In Pompeii, where excavations have never stopped even in the days of the lockdown, a Thermopolium almost intact returns to light, in fact a grocery shop selling street food, a genre much loved by the citizens of the Roman colony.
Everything almost stopped in time on the day of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, fixed by the pyroplastic material that sealed its extraordinary colors and preserved fundamental elements to reconstruct the food habits and habits of the Romans of two thousand years ago.
Everything is preserved: the earthenware pots with the remains of the most delicious dishes, from kid to snails and even a sort of "paella" with fish and meat together. The wine "corrected" with beans and ready for serving. And a large "L" shaped counter decorated with images so realistic as to appear almost in 3D: a pair of mallard geese, a rooster, a large dog on a leash
Located in Regio V, in front of a large square at the corner between the Vicolo dei Balconi and the Casa delle Nozze d'Argento, the new Thermopoly had been identified and partially excavated in 2019, when the imprint left on the ash had resurfaced. from one of the large wooden doors and the balcony on the first floor was found, together with a first part of the counter, the one that overlooked the square, one of the most popular in Pompeii, with its beautiful marble fountain. But it was the subsequent excavations, which reached their climax in the last few weeks, which, together with the extraordinary decorations, the inlaid floor of polychrome marble and the complete picture of the environment, gave back the surprise of a large amount of information that this ancient workshop will be able to add. to the knowledge of history.
The remains of the dishes on the menu, for example, "with the joint use of mammals, birds, fish and snails in the same dish", as the archaeologist Chiara Corbino explains, in fact a kind of paella ante litteram. Or the treatment of wine, as the archaeobotanist Chiara Comegna tells us, which was corrected with broad beans (they served to whiten it and at the same time to correct its taste) but also stored in a dolo that had a tile on its bottom to separate the legumes from the liquid and avoid mixing the wine together with its unpleasant bottom
Not to mention the skeleton of a dog found one step away from the counter, right next to the painting depicting a dog on a leash: adult but of such modest size as to suggest that the selection of pet breeds was already practiced at the time.
But what the new Thermopoly seems to tell is also another piece of the human tragedy that was the eruption. The remains of two men were found in the room, with a second room at the back and an upper floor. One, about 50 years old, according to the hypothesis of the anthropologist Valeria Amoretti, was lying on a bed in the back room, the bones of the other - except for one foot - were found in a large vase, most likely hidden there. by excavators perhaps even from the 17th century.
"A photograph of that disastrous day", comments the director of the Archaeological Park Massimo Osanna in an interview with Ansa. And even the Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini applauds, underlining the fruit of the teamwork that has been done in recent years in Pompeii: "A great example for the recovery of the country".
"The shop seems to have been closed in a hurry and abandoned by the owners - explains the director of the Archaeological Park Massimo Osanna - but it is possible that someone, perhaps the oldest man, had remained inside and died in the first phase of the 'eruption, crushed by the collapse of the attic. The second could instead be a thief or a hungry fugitive, who came in to gather something to eat and surprised by the burning vapors with the lid of the pot he had just opened in his hand "
In the meantime, the director of the Park anticipates, the construction site is moving forward, "we are working on the consolidation and restoration of the structure, we will also reposition the balcony". The idea is to open the Thermopolium to visitors, pandemic permitting, already in spring, for Easter, setting up a path that also passes through the construction site of the house of the Silver Wedding, a wonder closed to the public for decades. In fact, Osanna, who in a few months will hand over the deliveries to his successor, spreads his arms and smiles: "In such a moment it is nice to think of a gift for our visitors"