Photo by: (Jeremy Thompson)
Caption: Pompeii is one of the best-preserved archeological sites in the world.
Exploring the Ancient City of Pompeii
My readers know that I have fun when I write my blog. I’m very passionate about travel, and I want my readers to see that and be entertained when they read my entries. When I think about Pompeii, however, I’ll admit to feeling an extreme sense of sadness. It boggles my mind to think about the devastation Mount Vesuvius rained down upon this city centuries ago. Pompeii is one of the most-traveled destinations in the world, and it is no wonder why. This burial site can teach us more about ancient Rome than any history teacher or textbook. Let’s explore the city of Pompeii.
Indulge me for a quick moment while I play history teacher myself. Near modern Naples, Pompeii was founded around the seventh or sixth century B.C. It was initially an Oscan territory; the Romans took over Pompeii in 80 B.C. The city thrived under Roman rule for the next 160 years, becoming home to approximately 20,000 citizens who utilized such amenities as an amphitheater, a gymnasium, and a fully operational water and sewage system.
Tragedy struck this bustling city in 79 A.D. On August 24, Mount Vesuvius, the volcano by which Pompeii rested, erupted with such violent force that the Pompeians had no way of escaping. In a matter of six hours, Pompeii, its residents, and neighboring communities were covered with approximately 13 to 20 feet of Vesuvius ash. Thankfully, a 2010 expert study revealed that it is likely that the heat and gasses from the volcano killed most of Pompeii’s citizens instantly; let’s hope so, as any suffering would have been horrible.
Pompeii was initially discovered in 1599, and excavation continued well into the 19th century. What was left was a stunning historical accounting of Pompeii and its citizens in their last days. Pompeii gives its visitors a thought-provoking look into ancient Roman culture. This is why so many history buffs visit the ruins annually. In fact, the yearly total of Pompeii visitors is around 2.5 million. Now that you know a little bit about Pompeii, let me tell you what to explore.
What You’ll See When Visiting Pompeii
You need to set aside an entire day to see all of Pompeii. This is not a tour to rush through. In fact, many visitors extend their Pompeii visit into a second day just to see absolutely everything. While in Pompeii, some of the sites you will see include:
- Amphitheater: Once home to cheering crowds eagerly watching Roman games, the remains of the Pompeian Amphitheater now provide peaceful refuge from the rest of the archaeological site’s activity where visitors might reflect quietly upon what happened in 79 A.D.
- Brothel: Many believe that the Mount Vesuvius eruption was godly punishment upon Pompeii for its decadence, and, yes, there was a brothel. Inside the brothel, you’ll not only see the beds of service but also some rather spicy wall pictorials. Leave the kids outside for this stop!
- Forum: The Romans were famous for their forums, the places where everything happened, and Pompeii strategically placed its forum near the city’s main gate. Tourists crowd this area to see the relics that are now on display in this once-bustling city center.
- Forum Baths: The Romans were also famous for their baths, and the Forum Baths give visitors a very well-preserved glimpse of the facilities and how the Pompeians actually heated the water. Who says ancient civilizations didn’t have any modern-day luxuries?
- Garden of the Fugitives: Many people visit Pompeii to see the castings of the victims where they lay. The Garden of the Fugitives is one site where you will see many castings because it is located in the back of the city where people were fleeing from Vesuvius’ wrath.
- House of the Faun: Pompeii’s largest house was the House of the Faun. The grounds include large front and back courtyards. You’ll find the Faun statue in the front courtyard and an intricate mosaic portraying a battle in the back courtyard.
- House of Venus in the Shell: The House of Venus in the Shell gets its name from the beautifully preserved fresco of the goddess Venus. This house is somewhat off the beaten path, so you’ll marvel at Venus and many other frescoes without having to fight for elbow room.
- House of Sallustio: The House of Sallustio is believed to have been an inn during the Pompeian heyday. Enjoy the small backyard garden, a fresco of the goddess Diana, and a small shop where you can buy snacks if you’re hungry.
- Stabian Baths: Even though you’ve visited the Forum Baths, you need to wander through the Stabian Baths as well. These are the oldest set of baths in Pompeii, and they are also wonderfully preserved. Plus, they aren’t as crowded as the Forum Baths.
- Villa of the Mysteries: The Villa of the Mysteries is located away from Pompeii’s main area, so you will have a bit of a walk to get there. It is worth it, however, for two reasons: First, the painted frescoes are breathtaking, and second, it’s also not as crowded as other Pompeii sites.
Things to Remember
You know some of the sites you will see – now, here’s what to keep in mind:
- Some travelers have made the trip to Pompeii only to find that many of the city’s sites are closed. It’s wise to find out what will be open prior to journeying to Pompeii to ensure you’ll be able to see what you went there to see, but understand that areas still might be closed.
- Most visitors congregate in the front of the city. If you begin your tour in the back, you’ll find less crowding and more time to enjoy some of the less-visited ruins. By the time you’ve made it to the city’s front, many people have already left for the day.
- Determine exactly how much time you want to dedicate to your Pompeian visit so you know if you have time to go it alone or would do better to participate in a guided tour. Guided tours often stick to an allotted time frame, so you’ll see the city much faster, if that is your desire.
- Remember the important stuff: water and sun protection. Pompeii is outdoors, and the weather is quite warm, especially in the summertime. You’re going to be in the sun and walking all day, so make certain you protect your skin and maintain your hydration!