This article explores different ways of experiencing and consuming Pompeii and Herculaneum as unique archaeological sites and ancient cities „frozen in time“. Our research is based on rich empirical data – interviews and sociological survey with visitors as well as observations of tourist behaviour. The analysis shows that the two places are easily imagined as live cities (yet this is highly individual and depends a lot on educational, social and cultural status). This is due to the unprecedented intact image of ancient life in Pompeii and Herculaneum as well as due to their unique openness – visitors are given unrestricted access to enter the houses, to feel, to touch, to walk and even to sit on the stones and the mosaics.
Tourists’ perceptions of the plaster casts containing the bodies of the victims of the volcano were studied. A certain lack of emotional connection with the victims, due to the distinction between history and memory, was registered. The lack of real social connection able to produce a memory of the tragedy and the disaster is compensated by a series of personal stories reflecting the respondents’ individual and especially collective identities and their own tragic events. Tourist photography, the perspective of the museum staff towards visitors’ behaviour and different aspects of consuming both sites were also studied in detail.
Keywords: tourism, consumer culture, photography, museums, heritage, place, emotions, disasters, experience, imagination, plaster casts, souvenirs, insideness, post-Covid