All posts tagged Vesuvius

Pompeii artifacts at British Museum

Published April 13, 2013 by Tony

Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum

British Museum

28 March – 29 September 2013

It is the daily life of Pompeii and its near neighbour Herculaneum before the disaster that is the subject of the British Museum’s latest exhibition.
In fact, the British Museum in London is hosting its first ever exhibition on the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum sponsored by Goldman Sachs.
Titled “Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum“, with a unique focus to give a taste of the everyday life of the people in Pompeii, the exhibition will display 450 artifacts on loan from the Superintendence of Naples, until the end of September 2013, of whom some had never left Naples and which have never been seen outside Italy before.

AD 79. In just 24 hours, two countries in the Bay of Naples, southern Italy, were buried by a catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Preserved under ash, their rediscovery nearly 1,700 years later provided an unparalleled glimpse into the daily life of the Roman Empire.Plaster cast of a dog - from the House of Orpheus, Pompeii, AD79
In spite of the desolation that met the eyes of those who witnessed the aftermath of the eruption of Vesuvius, much was wrested from those ruins more than a millennium and a half later, and much continues to be found to this day – as recently as 1992, for example, 300 hundred bodies were excavated from the shore line close to Herculaneum. The volcanic ash had acted as a terrible preservative of sorts. Pompeii was said to have had a population of about 15,000, and only 10 per cent of those bodies were ever accounted for. Some must have fled, taking whatever was most precious to them – beside the felled body of a soldier we stare at a long sword, a stabbing dagger and a bag of tools. Others took with them a wicker basket heaped with bronze coins or the key to a house that would never be seen again.

The exhibition organizers have created a journey through time, with images of tranquil daily life in the ancient Roman cities that today are blended with the bustle of the city of Naples.
With over 20 years since the last major exhibition on Pompeii in the UK, recent discoveries alongside celebrated objects, including body casts, will reveal new insights into this highly captivating and humanFamily bodies story.
Starting with the bustling street, and moving through the intimate spaces of a home, the visitor will be transported into the lives of ordinary Romans nearly 2,000 years ago, before devastation struck. From the atrium to the garden, bedroom and dining room, this personal journey reveals parallels with our own lives today.

The presentation is systematic, and after seen common daily life objects, artworks, jewels and paintings,  the tragedy comes. You can see her, in a low-lit area on her own, flung down onto her face, helplessly sprawled in death, the Resin Lady, so called because the void of the body left in ash was filled with clear epoxy resin. This woman died in the basement of a villa near Pompeii. A little way away, among the most striking findings come down to London, is an entire family that died together in positions of pain and terror, braced against the hellish heat, huddled in an alcove under the stairs of their house. A child is on its mother’s lap. Mother and father appear to be falling backwards, reeling from the tremendous blast of heat. A child lies in the boxer pose – which means that its tendons would have god Pan with goatcontracted because of the searing temperatures.

And as a reminder that ancient Romans were truly made of flesh and blood, curators have not forgot some erotic items preserved from the cities (look at the marvelous penis on the handsome figure that acts as a support for the cake stand, for example). The Romans, we know,Placentarius - Cake Tray were not ashamed of their bodies and not embarrassed about sex, differently from the British of today, who have placed a kind of signal “unsuitable for children” in front of the statue of the god Pan that mates with a goat.

Statues, garden furniture, food moulds, even a mosaic warning sign reading “Cave canem” (beware of the dog) placed at the entrance of Orpheus home in Pompeii, are indicators of just how much the average person loved their stuff.
Of course, watching all the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum closely on site is a different story, and I can understand that this is better than nothing for British who can not or do not want to travel and come to Naples, but it becomes inconceivable to me that other people – non-resident in UK – will have decided to travel to go to London to enjoy this small exhibition, rather than come in Pompeii.




Published December 2, 2012 by Tony

The Vesuvius

red zone
<At a distance the mountain seems to be harmless, the blue outline of the lofty cone terminating in a dense bank of smoke, like storm clouds gathering around the snowy peaks of the distant Apennines; but when the adventurous tourist wishes to approach nearer to its blazing crater, and toils up its torn and blackened sides, he will see in the immense chasms and rents traces of might convulsions.> A.J. O’ Reilly, 1884

