The other side of Pompei. L’altra Pompei – Vite comuni all’ombra del Vesuvio

  /    /    /  The other side of Pompei. L’altra Pompei – Vite comuni all’ombra del Vesuvio

The exhibition is held in the central portico of the Palestra Grande of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii (Regio II), a fascinating structure due to the simplicity and clarity of its layout. The portico consists of a large open square space surrounded by a series of columns arranged very close to each other. In 2019 a light steel and glass structure was created in this part of the gallery to host temporary exhibitions. The layout, dominated by dark colours, is profoundly influenced by the themes addressed in the exhibition, linked to individuals normally to be forgotten by history whose precarious lives on the margins of society were spent in cramped, poorly lit rooms.

We began by redefining the spaces of the gallery. We decided to organise the seven themes of the exhibition by separating the portico with structures with a triangular base, three meters high, which split up the space and create a structured, winding path through the gallery. In this way each section becomes a self-contained space in its own right strongly characterized by the different display solutions adopted for each context. The metal structures, designed to contain texts, images or painted plaster, have a double covering, the first in plasterboard painted bright red, the second in iron sheets with a patina of calamine (layer of oxide powders) which gives them a very dark bluish colour verging towards black. The double “skin” acts as a metaphor for the contrast between the living, magma-like material of the underlying layer of a volcanic soil and the inert, hazy material of the ash which, like a shroud, covers every surface.

The display cases that house the finds are simple sheets of calamine iron supported by light box-like structures painted black so as to blend in with the new linoleum flooring of the same colour. In this way, the exhibition levels, in their stark simplicity, emphasised by the lighting of the room, seem to be almost suspended in the spaces of the Palestra.

The blackout blinds placed on part of the glass walls of the gallery help to create a particularly rarefied atmosphere in those sections of the exhibition which, due to the nature of the finds and the layout, have a highly emotional impact on the visitor. Elsewhere, we have created spaces that alternated between being flooded with natural light, from which it is possible to admire the view of the central courtyard of the Palestra, and others where this vision is deliberately denied as in the central space of the Exedra (“Familia” section), dominated by three enclosures that reproduce the dimensions of the tiny, claustrophobic rooms allotted to slaves with the plaster casts of their furnishings.

The aim of this choice is to bring the visitor’s sensitivity as close as possible to the daily life of the most downtrodden inhabitants of Pompeii.

The exhibition presents at least three other moments of high tension The first section “Birth and childhood” contrasts a happy childhood with the high rate of infant mortality. This contrast is represented by means of a self-supporting wall placed in the centre of the room which on the front displays the sculpture of a child with a dolphin, a painting and a sculpture portraying a child with a goose; on the opposite side, a mirrored surface multiplies a large group of funerary stelae of the middle-lower classes (columellae) which, arranged as if in a procession, accompany and protect the plaster cast of a child found in a corridor of the House of the Golden Bracelet.

In the sixth section “Transport and knowledge of the world”, the transcription of graffiti on plaster warning against the dangers of travelling in the open sea, gave us the idea of arranging the various exhibits as if they were the cargo inside the wreck of a ship broken into two parts. This exhibition structure, which recalls the stylised profile of a boat, dominates the centre of the room with its six-metre long outline.

The seventh section “Spirituality and death” incorporates a cast of two victims in the immersive installation curated by Studio Azzurro which also appears at the beginning of the exhibition and in the central space of the Exedra, intensifying the experience of the visit linked to the various themes of the exhibition.




Silvia Martina Bertesago, Gabriel Zuchtriegel

Scientific Project

Valeria Amoretti, Silvia Martina Bertesago, Anna Civale, Chiara Comegna, Chiara Assunta Corbino, Tiziana Rocco, Alessandro Russo, Teresa Virtuoso, Gabriel Zuchtriegel

Exhibition design

Vincenzo De Luce


IDM srl

Graphic Identity

Sintesi Studio


Luigi Spina


Archeological Park of Pompeii