Pompeii: history and tips to visit the ruins

The ancient ruins of Pompeii represent one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. The ancient Roman city suffered a tragic fate. Buried under the lava of Vesuvius in a major eruption on August 24, 79, the city was forgotten, remaining almost intact under a mantle of sediments that resurfaced during archaeological excavations that have taken place since 1748.

The excavations are still ongoing, while almost 3 million tourists and travellers visit the archaeological ruins each year. When you visit the ruins of the city buried by Vesuvius you go back in time. In fact, it is one of the most amazing and moving sites in Italy and the world. When you visit the archeological ruins, you can feel how life was in the ancient Roman society. Read more below.

In Pompeii, an immersion in history is guaranteed!

How to get to the ruins?

By car

Pompeii is 26 km from Naples via the A3 motorway, heading towards Salerno. Take the Pompei Ovest exit. The place is 5 minutes away. You can arrive in the afternoon by car and enjoy driving along the small roads from Tivoli to Pompeii.

By train

You can also arrive by train. Take the Naples-Salerno line and get off at Pompeii station.

By bus

You have 3 options if you decide to travel by bus:

  • SITA from Salerno or Naples
  • CSTP n ° 4 of Salerno
  • Salerno CSTP Express (faster)

Practical tips to visit the archaeological site

visit the ruins

Ideas for the visit

You can opt for the different circuit options. The good thing is that, whatever option you choose, there is a circuit available adapted to your entrance in the ruins (Porta Marina, Piazza Anfiteatro or Piazza Esedra). Let’s take a look at some of the different circuits you can hire:

  • Daily excursion to Pompeii and Herculaneum from Naples. 90 €.
  • Tour for the best discovering the buried city. 59 €.
  • Tour with audio guide and transport from Naples. 45 €.
  • 1 day tour to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast from Naples. 85 €.
  • 1 day tour visiting Naples from Rome. 134 €.
  • There are more possibilities including buying only the ticket without lines. 19 €.

Book in advance

To avoid spending hours in front of the door, remember that you can buy tickets online to visit the ruins. Since this is a very large site, it is advisable to hire a guide to avoid getting lost and overlooking important monuments without realizing it. The stories and anecdotes of a true enthusiast give these ruins another dimension.

When to visit the ruins

Our first advice to visit Pompeii is to arrive in the afternoon. Start in the suburbs visiting the amphitheatre, vineyards and villas far from the centre. At the end of the afternoon, you will enjoy the Forum and the monuments in the centre with much fewer people.

Access and opening hours

The three possible accesses: Porta Marina – Piazza Esedra – Piazza Anfiteatro

Once inside the ruins area, you can walk freely. The aim is to find the centres of interest and curiosities in the hope of not missing one of the most beautiful sights of the city.  Opening times and dates:

  • From 1 April to 31 October, open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • From 1 November to 31 March, open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Attention, the ticket office closes its doors 1h30 before closing the ruins.
  • Remember, the ruins of Pompeii are closed on 1 January, 1 May and 25 December.

History and visit to Pompeii

Pompeii is the Roman city known for its tragic fate. First, in the year 62, a violent earthquake shook the whole region of Vesuvius and especially Pompeii. A large part of the population left the city. Years later, the city once again attracts large numbers of citizens. The partial reconstruction of the city still takes place while Vesuvius suddenly decides to wake up and erupt on August 24, 79.

ancient ruins of Pompeii

The ashes generated by the volcanic eruption have become a protective layer that has survived the passage of centuries. Imagine the scene almost 2,000 years ago, when Vesuvius erupted. A cloud of ashes and dust rose almost 20 km high, throwing molten rocks miles away. For 20 hours at a time, a shower of ashes rained down on the city. Terrible and apocalyptic.

Forgotten over centuries

It wasn’t until the 16th century that this ancient city was rediscovered. The excavations did not begin until 1748 and have never stopped to this day. Explorations are still in progress and there is still a lot of work to be done. Another 21 hectares of archaeological treasures remain unexplored.

Pompeii and Herculaneum (or Ercolano) are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Their ruins are famous all over the world thanks to the exceptional conservation of many of their buildings.

Places of interest not to be missed in Pompeii

We present you some of the places to visit in Pompeii, but the list could obviously be much longer. Only in the entrance guide are listed up to 69 points of interest.

The forum

If you’re looking for the most popular place in Pompeii, then you’ve found it! The Forum is in fact the nucleus of the city. It is Pompeii’s main square where religious, political, economic and administrative buildings were erected. On the south side there are monumental pedestals of commemorative statues and the ruins of municipal administrative buildings dating from the first century. A platform for speakers is located in the centre on the west side.

The forum

The House of the Faun

It is the largest house in Pompeii which takes its name from the statue in the front courtyard. Only 2970 m² of property! Built in the early 2nd century BC, the House of the Faun has undergone many changes over the years. On the side tour, there is a large courtyard at the back where you shouldn’t miss the mosaic of very detailed battle scenes. There are two gardens with arcades that are also very interesting.

The Amphitheatre

This huge rectangular amphitheatre, dating from the time of Emperor Augustus, had a swimming pool in the centre. Gymnasts went here to train. When visiting the archaeological ruins of Pompeii, the amphitheatre, located opposite the main entrance, is quieter in the morning or late afternoon.

The Amphitheatre

The temple of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo is the oldest building in the Forum. Dating from 575 to 550 B.C., the Temple of Apollo was remodeled by Greeks and Romans throughout history. Don’t miss the statues of Apollo and Diana. The original statues are on display at the Naples Museum.

The Grand Theatre

The grand theatre dates back to the 2nd century BC. With a capacity for up to 5000 spectators, the stands are horseshoe shaped (cavea). All seats are sculpted in the lava mass on which Pompeii was built. The slope is natural and behind the scenes, the quadriportico of the Grand Theatre was initially open to the public to allow spectators to wander between the acts. Later, the space became a gladiator’s barracks. Right next to it, the small Theatre or Odeon is also worth a visit.

The Grand Theatre

Pedestrian crossings

All streets have elevated crosswalks that allowed passersby not to get their feet wet during heavy rains. This is one of the curiosities of the archaeological ruins!

The petrified statues

The 2,000 inhabitants who failed to escape the wrath of Vesuvius in 79 were instantly buried under lava. Once the bodies decomposed, they left room for hollow spaces.

The petrified statues

Centuries later, archaeologists were able to detect these empty spaces and fill them with liquid plaster. Today we can see these molds of men and women, and even animals, petrified forever. Characteristics and terrified gestures are also captured forever. Impressive and surprising.

The amphorae

And yes, there are also bars in Pompeii! The amphorae are still visible and this is where the precious drinks of the Roman city were stored.

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