Visit Pompeii

What to see: visit Pompeii and Herculaneum

Scavi Ercolano

Our  journey to the discovery of Pompeii and surroundings continues. We  already told you about some archaeological sites that escape the daily tours, but also exude charm and tradition. I accompanied you with my own words even in the excavations of the nearby Oplonti where the doors of Villa Poppea are waiting to be crossed by your curious and enchanted look.

Today I want to suggest you something else that you should see if you have decided to stay in town on the slopes of  Mount Vesuvius and gradually lead you to discover another place of millennial beauty:  Ercolano.

In Pompeii and Herculaneum the landmarks that make up the ancient ruins are many and they never cease to amaze. Taste them little at a time just like a tasty dish of the Mediterranean tradition. Stop in the streets, the domus, the gardens and live ‘em by your eyes, heart and mind putting yourself in the shoes of its Roman citizens who in the past animated those spaces. Visit Pompeii and Herculaneum: more than a short trip it’s a great experience.

Discovering Pompeii

You remember how to reach Pompeii, don’t you? Before reaching other locations that are nearby, such as Herculaneum, we take a look at the monuments that you have to visit when you arrive in this ancient centre of Campania.

House of Menandro

This building owes its name to the fresco of the Latin playwright Menander that was found inside. It has an area of 1,800 square meters and it seems to have belonged to a wealthy family of ancient Pompeii.

The entrance is richly decorated with hunting scenes and rural landscapes. There are paintings from the “fourth style” that also represent scenes from the Trojan War. The thermal area of the house gives the impression of sumptuous luxury with which the patricians used to live Pompeii. Here there is a mosaic with a central acanthus surrounded by fish and dolphins.

Excavated in the years 1926-1932 it is one of the houses that are better preserved over time.

Temple of Isis

It is located in the theatre district and it is one of the buildings that was not damaged in the procession of centuries. Its colors make it a real jewel to visit. Dedicated to the worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis, in the aedicule was kept the water of the Nile: the citizens of Pompeii used it for domestic ceremonies. In the Aedicule there are decorations on blue, red and yellow background with representations of processions and figures devoted to the goddess Isis, along with some Roman gods.

On the left side of the staircase is the main altar, at the time of the discovery  the ashes and bones of the sacrifices that were held to honor the godswere still contained here. The building was recovered between 1764 and 1766 and caused a stir throughout Europe.

Did you know that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was fascinated by it? He was inspired by the Temple of Isis for his opera The Magic Flute.

The house of  Pinarius Cerialis

Owned by a carver of stones and gems, they were found inside 116 gems, glass stones and cameos. Do you know what? This is jewelry made by etching of a stratified stone. This craft is still very much alive in Pompeii and along the streets of downtown, the shops is easy to see shops that still engage in this activity. The house is of particular interest to the cubicle frescoed with scenes of theatre.

House of  Vettii

The building is a luxury domus belonged to wealthy freedmen.

It belonged to the family Vettii, probably among the wealthiest one of Pompeii: the brothers Aulus Vettius Restitutus and Aulus Vettius Conviva, simple freedmen  that made their fortunes thanks to productive activities and trades.

You will be impressed by the red Pompeian style frescoed on the walls of the living room and the representations of ancient crafts and games, including frescoes: of particular beauty is the one which depicts the myth of Parsifae.

In the kitchen you can see grills and pots, here it was found the fountain statue of Priapus, the god of fertility.

Affresco nella Casa dei Vettii

Affresco: il mito di Parsifae

Discovering Hercolaneum

Also this place is famous for the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD : with its lava the volcano stopped forever the time and the life of the city but its mud and ash made it possible to preserve almost perfectly the ancient houses, theatres and temples. Just like Pompeii, Herculaneum, with its excavations, is visited by millions of tourists every day. Are you ready to dive in history?


The city came to light in 1709 during excavations for the creation of a well. Some marble emerged, coating of an ancient theater. The excavations continued throughout the 18th and 19th century. Herculaneum owes its name to the god Hercules who, according to Greek mythology, seems to have gone near Mount Vesuvius and has founded a city in his name, Hercolaneum. Compared to Pompeii, Herculaneum has less imposing and more intimate dimensions: it was considered by the Romans a residential locality. I want to give a suggestion before visiting the excavations: Take a look at the newly opened pavilion, it houses the remains of a ship found charred on the beach with a few dozen skeletons and coins. Probably is the last desperate attempt to escape from the eruption.

Little curiosity: the excavations found are only part of the ancient city, under the modern Ercolano neighborhoods are still buried. In these places the History never stops surprises and merges continuously with the Present.

The excavations are made up of neighborhoods enclosed in an intersection of three orthogonal hinges and two decumani. Among the narrow streets of newfound Hercolaneum are many points of interest, here’s some advice.

House of the Atrium and house of Stags

The house of stags is perhaps the most elegant homee of ancient Herculaneum. You can visit the terraces from which to admire the splendid panorama of the Gulf of Naples. Inside it  a statue of two deer eaten by a dog was found. The House of the Atrium consists of an entrance hall with mosaic pavement. For this domus, there is a spectacularview overlooking the sea.

House of Nettuno and Anfitride

The house owes its name to the glass paste mosaic decorating the eastern wall of the building. In the north side there is a nymphaeum covered with a mosaic embellished with marble theatrical masks. Not far away it is arranged a tank that fed the fountain. The house is bordered by an old shop that preserves the remains of amphorae and a brass bed.

Villa dei Papiri

The building is one of the most evocative of Herculaneum: it was buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. C. and rediscovered since 1750 under the guidance of the archeologists  Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierr and Karl Jakob Weber, the latter was the only one with the plant building. Within its walls the Villa kept a library with more than 1,800 papyrus, some of them concerning the Epicurean philosophy. Many of these have gone lost during exploration, others have been analyzed and rescued, but there is a large number of papers that has yet to be translated from the greek and studied. Its construction took place between between 60 and 50 BC. The owner, according to archelogists, could be Cesonino Lucius Calpurnius Piso, father of Julius Caesar or his son, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Pontiff. Villa dei Papiri stood, before the explosion of the volcano, overlooking the sea along the coastline. The  environments open to the public are: atrium, basis villae and some rooms at a lower level. It has a square-shaped structure divided in turn into four squares that surround the rooms, those in the south dedicated to services and those in the northern residential. The entrance opened onto the sea, preceded by a porticate with columns, it is paved with a mosaic of black and white tiles.

Continuing you can see the impluvium surrounded by statues and fountains. In the ambulatory were found statues in marble and bronze, depicting: the drunken Satyr, Seated Hermes, Pan with the goat, herm depicting probably Seneca and runners. The works are on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. Before you leave give yourself one last walk that leads to the viewpoint. Ercolano also has other ideas: The Golden Mile, a stretch of the SS18 Tirrena lower ranging from archaeological excavations at Herculaneum Palace Vallelonga in Torre del Greek. So he called for the beauty of its landscapes and the elegance of eighteenth-century villas.

One last thing, do not miss the MAV (virtual archaeological museum) where through 3D movies you can immerse yourself in the daily life of Pompeii and Herculaneum before the fatal eruption of 79 AD

How to get to Ercolano

Simple, just choose one of Pompeii Circumvesuviana Stations, fits both the Napoli-Poggiomarino that the Naples-Sorrento. Similarly if you are coming from Naples should move with the Circumvesuviana, the station is located near Piazza Garibaldi. If you move drive from Pompeii to Herculaneum I want about 20 minutes taking the A3 / E45.

From Pompeii to Herculaneum, a journey of history and beauty. Have you still some suggestions? Leave it in the comments!

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