While there are at least eighty examples in Pompeii alone, the Thermopolium of Regio V is notable for the exceptional decoration of the painted counter, with images of a Nereid riding a hippocampus and of animals that were likely prepared and sold there.
The commercial complex emerged at two different times. It had been only partially investigated in 2019, during the work of the Great Pompeii Project to stabilise and consolidate the historical excavation fronts. Taking into account the exceptional nature of the decorations, and in order to restore the complete layout of the restaurant - located in the open space at the intersection between Vicolo delle Nozze d’Argento and Vicolo dei Balconi - in 2020 it was decided to prepare for a further intervention aimed at completing the excavation, with the restoration of the rooms and surviving decorative elements. At the same time, a new wooden roof was constructed to protect the painted counter, proceeding to the renovation of the ancient cantilevered maenianum (balcony), upon which part of the original cocciopesto flooring discovered during the excavation has been laid.
On Friday 6th August the Thermopolium was unveiled to the Director General of Museums, Massimo Osanna, under whose scientific direction the excavations were carried out, and the Director General of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, following completion of the restoration and valorisation works which have made it possible to make the complex safely accessible to the public.
Visits will be possible every day from 12:00 to 19:00 (last entrance at 18:40), entering from Via di Nola/Vicolo di Cecilio Giocondo and exiting by Vicolo delle Nozze d’Argento. Prior booking is not required.
Alongside visits to the Thermopolium, special visits will also be possible to the work sites of the House of Orion and the House with the Garden - with regulated admission and different routes to ensure a safe guided visit - where works are underway with a view to definitive restoration and roofing interventions prior to the permanent opening of the entire area.
Both residences, along with their extraordinary decorations, emerged and were stabilised during the course of the Regio V excavations, which were linked to the broader stabilisation of excavation fronts intervention overseen by the Great Pompeii Project.
Visits will be possible every day from 16:00 to 19:00 (last entrance at 18:40). Entrance will be permitted every 20 minutes, for groups of a maximum of 5 people at a time accompanied by Park staff. Entry is from Via di Nola/Vicolo di Cecilio Giocondo and exit by Vicolo dei Balconi on Via di Nola.
Free admission is subject to availability; prior booking is recommended via the www.ticketone.it website (Online booking cost - €1.50).
The House of Orion takes its name from the floor mosaic present in a room of the domus, which reveals highly elegant iconography that is unparalleled at Pompeii, namely the myth of Orion. The scene depicts the catasterism of the hero Orion, or his transformation into a constellation, and is probably connected to that of a second mosaic in the house. Both mosaics suggest a considerable level of culture and probable connections between the owner and the Eastern Mediterranean world, from where they may have originated.
The dwelling had already been discovered during the excavations of the 19th century, between 1891 and 1893, and in 2017 it was unearthed in its entirety. It possesses a structure with a central atrium, surrounded by rooms decorated with exquisite First Style paintings and floor mosaics. It is highly probable that this older First Style decoration in the reception rooms of the house, which in other Pompeian dwellings was frequently replaced by more modern decorative styles, was deliberately maintained. At the time of the eruption in AD 79 the dwelling was undergoing renovation. The current excavations have allowed us to identify various older tunnels, which were dug before official excavations in order to retrieve precious objects but which sadly compromised the structure of the house in several places.
The House with the Garden, which takes its name from the presence of a garden with a frescoed portico, is known for the discovery of the charcoal inscription which changed the date of the eruption. Overlooking the portico is the beautiful hall of megalographs, depicting in one panel Venus with a male figure (Paris or possibly Adonis) and Eros, and in another Venus in the act of fishing, alongside Eros. There is also a highly refined portrait of a woman in this same room, which perhaps depicts the domina. Facing onto the atrium is the room of the skeletons, where the remains were found of around ten individuals who sought refuge here in a vain attempt to save themselves, and which are currently undergoing DNA study and analysis. In a service room, on the other hand, a wooden chest was discovered which contained women’s jewellery and good luck charms, which likely belonged to one of the victims found in the house and which are today displayed in the Antiquarium of Pompeii.
““I am delighted to see the Thermopolium open to the public, following the timely completion of restoration work on the building discovered during the new excavations of Regio V” - declares Massimo Osanna, Director General of Museums - “In order to allow public access it has been necessary to proceed with the stabilisation of the structures, the restoration of the delicate frescoes and to ensure the protection of the entire area with appropriate roofing. A new visiting experience in an entirely new area of the site has been created for those who are returning to populate the streets of the ancient city.
The discovery, which occurred as part of a systematic intervention to stabilise the excavation fronts in order to combat the threat of hydrogeological instability against structures which have already been unearthed, provided a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary research which led to a greater understanding of the diet and daily life of Pompeians. Sincere thanks to all the team, who have contributed to this extraordinary discovery, subsequent research and this beautiful development project.”
“The opening of the Thermopolium fully continues the approach adopted by the Great Pompeii Project under the direction of Massimo Osanna, who I wish to thank together with the team for the exceptional work which has been done” - adds the Director General of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Gabriel Zuchtriegel – “This is a multifaceted approach of conservation, research and development, which with the opening to the public, reaches its climax, while we continue to work on planning the restoration of the House of Orion and the House with the Garden. The project to excavate and restore the Thermopolium, which arose from the needs of protecting and stabilising the excavation front, has led to extraordinary discoveries that help us to better understand the roughly eighty Thermopolia which are already known at Pompeii. With guided visits to the dwellings which are yet to be restored, we strive to raise public awareness of the fact that Pompeii is a large working site, where research, conservation and restoration continue on the basis of innovation and collaboration with important national and international research entities”.