The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 C.E. was a paradoxical thing. It was truly cataclysmic – it wiped out the entire populations of nearby towns – but it also yielded to history one of the most extensive and intact ruins of an ancient city. That settlement was Pompeii. The spectacular ruins are one of Italy’s most visited sites, so queues are long.
But not if you’ve got a skip-the-line ticket!
When Vesuvius erupted with the force of 100,000 atom bombs, life in Pompeii perished in an instant. Ironically, the blanket of superheated ash combined with the lack of moisture to preserve much of the city for thousands of years. So what you see today lends an extraordinary window into life in Roman times.
Details of everyday life abound. On the floor of one of the houses (Sirico’s) you can read a famous inscription, Salve lucru (“Welcome, profit”) and it indicates a trading company owned by Sirico himself. You can inspect wine jars labeled Vesuvinum – a play on both Vesuvius and the Latin for wine, vinum. This is quite possibly the world’s first-known marketing pun!
With over 50 hectares to explore, you can walk around the Forum with Vesuvius in the background, or sit under a tree and marvel at the spectacular amphitheater. There are remnants of the all-important aqueduct, street fountains, public baths, private houses, businesses, statues, frescoes, as well as hundreds of haunting plaster casts of lava-fried locals!
Not sure about transport? Shuttle taxis are available from the Pompei train station directly to the venue. Give yourself about 3-4 hours to really explore the ruins, and see some things that you might miss otherwise. There's also a café on-site so you can split up your exploring with a leisurely lunch or coffee.
Train: Take any train to Naples and, from there, take the Circumvesuviana train bound to Sorrento and get off at Pompei Scavi (Villa dei Misteri), the closest stop to the Porta Marina entrance gate.