Visitors to the ancient ruins of Pompeii often wonder what life was like before the city was buried in ash. Now, a preserved building is being opened to the public, one that will give visitors a glimpse into what it was like to eat and drink in the long-lost city.
The destruction of Pompeii
Pompeii was once a bustling city that lay around 23 kilometers (14 miles) to the southeast of Naples.
However, disaster struck Pompeii and the nearby town of Herculaneum in AD 79 when the neighboring volcano, Mount Vesuvius, erupted. It is estimated that around 2,000-15,000 people lost their lives in Pompeii and the surrounding areas.
Since the city was rediscovered in the 16th century, around two-thirds of it has been excavated. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the second most visited site in Italy, after the Colosseum.
An ancient fast-food joint
Various finds from Pompeii have made the news throughout the years. Just earlier this year, an amazingly well-preserved chariot was unearthed and some human remains were identified as part of a heroic rescue mission conducted by Pliny the Elder.
The most recent exciting news from the archeological site is the official unveiling of a thermopolium, a snack bar similar to the one pictured above. A thermopolium was used by poorer residents who wouldn’t afford a kitchen, and about 80 have been discovered in Pompeii so far.
Only fully unearthed last year, this 2,000-year-old thermopolium is based in the Regio V site on the corner of Silver Wedding Street and Alley of Balconies. The counter within the building is so well preserved that the decorative frescoes are still in evidence.
While some of the fresco scenes are purely decorative – such as those showing gladiators or a nymph riding a horse – ducks and chickens also make an appearance, leading researchers to suggest that some frescoes advertised the menu on offer.
What was on the menu?
During the excavations, traces of pork, fish, snails, beef, pigs, and goats were found. Along with duck bones and crushed fava beans, the archeologists could piece together what might have been offered to a hungry Pompeiian citizen.
Since some traces were found together at the bottom of earthenware pots, archeologists concluded that a form of paella might have been available too. The Guardian, which reported on the find last year, suggested that the rest of the menu might include coarse bread, salty fish, baked cheese, lentils, and spiced wine.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2020, Massimo Ossanna, director general at the Archeological Park of Pompeii, said: “As well as bearing witness to daily life in Pompeii, the possibilities to analyse afforded by this thermopolium are exceptional because for the first time we have excavated a site in its entirety.”
Other remarkable finds in the area
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The therompolium is part of the Regio V site in the north of the city, near the Bay of Naples. This part of the site has not yet been fully excavated, but so far the area has revealed some remarkable finds. These include the well-preserved remains of two men thought to be master and slave and a sorcerer’s treasure trove including crystals, buttons made of bone, glass beads, and mirrors.
The ancient eatery will be officially open for visitors on August 12, 2021.