It was a great week for archaeology in Campania as 3 major initiatives were completed, and restored ruins were returned to the public at Pompeii and Stabia.

At Pompeii, as part of the Grande Progetto Pompei, the Basilica was re-opened on 30th July, following interventions to secure the ruins, in particular, where weaknesses and loss of material were found in the plasterwork and brick columns.


Photo courtesy of SSBA-PES – Pompei – Ufficio Stampa

The Basilica was built in the second half of the 2nd century BC for the administration of justice and economic negotiations and as part of the general project of monumentalising the city.  The building has a rectangular plan, 3 aisles, and a pitched roof and remains of decorations in the “first style”are still visible.  At the bottom is the Tribunal, reached by wooden stairs, where the judges sat.

Entry to the Basilica may be limited to the lateral side of the building, situated on Via Marina.


Photo courtesy of SSBA-PES – Pompei – Ufficio Stampa

At Stabia, new rooms, which until now have been unvisitable, in Villa Arianna, were re-opened to the public on Sunday 2nd August.  Villa Arianna is a residential complex of the Roman era, built on the edge of the plateau of Varno in a panoramic position on the gulf.  It owes its name to the great mythological paintings found on the back wall of one of the rooms.


Photo courtesy of SSBA-PES – Pompei – Ufficio Stampa

The works, which mainly concern the villa’s thermal complex, started in 2010.  They were carried out by a team of restorers from the State Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg, Russia, alongside restorers from the Office of the ruins of Stabia and consisted of works of excavation, restoration and relief.  According to the Hermitage:

The Stabian Expedition is the first Russian archaeological expedition in Western Europe, a fine example of international collaboration in archaeology.

From those investigations it was possible to clearly identify the organization of the thermal sector of the villa, consisting of a porticoed room with a small green space in the middle that served as an area of disengagement for the various rooms making up the thermal sector (tepidarium, caldarium, laconium, frigidarium).  A corridor that leads into a cubicle, already identified and looted during the Bourbon period, with a refined decoration of the late III style and mosaic floor, was also revealed.

Rooms 44 and 45 were also re-opened for the occasion, after having recently been restored by the Accademia delle Belle Arti of Varsavia.  These rooms, which originally opened onto the atrium of the villa, present a decoration in II style which is very well preserved.


Photo courtesy of SSBA-PES – Pompei – Ufficio Stampa

These restorations at Villa Arianna were completed as part of existing agreements between the Superintendence for Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae and the RAS (Restoring Ancient Stabiae) Foundation, a non-profit Italian cultural foundation established in Washington DC in 2002 by the University of Maryland as part of a cooperation project in the field of cultural heritage.

The third major initiative was the re-opening, on 3rd August, of the Palestra Grande at Pompeii, and the permanent exhibition of Moregine frescoes.

The Palestra Grande, which closed in 2008, has re-opened to the public after restoration works.  The restoration has made it possible to enjoy the Palestra as it would have been at its height, in its original style, whilst at the same time making use of the space for both permanent and temporary exhibitions.


Photo courtesy of pompeiisites.org

Besides the Palestra itself, a permanent exhibition of Moregine frescoes has also opened.  Until now, the frescoes have been exhibited internationally, but have returned to Pompeii to the southern portico of the Palestra, their final, prestigious location.  The setting has a great emotional impact, and is accompanied by an evocative sound installation, specially made by the CRM (Centro di ricerca musicale).  The frescoes were found in Moregine at the splendid complex, around 600 metres south of the wall of Pompeii, and were discovered in 1959 during works to build a road between Naples and Salerno.


Photo courtesy of pompeiisites.org

Due to the popularity of the re-opening of the Palestra Grande, its new open hours will be every day from 9.30 to 17.20 and Saturday evening 20.00 to 24.00.

This really is a very exciting time for these sites, and hopefully a sign of more good things to come!