Pompeii, the ancient trading city sunk in the lava of Vesuvius, allows a unique insight into life 2,000 years ago thanks to its conservation. Read how to organize a day tour to Pompeii from Rome.
How Pompeii went down
Pompeii was a rich seaport at the mouth of the Sarno River with around 15,000 inhabitants. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
Vesuvius was not considered a danger as it had not been active for centuries, and people settled on the slopes too. An earthquake in AD 62 was not associated with the volcano. In AD 79, it erupted on the afternoon of August 24th. In the first phase, which was accompanied by many earthquakes and lasted until the next morning, a 15 kilometer high cloud of ash, gas and water vapor formed. During the night the activity decreased and many residents returned. In the morning came the lava that led to the downfall of the city. The hot ash that rained down on the city and the lava buried everything up to 6 meters high. People and animals died in seconds and left their mark on the cooling ashes. The sea is now 1.5 km away.
Volcanoes in Campania
The Campania region is still a volcanically active area today and the danger gives it a special charm. Next to Vesuvius there is the area of the Phlegraean Fields, where the Greeks assumed the entrance to the underworld. A whole family sank here a few years ago. A naughty child ignored the barrier and sank in the hot sand. The mother jumped after to save him and so did the father. Only the older son survived. What a tragedy!
The thermal baths of Ischia testify to the volcanic activity and places like Sorrento, the Amalfi coast and the island of Capri invite us to dream.
Visit the excavations
See the ancient streets with their carriageways, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and water pipes. In the lanes you can see the ruts of the carts. Traces from almost 2,000 years ago!
Human bodies have left their mark on the hot ashes. They have been unplugged and you can see their final moments, even the grimaces of horror.
Is a guided tour worth it?
The excavations cover an area of 44 hectares, 22 hectares of which can be visited. The area is divided into 9 “Regio” to enable better orientation. The Soprintendenza Pompei will provide you with a 148-page information booklet. Nevertheless, it is not easy to distinguish the really important and interesting things from the less interesting.
It’s hard to see such a large area in one day. If you only have a few hours available, we definitely recommend a guided tour.
Day tours from Rome
These are our favorites:
Day tour to Pompeii and Naples with hotel pickup and lunch
Day trip to ancient Pompeii and Sorrento, guided tour with an archaeologist and drive to the picturesque coastal city of Sorrento
If you organize the journey to Pompeii yourself:
Our tip: Pompeii and Vesuvius from Naples. This trip gives you the unique opportunity to see Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, which buried the city when it erupted, in one day. Drive up the volcano to the parking lot under the crater and then climb a wide footpath to the crater.
The most important excavations of ancient Pompeii
At the moment there are some restrictions in order to comply with the distance rules that apply in Italy. Therefore, not all excavations can be visited.
The Sovrintendenza Pompei has defined a blue and a green route. The green route starts at the entrance to Piazza Anfiteatro. The blue route starts at Porta Marina.
These are the most important excavations you can visit:
- The amphitheater, Regio II: It is the oldest known amphitheater of Roman antiquity. It was made in 70 BC. It is 150 years older than the Colosseum. There was space for up to 20,000 spectators here.
- The Orto dei Fuggiaschi, Regio I: in ancient Pompeii there was a vineyard here. Here 13 adults and children were caught by the lava on the run. Their plaster casts can be viewed today.
- The House of the Faun, Regio VI: It takes its name from the figure of a satyr who is in a water basin. With an area of almost 3,000 m², it is one of the largest houses and shows the wealth and status of its owner.
- The house of Sallustius, Regio VI: It bears the name because of a graffiti, “vote Sallustius”. Unfortunately, it cannot be viewed at the moment. It is dated to around 180 BC. and is an important example of how the Italic tribe of the Samnites lived.
- The Temple of Jupiter, Regio VII: It is located on the axis of the forum, which is oriented towards Vesuvius.
- Il Lupanare, Regio VII: Unfortunately, the brothel cannot be visited at the moment. Both routes lead you past the house. The apartments were on the upper floor and the work area was on the lower floor.
It is currently not possible to visit the Porta Ercolano. From here the path led to Herculaneum, which was also destroyed by the volcanic eruption. Herculaneum has also been excavated and can be visited.
In front of the Porta Ercolano are the Villa des Diomedes and the Villa dei Misteri, which unfortunately cannot be visited at the moment. In the Villa dei Misteri, one of the best preserved wall paintings of antiquity extends over three walls. It shows Dionysus with his bride Arianne. A place only for the followers of the mysterious cult.