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A guide to Pompeii

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There are many ways to make a time capsule. Scrapbooking, burying a box of memories in the backyard or on the most basic level, banking all your favourite moments on the iPhone. But the ancient city of Pompeii did things a little differently, albeit inadvertently. For years, Pompeii was a city with 20,000 people and a prosperous agricultural and industrial economy. Well-to-do Romans kept lavish summer homes in Pompeii, flocking over during the balmy summer months. But in 79AD, the nearby giant of Mount Vesuvius erupted violently, covering the city in layers of mud and ash. It took until the 18th century for excavations to reveal the magnificently preserved treasures beneath.

If you visit Pompeii today, you will find an ancient civilisation reborn, with villas, baths, shops, frescoes, temples, and homes. In fact, This UNESCO-listed place is now one of the country’s most sought after tourist attractions, with around 2.5 million visitors exploring the site each year. It’s one thing to read about the Ancient Romans, a powerful and advanced culture, but seeing their former homes and places of commerce in person is one hell of a bucket-list experience. 

 

Pompeii travel guide

 

Pompeii is the ultimate Italian destination for travellers looking to get more out of their holiday. You can certainly enjoy the thriving culinary scene in Naples, the birthplace of Pizza, and luxuriate in some Mediterranean sunshine along the Amalfi Coast, but only a visit to Pompeii can give you firsthand insight into a complex, ancient society like the Romans. It is truly captivating. If you are curious about visiting Pompeii soon, read our ultimate guide to this celebrated site. 

 

Pompeii at a glance

 

Pompeii can be found in the Campania region of Italy, an area known for its fertile agricultural land, gulfs, and summer holiday islands of Capri, Ischia, and Procida. Pompeii lies to the southeast of Naples, at the base of Mount Vesuvius, a 1,281-metre tall active volcano.

Most people who visit Pompeii take two to three hours to explore it, but the history buffs might like to set aside the whole day. As there is plenty of backstory to the ancient structures, it is recommended to catch a guided tour. If you are not heading to Pompeii on a tour, you might like to book tickets in advance. Pompeii is not particularly expensive, with tickets priced at €16.

While the archaeological site of Pompeii is a popular tourist attraction, it is underdeveloped. Which makes sense, as it’s all about maintaining historic integrity and authenticity. As such, there is not much happening commercially, with only one cafe in the centre of the site. As the shade is minimal, and this region of Italy can get quite a lot of sun year-round, be sure to pack water, sunscreen, and a hat.

 

Why holiday to Pompeii

 

Pompeii is famous for its well-preserved ruins. So the top reason to visit Pompeii is of course, for the extraordinary history. While the town which is home to the ruins does not have many tourist attractions, compared to the neighbouring Naples or Amalfi Coast, the archaeological park is enough on its own. 

 

How to travel to Pompeii

 

Many people travelling to Pompeii either stay in the city of Naples or on the Amalfi Coast, both of which are just under 16 miles from the archaeological site. While you can visit Pompeii as a day trip from Rome, it is not recommended as you will be travelling nearly 4.5 hours in a day.

The most efficient and affordable way to access Pompeii is via a short rail journey from Naples. Regular Circumvesuviana trains run twice an hour between Naples and the first town on the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, while making a stop at Pompeii. From this station, it is just a brief walk or bus ride to the archaeological site. If you are driving, there is the option to park near the gates of the park.

 

Things to do in Pompeii

 

There are many places to visit while you’re in the archaeological complex of Pompeii. It goes without saying, but wear sturdy, comfortable walking shoes! You will be doing a lot of strolling. Here are our top three sites to pay a visit to, plus a little bit of historical background to each:

 

The Large Theatre 

 

Here’s one you will not be able to miss. The Large Theatre was built into the natural hillside during the middle of the 2nd century BC. In its prime, it was the site of many traditional Greek-Roman comedies and tragedies. The Large Theatre was actually the very first large public building to be excavated at Pompeii.

The theatre can be compartmentalised into three parts, the cavea - a large outer space for spectators to sit - the orchestra - the smaller semi-circle by the stage - and the stage - which faces the orchestra and cavea. It is strikingly similar to many of the performance spaces we enjoy today, proving how the Ancient Romans set the blueprint for modern life. 

 

House of the Cryptoporticus

 

The House of the Cryptoporticus is an elegant, exquisitely decorated residential home featuring vivid mosaics and frescoes. The house was connected to the neighbouring House of the Lararium of Achilles. 

Over the years it served many functions, but during the last period - before the volcanic eruption - it was used as a cellar. Excavated between 1911 and 1929, this site was a gem of a find because of the elaborate frescoes of Satyrs and Maenads and a frieze portraying the epic Trojan War.

 

House of Marco Lucretius Frontone

 

The next residential spot on the list is the House of Marco Lucretius Frontone. This sophisticated dwelling features an atrium, marble bath, a table with lion-paw shaped castings, and illustrated decorations of the Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne - all of which hints at the education and stature of its former owner, a Roman magistrate. This colourful, refined house has been fantastically preserved.

 

Solo travel in Pompeii

 

Generally speaking, it is safe to travel to Pompeii. And if you are travelling solo, and if you are a solo female traveller, it is a safe spot to include in your Italian holiday. The archaeological site is a major tourist destination, so you can rest assured you will feel at ease here. If you are taking the train, be careful - just as you might be in other busy transport hubs - for pickpockets operating at the station and in the carriage.

 

Over 50s travel in Pompeii

 

Over 60s travellers are endlessly drawn to Pompeii for its desirable climate, proximity to the sparkling Amalfi Coast, and of course, the ancient history. It’s the perfect destination for those looking to seize their holiday and immerse themselves in culture and learning. While travelling to such a popular tourist destination can feel daunting - particularly in the heat - it doesn’t need to be. We offer escorted tours carefully curated for over 60s travellers that will allow you to get the most out of your vacation time while still being well looked after.

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