In the year 79, an eruption of the volcano Vesuvius took place, which buried Pompei under 6 meters of pumice and ash. Several buildings turned out to have remained intact and large quantities of household items were found during the excavations. This makes Pompei an important source of information about daily life in the ancient Roman Empire.
Address: Via Villa dei Misteri, 1 – Pompeii. Phone: +39 081 8575347. Opening hours: From April 1 to October 31 from 09:00 till 19:00; from November 1 till March 31 from 09:00 till 17:00. Last entrance: 90 minutes before closing time. Admission: 16 Euros; EU citizens ages 18 to 25: 2 Euros; EU citizens younger than 18: Free. Last Sunday of the month: Free. (Note: The Villa Regina (Bosco Reale) is included in the ticket.
Pompeii and Herculaneum were covered by thick layers of ash and pumice and forgotten over time.
In 1738, Herculaneum was rediscovered when the King of Naples, Charles of Bourbon, wanted to build a summer palace.
Pompeii itself was not officially found until 10 years later. In reality, Domenico Fontana had already discovered both cities when planning to dig a new course for the Sarno River in 1599.
Fontana lived in a rather prudish period. It is thought that he had some of the frescoes found with erotic overtones reburied.
The first excavations were led by Karl Weber. Later, other architects took over. It was Giuseppe Fiorelli who was the first to realize that the voids with human remains in the layers of ashes were, so to speak, the sheaths of human bodies turned to dust.
He designed a technique that made it possible, by injecting plaster into these spaces, to make the outlines of the victims of Vesuvius appear. Fiorelli’s technique is still used today, although using resin instead of plaster.
The famous archaeological excavations now visited by tourists in large numbers reach down to the street level of the 79 A.D. eruption, but the oldest layer dates as far back as the 6th to 8th centuries B.C.
Although the remains were discovered as early as the 16th century, excavations did not begin until 1748.
The best-preserved ruins were found in the western part of Pompeii. Large portions of the eastern part of the city, where much wealthier Romans had settled, have yet to be excavated.
The excavations expose the minute details of daily life, through inscriptions and graffiti on doors, walls, and even on wine jugs. A famous example is the Salve, lucru (“Welcome, money”) on the floor of a trading post.
Pompeii’s streets were, by Roman custom, perpendicular to each other, and there were houses and stores on both sides of the street.
There was even a hotel (today nicknamed “Grand Hotel Murecine”) a short distance from the center of Pompeii.
Many frescoes, often erotic in subject, have survived. Many of these were hidden in the cellars of the University of Naples.
Among the best preserved remains of the ancient Roman city of Pompei are several houses, baths and the Forum and Villa of Mysteries. A large food market, a mill, and a number of cafes and small restaurants have also been excavated.
The amphitheatre, the sports hall (Palaestra) with its swimming pool and for the aqueduct deserve special mention.
Pompeii obtained its drinking water from the Aqua Augusta aqueduct in Naples, built by Agrippa around the year 20 BC.
The Aqueduct branched out from the Castellum Aquae and was designed so that in case of drought, the public fountains would remain in operation the longest.
Public transport Pompeii from Rome
It is not really necessary to sleep in Naples or Pompei itself in order to visit the excavations. Pompei can be easily reached from Rome Termini by first taking the train to Naples, and from there either continuing to Pompei Scavi (on the Napoli-Salerno line) or taking the so-called Circumvesuviano train to Pompei Villa dei Misteri.
Unfortunately Pompeii has been exposed over the years to natural influences such as erosion and water damage. However, vandalism, theft, poorly organized excavations and tourism have also contributed to the deterioration of Pompeii’s scavi.