Visiting the Ancient city of Pompeii, as we already said, is a unique experience, because the most important and interesting element for the tourists are not the monument or art pieces (than also in Pompeii they do not lack), but the possibility to see the daily life of its ancient inhabitants.
Visiting Pompeii is like being in a luna park, with the clamorous difference that there’s nothing virtual here, null of reconstructed, null of false, but it is all real.
Walking through the streets of Pompeii you just do what ancient pompeians did two thousand years ago: having a walk, visiting houses, shops, leisure places. How was a city of the Roman Empire made? We don’t need to see any reconstruction because in Pompeii there’s everything already. And the answer is: they were well done, better than other modern city, tidy, with a well recognizable plan, easy to discover, result of a precise town planning.
It’s well known, Romans were great engineers, and in the ancient Pompeii we can see how they worked.
The plan of the cities was always the same one: they traced a long street that crossed the longer side of the entire city, it was called “decumano”. Then there was a “cardo”, that’s to say the street that crossed with a right angle the decuman. Then they traced the minos streets that followed the same scheme of a chess board. It made the city tidy, easy to visit, rational and able to extend without any difficulty.
So Pompeii is, with the main decuman that goes from east to west and it’s called Via dell’Abbondanza, and a parallel one that’s via Nolana. Then there are the cards, that is Via Mercury/Via delle Scuole, via Stabiana, via Nocera. The city was inhabitated by approximately 10.000 people, before it was estimated to be more than these, but then it was discovered that not all the city lotteries were inhabitated, and therefore there was still space for new houses in the hypothesis of an increase of the city in the direction of the Amphitheatre.
The public square
The square was the centre of the city, even if in Pompeii it’s not right at the centre. The centrality of the square is an extraordinary element that makes us think about our Greek/Roman origins. Oriental cities were built around the palace of the emperor or of the king. If you go to China, you can see what it means, especially in Beijing: the square is the floor behind the imperial palace, at the centre of the city there’s the emperor with his palace where people cannot enter: “the forbidden city”.
The Forum in the Roman city (the agora, for greeks) is instead the square of people where you find Temples, markets and public buildings. Religion, politics, market, still today the Italian squares are organized as well, and in ancient Pompeii we can verify it.
Private houses are organized along the roads, often offering entry to side streets and providing spaces for shops or tavernas on the main street. Houses built since the early days of the city, during the oscan age, on a model that always foresees, for the houses of the wealthiest, an uncovered atrium that served to give light and to collect rainwater, atrium around which were organized the various rooms. Later the most prominent houses were built on two spaces, a public one, to receive important guests and the clientes and a space for the family. A model that we often find in many pompeians houses, as for example in the house of Faun, that gives space to the amazing frescoes and decorations.