Pompeii is the famous ancient Roman city lost in time due to the eruption Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. Located in the province of Naples, the ancient city of Pompeii was buried under Volcanic ash and pumice from the eruption that buried it 12 meters deep.
There were 12,000 – 15,000 people in the city at the time, and there were very few survivors as the people had never seen an eruption like it before, and thought taking shelter in buildings would save them.
25 years after the eruption a man named Pliny the Younger provided his first-hand account of the experience in the Bay of Naples. With some of the larger buildings sticking out above ash , robbers and survivors went back to reclaim items. Over time, sections of Pompeii were rediscovered, and in 1920 an excavation occurred for the first time on large sections of Pompeii by a man named Amedeo Maiuri. This is what you can see on a visit to Pompeii today. The ash preserved the buildings, sculptures, art, and in some cases the people.
Getting to Pompeii is relatively easy, with trains running to the area from Naples. Many people seem to get a tour from the city they are staying in, and some even come from as far as Rome for a day trip.
If you aren’t visiting with a guide a ticket will cost €11 (£9.40 – 2020) and you can purchase an audio guide on top of that to give you more details about each of the spots you visit.
The entire area has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 and there is a lot to see. Be aware – when you visit you may not be able to see everything as sections can be closed for preservation or restoration. You can spend anywhere between 3 – 4 hours in the site.
One thing you’ll notice before you visit the Brothel of Pompeii are the small markings on the cobble stone that look like phalluses. These are in fact that, and they were used in Roman times to indicate what took place there.
The Brothel – also known as Lupanar – is a relatively small building where some rooms only have a slab of concrete in the corner for a bed. On the walls you may see the graffiti that helped archaeologists determine the building’s use. Inside you will see some erotic paintings preserved on the walls.
The Forum Baths are well preserved. Located behind the Temple of Jupiter, the rooms are separated for men and women and the building itself was damaged before Vesuvius’ eruption in the earthquake of 62 CE. There is a lot of detailed decoration in the room from the restoration after the earthquake. These rooms are truly beautiful, especially considering everything they have been through.
In ancient Pompeii the Forum was the center of all aspects of life. It was a place of prayer, commerce and politics for the people, and within the open space you will see the remnants of several different buildings.
· The Temple of Apollo
· Temple of Lares
· Temple of Vespasian
· Macellum (Indoor Market)
· Building of Eumachia
· Comitium (public meeting space)
· Temple of Jupiter
What mainly remains today are the many Ionic Columns of the shaded walkways around each of the buildings.
House of the Faun
The House of Faun, during ancient Pompeii era of 2nd BCE, was the largest privately owned property. There really isn’t much that remains of this place except a couple of sections of wall and a dancing faun bronze statue in the middle of the court.
This is the oldest surviving Amphitheatre of the Roman era. Mainly due to their size they were knocked down or destroyed after the fall of the Romans, and this one in Pompeii was preserved under the ash of Mount Vesuvius. Built in 70 BCE this giant structure was used for gladiator fights for thousands of citizens to come and be entertained. Today, you can walk out into the middle of the Amphitheatre and imagine yourself in this giant structure surrounded by 12,000 screaming onlookers.
This building was once the administrative and training ground for gladiators before they went off to fight in the Amphitheatre.
After the earthquake in Pompeii it was restored into private homes, however the large grassed area would have been where gladiators trained in different styles of warfare.
The Large Theatre
This Theatre could hold up to 4,000-5,000 spectators and was built into a hill. It was used for entertainment and as a meeting place. The Senators and noble people would sit in the front section, the middle class in the middle tiers and the poor would sit right at the top.
The Odeon was a smaller version of the Large Theatre, however it had a roof and was used for more educational purposes, only holding 1,500 spectators.
House of Venus
The House of Venus was constructed in the 1st century BCE and according to records it underwent many changes throughout its history.
The rooms themselves housed many fresco artworks on the walls, with many still in good condition.
Garden of fugitives
The Garden of fugitives is one of the most emotional sections you’ll visit in Pompeii. Hollowed spaces were found here during the excavation of the volcanic debris, and they filled these with plaster to get the shapes of the citizens in their final resting places during the eruption. This truly is one of the spots you must visit.
There are quite a few other places to see during your visit, and my advice is to take your time and explore as much as you can. With lots of other tourist groups around, even if you are on your own you can listen to the guides as they are very knowledgeable about the history of this once great civilization. Make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat and protective clothing, and bring lots of water as Pompeii is often boiling hot.
For those that love a bit of adventure, you can also grab the opportunity to climb Mount Vesuvius – although you might be thinking ‘is it a live volcano that is predicted to erupt in the coming decade?’
You have little to fear through, as Mount Vesuvius is monitored and there is a three-day warning system of when it could potentially erupt. So, if this was to go off, there would be an evacuation of the entire region.
Your tour bus, taxi or car will first have to drive up to the parking lot, which is roughly 1,050 meters up Mount Vesuvius. From here it will cost you to go up to the summit €6.50 (£5.50 – 2020). The walk is roughly 20 minutes long and is about a 200-meter incline.
On your drive up you’ll see many homes all over the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, and you might question why anyone would want to live on an active volcano? The answer is fertile soil. The ground is so fertile that farmers live on these slopes.
As a word of warning the ground is very loose underfoot, so those who have problems with walking need to be careful going up or down. For everyone else the hike up is relatively easy and you do get some stunning views of the Bay of Naples and Naples itself.
One thing I found quite bizarre – but is typical in this area – were the several tourist shops on your hike up. There is even one right at the end of the hike.
There is plenty of protective railing to prevent people falling into the volcano, and once you get to the top you can see inside Mount Vesuvius.
Now not to burst any bubbles, but you will not see lava within the crater. The inside that is visible is the same loose material you were walking on to get up to the top. Now and again you will see small parts of this material fall to the bottom of the crater (Don’t be concerned – where you are standing will not fall in).
There is a weird eerie silence at the top, staring into the nothingness of the crate. It’s certainly worth the visit.
Pompeii truly is an exquisite place to visit for those that love history. Although it is likely to be very hot (for the majority of the year), Pompeii can allow one to feel like they genuinely have stepped back in time to the Roman era.