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Travel info for visiting the Ruins of Pompeii in Italy (in 2022)

A poignant testimony of an ancient Roman city

Address

Via Villa dei Misteri 2, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy

GPS: 40.749935226411, 14.483956364969

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Visiting the Ruins of Pompeii will take one to an ancient Roman city of 66 hectares destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, causing the extinction of other nearby settlements (Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae) based south of Naples in the Campania region. Before this natural disaster, Pompeii probably had between 20,000 and 30,000 inhabitants. Historians estimate that the eruption of Vesuvius claimed the lives of about 10,000 people.

The Italian architect, Domenico Fontana, was the first to discover the remains of Pompeii in 1592 while digging a diversion canal in the Sarno River. The site was not formally identified until 1763 and caused a sensation. Pompeii was completely buried under a layer of ash and lapilli (small porous stones) six metres thick before it was rediscovered 1,500 years after its disappearance. This layer of volcanic sediments kept safe the priceless riches of this port city overlooking the Bay of Naples. The ruins associated with the temples, streets, theatres, houses, villas, shops and baths underline the important activity of Pompeii. The city prospered under Greek influence before passing into the hands of the Etruscans and Samnites. Pompeii prospered under the occupation of the Romans because of its location at the crossroads of trade routes and maritime traffic. They developed agriculture, embellished the architecture and incorporated many decorative and ornamental elements.

Among the ruins of Pompeii, villas of wealthy Roman families were uncovered. Mosaics and frescoes preserved by the volcanic ash from weathering and looting show scenes of daily life at the time. Paintings decorating some buildings, considered among the oldest constructions in the city (2nd century BC), display erotic scenes. According to archaeologists, the port city of Pompeii was struck by a severe earthquake 17 prior to its demise. About one-third of the ancient city of Pompeii remains unexcavated. The stigmata and traces are still visible of the residents who failed to escape the suddenness and devastating power of the Mount Vesuvius eruption. These remains are a reminder of the devastating speed at which a volcanic eruption can strike any civilisation unexpectedly. The myth surrounding the area continues to fuel the fascination of visitors to Pompeii.

