SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – A new exhibition in San Francisco gives visitors the chance to immerse themselves in everyday life centuries ago. And in a strange way, the exhibit from the doomed city of Pompeii may also offer the Bay Area a chance to look in the mirror.
At first glance, “The Last Supper in Pompeii” seems a world away. However, if you scratch the surface of the exhibits, you’ll find some notable similarities to what some consider to be the good life in the Bay Area. All excavated from the ashes of a massive volcanic eruption that held up the party.
“We knew this would pique everyone’s interest because it was about food and wine,” says Renee Dreyfus, ancient art curator at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco.
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She says the first thing many visitors might notice is the amazing parallels between this Roman city and the Bay Area wine country. Brown-green hills, weathered stone buildings and almost identically planted vineyards.
“In AD 79, it’s called pergola winemaking,” she explains.
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And what is good wine without good food? Stone oven specialties served with metal cookware that could hang in restaurant kitchens from Sonoma to San Francisco. Vivid frescoes depict the nightly party that went with it all. Including some that we can’t show you, that could have been rated with the Roman numeral X. Ah, but with the wild times came the wildly unexpected. So fast that some people got buried in their homes and that old bread right in the oven.
“So their day started like an ordinary busy day in Pompeii. People had no idea, they were not noticed that there was an outbreak.”
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It was ashes and stone, not lava, that buried the city. A disaster far bigger, but perhaps not so different from the fires raging in wine country today or the earthquakes that devastated San Francisco. And maybe an early lesson on how fragile the good life can be.
The exhibition in Pompeii runs until August. Ticket reservations are currently required.
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