Not situated within Naples, but surely on the list of not to be missed sights of almost every visitor: the ruins of Pompeii. This town was buried by lava in 79 A.D. when the volcano Vesuvius erupted. It was not until 1748 that the first excavations were carried out, making it one of the best-preserved Roman towns in the world, and during the excavations a scientist discovered that there were hollow spaces under the thick layer of lava. These arose because the bodies of buried people had perished over the centuries. By pouring plaster into these hollow spaces, the archaeologists were able to show how people and animals were surprised by the glowing hot lava flow. Especially at the main gate of Pompeii many hollow spaces were found.
The forum is, as in every Roman city, the centre of Pompeii. On the north side is the main temple, Temple of Jupiter, flanked by two honorary arches. In the southwest of Pompeii, against the city wall, lies the amphitheatre that was used for gladiatorial battles and battles with wild animals. In 59 A.D. this theatre was the scene of serious riots between the inhabitants of Pompeii and the neighbouring Nuceria. These riots are depicted on a fresco transferred from Pompeii to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
Walking through the streets of Pompeii you will imagine yourself to be back in time. At several places you can see stepping stones to cross the street. The carts could drive exactly between these stones. You can also see very clearly which craft was used in a particular house: grinding stones and ovens indicate a bakery, medical instruments a doctor, and objects made of iron an ironmonger. Of course there were also several bathhouses; the erotic representations on the walls have been partly preserved.
Also interesting are the houses that were built around a courtyard. This did not only provide shade, but rainwater was also collected there in the impluvium. This impluvium was often decorated with a statue, like the bronze faun in the House of the Faun. The House of the Vettii was owned by wealthy traders. It has a beautifully restored garden with statues and fountains, and the rooms have beautiful frescoes with mythological subjects.
The excavations of Pompeii are located southeast of Naples and can be reached by the Circumvesuviana (train). As the name suggests, this train line goes around Mount Vesuvius and stops at Stazione di Pompeii.
Website: Pompeii overview
Opening hours (excavations): 08.30-19.30
Entrance fee (excavations): € 13,00
Consult the Pompeii website for up-to-date price information, opening hours and more activities.