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Claudia goes to Pompeii

Updated on October 7, 2014

Visiting Pompeii at the Melbourne Museum

Who isn't awed by the dramatic story of the destruction of Pompeii? It's not just the disaster itself which can still reach to us across almost two thousand years, it's what that catastrophe has left behind. The ruins of Pompeii give us a vivid picture of life, disaster, and death in a Roman town.

Melbourne Museum had a wonderful exhibit, A Day in Pompeii, a thrilling collection which brought us the story of daily life in the ancient city. More than 270 priceless objects were on show, most never seen before in Australia. Too good for me to miss!

My granddaughter, weaned on my tales of the Ancient Romans, couldn't contain her eagerness to accompany me.

A Day in Pompeii exhibition brings the ancient Roman world to life, on show at Melbourne Museum, until 25 October.

Saturday 24 October come n your toga! All day activities, strolling players and heaps more tours. Open from 6.30 am to 10.00 pm. Sunday hours extended for the last day too. You have no excuse to miss it!

Get in early

Buy tickets before you go

No one told me I had to queue! The exhibition had been running for six weeks before I finally ventured to see it - I waited till the first rush died off but the queues were just as long as in the first week.

We arrived about 2.00 pm and stood in the queue for twenty mintues only to be told we couldn't get in until 4.00 pm. If I had been alone I would have come back another day, the Museum shuts at 5.00 pm on Sundays, but an hour is plenty of time for a small girl to stare at ancient amphorae.

I should have been smarter and arranged tickets beforehand.

Getting there by Public Transport is easy - Forget about parking

The Museum is just on the northern edge of the central city. Trams go past in Nicholson Street and buses go by the other side, along Rathdowne Street.

Claudia chose the tram ride, a little more exciting than the bus. I prefer the bus myself, a faster option, but for anyone wishing to get a feel for Melbourne, a tram ride is obligatory.

Claudia likes the hustle and bustle of the tram, lots of people frequently getting on and off and, of course, the interminable dinging bells.

The fares for us both came to less than $8 for the two all-day tickets. Rack that cost up against the price of a few hours parking and the stress of driving into the city along 19th century roads (especially with a young passenger).

The Museum Entrance - An adhesive Mural

There's a long and glorious mural along the side of the Museum.

On closer inspection it reveals itself to be made up of huge stickers. What will they think of next?

No Photography Allowed!

I should be more aware

I was happily clicking away at the incredibly beautiful murals (I Love Roman walls) until some kindly Museum Guide directed my attention to the large sign stating No Photography Allowed. Oops.

I very quickly put my phone away muttering apologetically and slipping with ease into my impersonation of a dithery old chook (it's been getting lots easier lately). This persona has been known to move authority to pity. Anything is better than a fine.

The beautiful walls

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Gorgeous Graffiti

Preserved on the ruined walls

The graffiti is a joy. Without it, how could any of us have known about Celadus, the Gladiator from Thrace?

Suspirium puellarum Celadus thraex

"Celadus the Thracian makes all the girls sigh"

There's more to marvel over too but, like so much graffiti throughout the ages, not at all suitable for publishing on a family-orientated web page. I noticed that a translation wasn't given for Arphocras hic cum Drauca bene futuit denario (scribbled on the walls of a brothel). It gives us an idea of monetary value, Arphocras paid a denarius to Drauca for her services.

Gladiator Helmet - Unearthed from the ashes

The 2,000-year-old bronze helmet is just one of 270 + items in the exhibition

The helmet would have been worn by a Murmillo, a gladiator who took his name from a type of saltwater fish. His helmet, with the high crest and broad rim, is definitely fish shaped.

The Museum Cafe - (Feed 'em first)

As we had to wait a couple of hours before we could get into the exhibition, we spent it mainly with the dinosaurs but children need constant refuelling and I need my coffee. Off to the cafe for the last half hour of waiting.

There's a childrens' lunch box available. It's the best choice, at $8, than the hot food section. Claudia had a cheese and vegemite sandiwch, packet of sultanas, chocolate frog and a fruit based drink in a plastic squeeze bottle. The cardboard packaging of the lunch box caught her eye.

A word of advice if you take children to the Museum, fill them up with food first! The prices in the cafe are pretty steep.

Immersive Theatre

Hold onto your chair!

We experienced the dramatic eruption of Vesuvius in a specially created immersive 3D theatre. Let me tell you, I found it awesome!

Claudia enjoyed it more than I did but she's never heard that rumble of the earth moving under your feet in real life. Once you've heard, and felt, the earth shake, you never forget it. Exactly 45 seconds into the video I was on my feet, granddaughter in my arms, aiming for the exit.

