Touring the ruins of Pompeii is a must-see activity when visiting the Italian city of Naples. When the volcano Mt. Vesuvius erupted in the year 79 AD, it buried the nearby city, resulting in a time capsule of frozen everyday life. Close to 2,000 years later, visitors can explore the site, investigating the preserved ancient alleyways, houses, baths, and temples. But how much time do you need to see Pompeii?
When planning your trip, it is important to allocate sufficient time to explore all of the treasures the ancient city has to offer. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Heritage Site of Pompeii has a total area of almost 200 hectares. It is divided into nine district regions, each with something unique to offer. The general recommendation from experts is that two to three hours should be set aside to explore.
The archaeological park is open year round and operating hours may vary depending on the season. If you aren’t pressed for time, many travelers suggest four to six hours of exploration. This allows plenty of time to experience the exceptional city remains and the many artifacts that were uncovered.
As is the case for many archaeological sites, it helps to hire a qualified guide to get the most out of your visit. Even if you are short on time, a guide can give you the highlights of Pompeii and provide engaging narration and background information. Another great way to expedite the process is to purchase a skip the line ticket. This means you will not have to wait in line and you can jump right into the experience of exploring. The ticket could also include guided tours and audio guides.
Due to the size and layout of Pompeii ruins, it is important to prepare adequately when it comes to traversing the area. Comfortable shoes are an absolute must. The ancient streets can get hot, paved with stones and can be slippery with water in some areas. Be sure to take breaks and remember to always stay hydrated.
Overall, a visit to Pompeii is an unforgettable experience. With sufficient time and preparation it is possible to get the full experience of the site. Just be aware that two hours of exploration can just barely scratch the surface of the city.
Ruins of Pompeii
When touring the ruins of Pompeii, it is important to note that not all of the 2,000-year-old city is currently exposed to view. The remains can be subdivided into the following sub-sites: the urban areas, the private villas, the port, the Macellum and lastly, the civil basilicas. One of the most interesting sites is the port of Pompeii, which is one of the most complete ancient Mediterranean ports ever found.
The port was used for both trade and fishing operations and some of the artifacts that have been discovered at the site include fishing equipment, bronze and clay objects, and ceramics. The port is located on the south-west side of the archaeological park. Its opening is between 61-56 meters and closed the town to Barbarium – a maritime city of the Coast of Campania.
Within the port area there is an artificial dock that was built to form a boat basin. Parts of the dock have been found intact, such as nets, nets-weight, boats and anchors. Visitors to Pompeii can also discover many artifacts that depict the way of life of the Pompeii citizens, such as everyday objects and artifacts that could have possibly been used within the port. The unearthed items provide a glimpse into what daily life would have been like during the ancient times.
Another popular site that visitors to Pompeii flock to is the Amphitheatre. This was built during the reign of Augustus and is the third largest in Italy. It once provided entertainment options for the citizens of Pompeii such as gladiator battles, theatre performances and public events, such as the Pompeii Games. Acting as an emblem of Roman power, the amphitheater was a symbol of Imperial Rome. A guided tour of the amphitheater will provide information about events that were held in the arena.
The stage of the amphitheater was made up of high podiums, altars and exedra, all maintained by the ancient architects. Visitors can continued to be inspired by the legacy of the amphitheater and admire the precise way in which the blocks, arches and vaults have been arranged. Graffiti, decorations, niches and inscriptions are presented in colorful mosaics which bring the site to life. At the Pompeii Amphitheater, it is possible to bring history back to life.
Temples of Pompeii
The Temples of Pompeii date back around 2000 years and were mostly built from tufa, a type of light-colored volcanic rock. There were two main temples in Pompeii; the Forum and the Temple of Isis. These two large temples were dedicated to Jupiter and Isis, respectively. Other temples in the city were dedicated to various other gods, such as Apollo, Ceres, Fortuna Augusta and Venus.
The most well-known of the Pompeii temples is the Temple of Isis, located just outside the Porta Marina. The temple was likely built during the reign of Augustus and was used for religious ceremonies and rituals. Visitors to the temple will be able to explore the remains of its walls and colonnade, and the remains of the inner courtyard and altars.
The Forum temple, on the other hand, is the most important of the temples in Pompeii and dates back to the 3rd century B.C. Inside there is a large roofed portico, supported by a double row of 11 Corinthian columns. The temple is surrounded by four additional rooms, each of which with its own altar. The walls of each room are decorated with polychrome figures in stucco.
Villa of the Mysteries
If you are looking for a unique experience, the Villa of the Mysteries is one the most popular sites to explore. It is believed to have belonged to a wealthy ancestor of Augustus and dates back to the 2nd century BC. This luxurious private dwelling is popular for its preserved frescoes, considered as some of the finest in the world.
The villa is divided into two separate areas; a more traditional home at the entrance and a ceremonious room situated towards the rear. The excavated room hosts well-preserved wall frescoes depicting costume worn by initiates and the Cult of Bacchus. Bacchus was the ancient Roman god of wine and the patron deity of hedonists and revelers.
It is believed that the villa was used to host secret rituals only accessible to initiates of the Cult of Bacchus. When inside the walls of the villa, visitors will be able to enjoy the elaborate decorations, beautiful frescoes and vivid sculptures such as those that depict the god of wine and his followers. The Villa of the Mysteries is definitely worth a visit.
Thermopolium of Vetutius Placus
For those looking to take a bite out of history, the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placus is the perfect stop. This fast-food establishment dates back to the first century BC. The Ruins reveal the ancient fast-food joint is a sight to behold and its still fully equipped with all the necessary cooking utensils and selling counter. According to archaeological records, the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placus was split up into five rooms.
The back part of the Thermopolium was used for food storage and preparation. Such as for perishable goods, olives, wheat flour, salted fish, and condiments. The front part was used for selling the different dishes and drinks which were prepared in the restaurant. It was also a place for socialization and debate among the citizens of Pompeii.
The food here was mostly for take away, but there were benches to encourage people to stay and eat. Therefore, offering the customers a place to chat and hangout and making the Thermopolium a core part of the town. It is possible to still make out the basins, which were used to hold the food. As you explore the ruins, you can imagine the different dishes which were served by the fast-food establishment.
For those looking to extend their tour of Pompeii, there are some excellent museums located in the area. One such gem is the Pompeii Archaeological Museum. This four-storey museum displays artifacts found in the archaeological park, such as statues, frescoes and mosaics. It is the perfect stop to learn more about the many secrets of Pompeii.
The first floor is dedicated to the prehistory of Pompeii and the discovery and excavation of the city. It also includes valuable antiquities from the Greek and Roman eras. The second floor covers discoveries from the sanctuaries of Pompeii and the third floor displays sculptures and decorations from the private houses.
The most interesting part of the museum is the upper floor which hosts antiques from the Forum and the Villa of the Mysteries. Highlight artefacts of the fourth-floor include Dionysus on a panther and portraits of a Pompeii nobleman. Some of the sculptures are so well-preserved that the expressions on their faces can still be seen. The museum also houses the plaster casts of the victims, a reminder of the destructive power of Mt. Vesuvius.