Whoever says Vesuvius, says Campania.
Neapolitans call the most famous mountain in the world ‘a muntagna. It is the symbol of the City that, with its perfect form, closes the Gulf. The majestic cone dominates a disquieting and
evocative environment. Tormented landscapes of savage beauty await the visitor: the panorama from the top of the mountain extends from the Sorrentine Peninsula to Capo Posillipo, giving rise to unforgettable memories, especially in the tenuous light of sunrise or Vesuvius_from_planewith the intense ones of sunset. Vesuvius, with the Phlegraean Fields, it is the only active volcano in Europe which is on the mainland, all the others are on islands, and is also one of its most dangerous, as the land at its feet is densly populated and the houses arrive up to 700 mt above sea level. The summit to the left is that of Mount Somma (1133 mt), and to the right the cone of Vesuvius (1281 mt). They are seperated by a valley called ‘Valle del Gigante’ (Valley of the Giant), in turn subdivided into ‘Atrio del Cavallo’ (Hall of the Horse, West) and ‘Valle del Inferno’ (Valley of Hell, East). The original inhabitants had forgotten that they were dealing with a volcano: it was known solely for its excellent wines and for the thick vegetation that covered its summit. (Well-known the old Lacryma Christi DOC wine). It became suddenly famous when, in 79 BC, it erupted. Entire cities, among which Pompeii and Herculaneum, were destroyed. The last eruption, filmed by Allied troops, was in 1944 (watch the old video included below). Since then the volcano has been dormant. For long the Vesuvius has been puffing as you can see on most old Naples photo.
In 1991 the institution of Vesuvius National Park was decreed, and tEruzion of 1944he “World Biosphere Reserve” status was given to it by Unesco. This comprises all of the area around the volcano, the entire archaeological system of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and the Miglio d’Oro (Golden Mile) with its splendid examples of 1700’s and 1800’s villas. As for the flora, the territories of the Vesuvius and the Somma differ in certain aspects. The former is more arid and sunny, with typical Mediterranean vegetation, pine woods and holm-oak stands. The latter is moister, with woods of chestnut, oak, adler, maple and holm-oak trees. Among these you can come across, rarely, a splendid stand of birches, unusual for this mediterranean environment. There are also many orchids, 23 species in all, and the bright yellow broom, that so enchanted the poet Giacomo Leopardi. The fauna of the Park is also particularly interesting.
The Vesuvian Observatory is the oldest scientific institution dedicated to the study of volcanos, and was founded in 1841. The original seat, an elegant neoclassic-style building, is on Vesuvius, between Herculaneum and Torre del Greco at a height of 608 mt.
The old Bourbon building hosts a permanent exhibition that takes the visitor for a fascinating journey into the world of volcanos.

A very old saying in Naples, says: “Napule tre ccose tene belle: o’ mare, o’ vesuvio e e’ sfugliatell”, (three beautiful things Naples has: the sea, the vesuvius and the sfogliatelle).

Sfogliatelle (Italian pronunciation: [sfɔʎʎaˈtɛllɛ], in Neapolitan you should say: [sfuʎʎaˈtɛll], singular: sfogliatella), are shell shaped filled pastries native to Italian cuisine. “Sfogliatelle” means “many leaves/layers,” the pastry’s texture resembling leaves stacked on each other.

Over the years, many villages have sprung up around Vesuvius, and today there even are 13 municipalities, quite populated: Boscoreale, Boscotrecase, Ercolano, Massa di Somma, Ottaviano, Pollena-Trocchia, San Giuseppe Vesuviano, San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Sant’Anastasia, Somma Vesuviana, Terzigno, Torre del Greco, Trecase. More than 700.000 inhabitants, and for this the Vesuvius is one of the most studied volcano in the world, (see the red zone in the picture below the title). While not far away others suburbs as: Cercola, Pompeii, Portici, San Giorgio a Cremano, Torre Annunziata.


Published January 21, 2011 by Tony


Neapolitan tomato bunch

It is the time here to use some food stored in the basement as like as some particular small tomatoes tied together to form a bunch.
I think that this particular species of tomato is characteristic of some specific regions of the southern Italy only and of Naples city especially. In fact it refers to a specific seed far-back bred along the Vesuvius side mainly. The plants, cultivated as any potato plant, produce small and pointed tomatoes harvested from June to August when any cluster is handspun to obtain a thick bunch we Neapolitan call “piennolo” (derived from the Italian word “appendilo”, meaning hang it)

Any piennolo then is stored in a fresh aired place to ripen slowly till to become dark-red, ready to be sold. The first harvest gives back a smaller and dried tomatoes good to be used in the short, while the biggest and watery ones can be stored longer and used first they start to become rotten. Generally they can be kept for many weeks depending on temperature. On average, any bunch (piennolo) is nearly 5 Kg.

People start to buy this tomatoes in September but we can find them in December too though their purchase price raises because – drying up – their weight decrease in the time.

Every year I’m used to buy some piennolo before Christmastime and keep them hanging out my balcony. The taste of these characteristic tomatoes is very peculiar, the flesh is more dried compared to other tomato and not as red colored as the peel – looking pink even – but, quite sweet with a delicate unique taste.

For these distinctive characteristic this tomato is used to prepare simple dishes and the best way to taste its flavor is to prepare a simple tomato-sauce with spaghetti. I like to use them with Vongolas,  an Italian fresh clams (Venerupis decussata) …… very delicious!

(for 2 people) Place a small saute pan (frying pan) over medium heat; add a finger of olive oil and a clove of garlic. Leave garlic to golden and in the meanwhile wash with water about 15 tomatoes. While tearing put them in the oil. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until tomatoes begin to break down and dry over a lower heat if the case. Mash a few with a spoon too and add some pinch of salt. It needs not more than 10 min to cook these delicate tomatoes. To taste their flavor you shouldn’t add anything else but, if you like can add some fresh leaf od basil at the end of the cooking. In the meanwhile cook 6 ounces of spaghetti in salt water according to package directions. Drain. Serve sauce over spaghetti and…. yum…. yum…..