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  • The high standard of preservation of Pompeii, which appears to be rising from the ashes despite being buried for centuries; a unique archaeological site in the world and an eminent research link to the past
  • The architecture of Pompeii and its many treasures, fabulous witnesses of a flourishing city in Roman times
  • The Great and Small Theatres, the amphitheatre, the thermal baths, the forum (the centre of the city), the basilica, the temple of Jupiter and the remains of shops (starting with the bakery of Modestus where perfectly preserved breads were discovered while being baked)
  • The ancient dwellings, the Pompeian villas and the suburban villas (including the Villa of the Mysteries and the Villa of Diomedes)
  • The erotic frescoes of the Casa dei Vettii (revealed in 2001) and of the Lupanar of Pompeii (a house of pleasure reserved for prostitution); the two perfectly preserved floor mosaics in the House of Orion on the Alley of the Balconies (recently exhumed); the sanctuary in the central Piazza Bartolo Longo; the domus (ancient dwellings dating from the Roman period) of the House of the Chaste Lovers, the Orchard House and the Boat House rehabilitated in 2020
  • The astonishing casts of trapped human bodies (made from plaster injected into the empty cavities of the bodies)
  • The sophisticated water distribution system (including a primary and secondary water towers connected by an aqueduct and canal system)
  • The archaeological remains around the ruins of Pompeii: the Villa Poppaea in the town of Torre Annunziatade (a Roman villa in the ancient city of Oplontis that belonged to the Emperor Nero); the Roman frescoes and baths in Stabiae, the formidably well-preserved remains of Herculaneum (an ancient Roman seaside resort)…
  • The view of Vesuvius, which dominates the bay of Naples; the 19th-century cathedral of Pompeii (sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii)
  • Pompeii was a city where water flowed in abundance (the slope on which the city was built brought water to the houses). Each Roman house had a garden and fountains. Rainwater, for consumption by inhabitants, was collected via individual cisterns and ceramic pipes (lead was only used for water used for pleasure activities such as gardens and fountains). It was also used to cultivate market gardens that supplied vegetables. The export of fish, salt, wine, and the production of a fish sauce called garum, contributed to Pompeii’s prosperity.
  • No lava flow followed the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. (this type of eruption is called Plinian). In this case, the eruption of the volcano under pressure generated a phenomenal explosion, a thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. A large quantity of volcanic debris in the form of lapilli (pumice stone) fell on the area for almost 20 hours. Then a pyroclastic flow (a hot cloud of 300-500 °C) spread widely along the flanks of the volcano, releasing toxic gases, intensely hot ash and pulverised lava debris. This volcanic avalanche engulfed the buildings in the Pompeii area in a few hours and buried its inhabitants under a thick layer of glowing clouds. They died of asphyxiation or incineration under the debris of buildings.
  • After the tragedy, the emperor Titus sent a delegation of senators to the site to assess the damage and consider the future reconstruction of the city. The delegation concluded that Pompeii was nothing but a pile of ashes and the mummified city was abandoned before being totally forgotten (the place was renamed Civita, a term evoking the presence of an ancient city). Only a few ancient writings, including that of Pliny the Younger, who was physically present at the time of the catastrophe that claimed the life of his uncle Pliny the Elder, relate this apocalyptic event. The inscription of a date engraved on a wall and other clues suggest that the eruption of Vesuvius did not occur in August (as Pliny the Younger claimed) but in October 79.
  • Vesuvius last erupted in 1944. This powerful volcano is continuously monitored by a volcanological observatory founded in 1841 (it is the oldest institute in the world). As a general rule, an upsurge in seismic activity announces one or more large-scale eruptions a few days in advance. It is the magma, seeking to rise to the surface by fracturing the rock, that can potentially trigger an eruption.
  • In addition to Vesuvius, another super-volcano to the northwest threatens the region of Naples. The Phlegraean Fields (Campi Flegrei), located in the Gulf of Pozzuoli, is a vast overheated area comprising 40 volcanoes around the Solfatara. The Solfatara crater is the epicentre of the region’s volcanic activity and its last eruption, although modest, dates back to 1538. According to scientists and volcanologists, this active area, located 14 kilometres from the centre of Naples, is even more dangerous than Vesuvius. Its formation is the result of the continental collision of the African plate with the European plate (a process of subduction of one plate under the other at a rate of a few centimetres per year).
  • The Phlegraean Fields have become more active in recent years and experts fear a major eruption in the short to medium term. This Neapolitan region is home to the most dangerous active volcanoes in the world, among the thousand or so active volcanoes on the planet. The Phlegraean Fields could cause a real cataclysm if the super-volcano reawakens (Naples and its agglomeration have three million inhabitants, 10% of whom live in a caldera). Evacuation plans have been formulated by the authorities to prepare for the worst case scenario and evacuate all the inhabitants within 72 hours. Closely monitored, Solfatara is said to have been the source of the most violent eruption Europe has ever known some 40,000 years ago (causing the disappearance of the Neanderthal man).
  • It was Pompeii that gave birth to archaeology. The Roman city was the first to benefit from new research techniques, excavations and measures to protect the heritage. The first excavations and archaeological work began during the reign of Charles III who conquered Naples in 1734. Although he was to succeed to the Spanish throne and leave the Italian peninsula, the monarch was kept informed of the discoveries made in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. In the second half of the 18th-century, Pompeii was one of the most important stops on the Grand Tour. These cultural trips were made by young aristocrats to complete their education in Europe and discover the most beautiful ancient sites. The richest among them took advantage of the opportunity to buy and bring back art objects from the excavations.
  • The site of Pompeii was severely damaged in 1943, during the Second World War, by Allied forces seeking to destroy German anti-aircraft guns in the area. In 2010, an entire section of the wall of the Schola Armaturarum (a building once used for army or gladiator training) collapsed, revealing the Italian authorities’ gross negligence in conserving the Pompeii site. Other collapses occurred because of the humidity spreading to the increasingly degraded buildings, the harmful influence of the Comorra (Neapolitan mafia) that was embezzling subsidies, the disengagement of the Italian state, and clandestine excavations. These events had the merit of alerting the international community to the dangers and threats to Pompeii’s priceless heritage. They led UNESCO and the European Union to launch a vast restoration programme implemented from 2014 onwards (entitled “Major Pompeii Project”).
  • Recently, a 22-hectare area (region V of Pompeii) has been excavated in the hope of uncovering new archaeological treasures. Several findings have already been made, including jewels and precious objects perfectly preserved in a wooden box covered with volcanic material. Houses, villas, frescoes, sculptures and bones, buried under several metres of ash, have been unearthed almost 2,000 years after the Mount Vesuvius volcanic eruption. This research is illustrated in a commentary by Massimo Osanna, director of the archaeological park of Pompeii. It is estimated that three-fifths of Pompeii have been excavated within the city walls. New surveys in and around Pompeii promise to bring uncover new discoveries in the future.
  • The ruins of Pompeii are 25 kilometres from the centre of Naples. By arriving early in the morning, you can enjoy your discovery of the Pompeii ruins before the first group of tourists arrive.
  • You will gain a better understanding of Pompeii by using the services of an official guide. You can also visit the site using an audio guide.
  • In addition, do not hesitate to visit the archaeological area of Herculaneum, only a few kilometres away. Here you will be able to view an incredible density of archaeological remains (period furniture, Roman baths, wall paintings, remarkably well-preserved streets and houses, etc.) without the crowds at Pompeii.
  • Some of the archaeological finds of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae are stored in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.

Where to eat

  • Romeo Peluso
    (Neapolitan pastries)
  • Todisco
    (small family restaurant)
  • Bruschetteria Mediterraneo
    (away from the crowds)

Where to go

  • National Archaeological Museum...
    (hidden treasures of Pompeii)
  • Vesuvius National Park
    (the volcano of Campania)
  • Amalfi Coast
    (exceptional coastline)

Where to stay

  • B&B Elena
    (friendly and well located)
  • B&B La Casa di Plinio
    (impeccable service)
  • Casa Raiola Ercolano...
    (glamorous and efficient)

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