a few rooms and the domesticated water buffalo pens, aka cow pens. But they make the delicious Mozzarella di Bufala…aka Buffalo Mozzarella, that the area is famous for. I had lunch at their restaurant and ate some fresh cheese with bread and then some potato pasta, which tasted like potato stew.
After lunch I went to the ruins and the museum that houses the artifacts found at the ruins, mostly under the temples. It was all pretty neat. Let’s learn! The site of the Paestum ruins was originally called Poseidonia in honor of the Greek sea God Poseidon. There are three Greek temples, two dedicated to Hera and one to Athena. They area about 2600 years old-ish. A few hundred years after the Greeks were there the Romans came along and build a town there. So the ruins near the temples are all Greek, but the ruins elsewhere around the temples are Roman. They are the best preserved temples in the world due to the area becomming unlivable due to deforestation, the growth of marshes, and malaria in the 4th century. They were rediscovered when someone (much later) was building a road from Naples through the area. The road goes right through the site, and part of the ruins were recovered with earth and now sits below a few shops, the museum, and whomever’s private property. That’s my summary, knowledge is power!