Three Pompeii houses reopen to the public

Three Pompeii houses reopen to the public
Courtesy of the Italian Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Must see  -   Architecture

Pompeii is nothing short of a gem. The Roman city offers a unique snapshot into the lives of its residents in 79 AD, before Mount Vesuvius’ eruption, and the opportunity to walk the streets that once teemed with life.

Attracting millions of tourists each year, the archaeological site ‘will always require maintenance and research,’ according to Dario Franceschini, Italy’s minister for cultural heritage and activities, and has been under conservation efforts for decades. For three of the city’s buildings, though, continued conservation has made them open to the public once more as of this week.

The House of Lovers, the House of the Orchard, and the House of the Ship Europa are the three buildings in question and each were restored as part of a project launched in 2014 by the EU. Called the Great Pompeii Project, the initiative funneled €105 million (~£88.1 million) into the city’s restoration and so far, has propelled more than 70 projects. Since the project began, the city has been continually improved and portions of it have reopened. In 2010, National Geographic reported that a mere 10 of Pompeii’s 60-odd buildings and less than 15 percent of its 100-plus acres were accessible to visitors. Now, half of the city’s buildings and more around 70 percent of its area are open for visitors. Last year, the city attracted nearly four million visitors, a number that has steadily grown since the launch of the Great Pompeii Project. To continue research, another €50 million (£41.9 million) has been put forth by the Italian State.

The House of Lovers was first discovered in 1933 and has become well-known for an inscription in its decoration that reads Amantes, ut apes, vitam melitam exigent, which translates to ‘Lovers lead, like bees, a life as sweet as honey.’ In the 1980s, however, the house was closed to the public following an earthquake that rendered it unsafe for the general public. Now, the House of Lovers is once again viewable allowing visitors to see its two floors of architecture, which are emblematic of the peristyle, or colonnaded garden, architecture found in Roman cities.

Within the House of the Orchard are frescoes depicting all kinds of vegetation, including lemon trees, fig trees, and strawberry plants, alongside birds and other animals. Its garden scenes have offered more insight into Roman life in Pompeii as well as the species of plants available to the area. The House of the Orchard was partially excavated in 1913 and then again in the 1950s.

Finally, there is the House of the Ship Europa, which was named for the large image of a ship named ‘Europa’ on the north wall of the house flanked by smaller boats. Components of the house date to different eras showing the complexities of construction at the time.

Pompeii is ‘a source of pride for Italy’ says Franceschini. It is ‘a place where research and new archaeological excavations are back thanks to the long and silent work of the many professionals of cultural heritage that have contributed to the extraordinary results that are there for all to see.’ With the reopening of the three buildings, now more of the prized city can be seen and experienced.

Below are images of the House of Lovers, House of the Orchard, and House of the Ship Europa following conservation.