"It's alright Nanna, it isn't real", but I wasn't the only one who had that mad moment of utter panic. There were plenty of other wild-eyed people on their feet too.

The Body Room - Not for general viewing

These two women were among thousands who died when the powerful volcano blew up, trapping so many beneath layers of ash and rock. Scorching, moist ash encased the corpses and then hardened, leaving perfect moulds of the volcano's victims after their remains decomposed.

I had not intended to take Claudia through the room which displays the plaster casts of the bodies but, typically, I blundered in there by mistake. I don't recommend that you take smaller children to see these - especially as the dreadful fires we experienced in Victoria earlier this year are so close to everyone's memory.

Claudia was horrified to see the dog. Then again, I was too.

The Dog from Pompeii

Claudia's Review

Claudia recommends "A Day in Pompeii", particularly the remarkable video reconstruction in the small theatre.

"The movie is really good and the the 3D glasses are very big. The fire looked scary! Nanna liked the pictures drawn on the walls and I liked my lunch box.".

I'll be back

In my best tunica and stola

I'm definitely going back on a Thursday evening!

This time I'll go with friends of my own age and we can spend more than an hour. We could dress up in Roman style too. I've got plenty of ideas for what to wear in How to Host a Roman Murder Mystery.

The exhibition is running fascinating talks, workshops, fine food and wine, music and entertainment on Thursday evenings until 22 October - 4:30 PM - 9:00 PM.

Just the spot to soak up the Ancient Roman atmosphere in the Piazza Museo, a lovely authentic-looking, heated, undercover, outdoor bar.

Togas and gladiators welcome!

Admission fees apply for A Day in Pompeii exhibition, talks and workshops. Bookings essential: Phone 13 11 02

What's your take?

Is it worthwhile taking a small child to an exhibit in a Museum?

© 2009 Susanna Duffy

Leave a quick comment - Always much appreciated

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I feel your pain about the ban photography. We have a Pompeii exhibit going on now in NYC and that ban is in effect there, too. Sucks, but what can you do?

    • GramaBarb profile image


      7 years ago from Vancouver

      As a 'Grandparent Angel' I certainly want to bless a Grandmother and Granddaughter day out . Loved the comment "Nanna liked the pictures drawn on the walls and I liked my lunch box"

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love the way you take a day out and turn it into a wonderful lens. I saw the BBC "Pompeii, The Last Day" and it was magnificently realistic. Very scary but brought the catastrophe to life.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens. If I still had my angel wings I would bless it :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      As always, a great lens, Susanna!

    • Wooden-Crosses LM profile image

      Wooden-Crosses LM 

      8 years ago

      Wow, this is truly inspirational!

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      As a history buff, I really loved this lens. And that photo of Claudia bravely risking life and limb to mediate a peaceful resolution to the disagreement between those gladiators is the icing on the cake. (You should really make a Zazzle poster out of that photo.) Thumbs way up for this perfect lens!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      How expensive was the entry fee to the museum exhibition?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Loved your recap of pompeii! Are you going to the Titanic:The Artefact Exhibition? I hear they've recreated the grand staircase and it's going to be quite spectacular!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      9 years ago

      What a fantastic exhibit. I studied Pompeii in grade school and actually got to see it in person after college. The castings are sad indeed. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • norma-holt profile image


      9 years ago

      Great lens and magnificent pics. Hope it comes to Canberra as I would love to see it.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Pompeil looks like an outstanding musem to visit. I'll have to come back to read more at a later time, kind of like going to a museum...just can't get to everything in a day. Actually, I'm at the library right now, in the same buildling my granddaughter goes to head-start and I need to go pick her up in a few minutes to go home. I like this lens, a blessing...and a return visit to it later. Must go...

      Best wishes,


    • squid-janices7 profile image


      9 years ago

      Sounds like a fantastic exhibit and great learning experience for Claudia. I just returned from Italy a few weeks ago where I got to see the real deal .... our visit to Pompeii was amazing. I hope to have time to write a lens about it soon. 5* for you!!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Looks like an awesome exhibit! They wouldn't let me take pictures at the King Tut exhibit yesterday either not even when I tried to explain that I wanted to write a lens about it...oh bother!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I bought my tickets online and no queue, I was thankful for that. Your webpage about Pompeii is spot on and the dog did get ones imagination going , also the slave with the shackled ankles... It was quite dramatic.... beautiful but cruel...

      Great webpage

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi Susanna,

      Just a quick note to say that I'm glad to hear that you and Claudia enjoyed A Day in Pompeii. It's lovely to hear such great feedback about the exhibition and to read your personal stories about your visit.

      Kind regards

      Jessica Bendell

      Melbourne Museum


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Wow! I would love to see this exhibit! Blessed by a joyful angel!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      You convinced me


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