When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, Pompeii was turned into a virtual time capsule offering future generations a life size museum. The ten feet of ash and rock that buried the city in its entirety helped preserve the fallen city. The eruption unfortunately killed from 15000 to 30000 people in Pompeii and the neighbouring towns of Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata.
Located in the province of Naples along Italy’s southwestern coast, the original settlement of Pompeii grew as it was situated at the crossroads connecting the ancient cities of Cumae, Stabiae and Nola. It was also an important seaport serving the Rome area. Its residents were descended from a line of people who spoke Oscan, a language similar to Latin, and despite being under Greek, Etruscan and Roman rule through the ages, they managed to retain their language and form of government.
The ruins of Pompeii were first discovered by workmen in 1599, but it wasn’t until 1874 that the Bourbon rulers of southern Italy instigated a serious campaign to uncover the site.
Mount Vesuvius is recognised as one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes. It is surprising that several million people still choose to live in its path today. Vesuvius has erupted many times throughout the ages, the most recent being in 1944.
Highlights of Pompeii
Porto Marina (main entrance); Macellum (covered meat and fish market); Temple of Jupiter and the Basilica (law court and design used for early Christian churches) both situated at either end of the Faro (forum); the Anfiteatro (Amphitheatre ) for entertainment; Lupanare (grand villa scenes of an erotic nature); the Terme Stabione (baths) heated from underground furnaces. Several large villas have stunning features and include the Casa del Menandro (frescoe of Greek playwright), Casa Del Poeta Tragico , the Casa Degli Amorinin Dorati (marble decoartions in garden), the Casa dei Vetti (wealthy merchants house containing vivid murals) and the Villa dei Misteri (palatial building with frescoes depicting Pompeii’s devotion to pleasures of the flesh)
As well as the artifacts displayed at Pompeii many more valuable pieces are on display at the National Museum in Naples.
Herculaneum (Ercolano) was another wealthier smaller town that was destroyed along with Pompeii and has also been effectively excavated.
Getting to Pompeii
You can take the train on the Circumvesuviana line from either Naples or Sorrento to Pompeii and/or Herculaneum. Trains run roughly every 30 minutes and journey time is around 40 minutes from either place. At Pompeii you get off at Pompeii Scavi-Villa Dei Misteri station (scavi means ruins) which is right next to the Porta Marina Entrance. The Pompeii stop is for the town itself. If travelling from Naples take the train from the lower level platforms at Naples Centrale Station (Corso Garibaldi) – cruise ships dock next to the Hydrofoil dock at Molo Beverello – it is quite a long walk from the port to railway station of 20 to 30 minutes – you can take a no 1 bus or taxi cost around 10 Euros. The Circumvesuviana Station at Sorrento (the only railway station there) is fairly central off Corso Italia and Via Marziale – if coming from the Marina Piccola off a hydrofoil service it pays to take a bus to town or railway station (5 mins) as the walk otherwise is up a very steep hill.
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Photo: Porta Marina (RG) – 3