Here we are in Pompeii! Here we are brought to reality, another of my dearest dreams. Everything that had been read and heard, became a deception, as soon as you put your foot inside its walls, because Pompeii is more beautiful, and more attractive than everything we were told and everything we had imagined.
The sight of such desolation does not make us sad.
The visitor’s mind must make a vigorous pomp, to be convinced that those slabs of stone beneath his footsteps, and those walls covered with such joyful colours, are the leftovers, the inanimate limbs of a corpse. None of the bleak and disgusting appearances of death strikes the eyes. More than a death, it seems like a sleeping beauty; and those long furrows formed on the pavements by the chariots that traced them eighteen centuries ago, those cells, those litters, around which you can see on the plaster of the walls the traces of the sleepers, who one thousand eight hundred years ago had risen from those without returning, it seems that resting always expect. Every time you meet some other visitor comes the desire to believe it an old misanthrope inhabitant, who just went down the street, because the other Pompeii are outside the walls. And the illusion sometimes comes to such a sign, that one would be tempted to believe that asking him about his fellow citizens would answer us: “They all came down this morning to Herculaneum, where the Divine Augustus witnesses the spectacle of a naval battle. Tonight they will return”.
Pompeii is the city that has been able to die better than tits its other beautiful sisters of Magna Graecia, because the violent death by asphyxiation is the only death that befits the beauty. On the gigantic ruins of Agrigento and Syracuse, on their skeletons corroded by time, the archaeologist can only study osteology, while the corpse of Pompeii has its limbs intact, its blood is still, but has not lost the pink color that shines through under the gentle skin. The soul has left and the body has not been corrupted.
With the exception of the scaffolding and roofs of the houses that were formed by terraces, almost all the buildings of Pompeii could still be comfortably inhabited today. The layout of the rooms, mostly made of mosaic, are all in their place perfectly preserved, the plaster of the walls and their paintings are so fresh as to seem impossible that time and oblivion have for many centuries beaten on the wings, when we admire the strength and liveliness of the colorful. Many houses are so well-preserved that even some very thin and delicate cornices of scagliola juice, worked with small membranes of foliage, vovoli and fusarole in high relief, are still intact. And it is so fresh the aura of life that it still reigns in those narrow and elegant houses that among all the images that gently tumultuous rise in the heart, the last is that of the desperate screams and wheezes of the miserable victims who surprised by the infernal rain fell toasted in the narrow streets or suffocated in the bottom of the basement. Instead, we return to live with them; we see their intimate joys, public festivals, and seem to hear the cheerful voices of the domestic crocuses, the sound of the festivities imbanditi in the rich halls of Diomedes and the roar of the voice of the people rising confused from the overflowing bleachers of the Amphitheater.
Even the position on which this city fell asleep is not what we had imagined and that everyone imagines. The idea of a buried city is immediately followed by the idea, either of a damp bassure or of a limited horizon. That’s not true. Pompeii sits on the esplanade of a hill; from each door the eye sweeps across a wide horizon, and those ramparts of land that we had imagined should meet at every end of its streets unearthed, and should close it as in the bottom of a vast cistern, we did not meet. Everything is light, space and joy that you can see up there. Vesuvius has only changed its appearance when seen from those walls. The Vesuvius that observed from any other door is always severe, but never sinister, seen from Pompeii is truce. Its mass appears on that side more rough, more tormented and more black.
My Vesuvius, which I had never looked at from anywhere else without feeling my heart beating gently moved, as at the sight of a gruff and beneficial old man, then made me disgusted, and I felt horrified as at the sight of a murderer, who cynically quiet smokes and observes the body of his victim.