Entrance to the Underground Theatre of Herculaneum

Entrance to the Underground Theatre of Herculaneum


Visiting Herculaneum from Naples: Best Tips, Tickets, & More

Herculaneum is easily the most fascinating and mind-blowing site I have ever been to in my life. I still can’t wrap my head around the place, its history, and how well preserved the Herculaneum ruins are today.

Overshadowed by Pompeii to its south, Herculaneum is lesser visited, yet offers a far better insight into Roman life in 79AD than Pompeii, in my opinion. This post will include everything you need to know before visiting Herculaneum from Naples and other places in Italy including tours, tickets, where to stay in Naples and Ercolano, and how to get there.


Contents

Ancient Herculaneum

In legend, Herculaneum was founded by Hercules returning from one of his Twelve Labours. Historically, it was most likely founded by the Oscans, an Italic tribe of the 8th century BC, and later became part of both the Etruscan and Samnite dominions. Under the control of the Romans, the city was a renowned seaside resort where some of the richest Roman citizens spent their summer vacations. It was built according to the standard model of Hippodamus of Miletus with a grid of crossing Decumans and Cardos. The houses are elegant and large and there are public buildings that are abundant and large compared to the small number of inhabitants (about 5,000).

In AD 62 the town suffered major damage from a violent earthquake and restoration works were still going on when on 24 August of AD 79 Mt. Vesuvius erupted and completely buried the city under a deep layer of hot mud and other volcanic material. Unlike neighboring Pompeii, the citizens of Herculaneum died of thermal shock from the extremely hot pyroclastic surges, rather than buried under heavy ash.

Founding of Resina

After the eruption of AD 79 the area was slowly re-populated and in AD 121 the old coast road from Naples to Nocera was probably in place. In the Basilica di Santa Maria a Pugliano are two early Christian marble sarcophagi from the 2nd and 4th centuries AD which give evidence of habitation on the site of the buried Herculaneum.

Unfortunately there are no historical records covering the period between the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the year 1000, but it is certain that the coast near Mount Vesuvius would have been exposed to frequent wars as a result of the peoples and armies invading the Empire. The first records of the existence of a village named Resina or Risìna, (… de alio latere est ribum de Risina…  … de alio capite parte meridiana est resina …, etc.), [1] are from the 10th century.

The etymology of the name is controversial. Some academics believe that it comes from a corruption of Rectina, the name of the Roman noblewoman from Herculaneum who asked Pliny The Elder for help during the eruption in AD 79. Other explanations are that the name could come from the Latin word raetincula, meaning the nets used by the fishermen of Herculaneum, or from the resin of trees grown on the ancient lava, or from the name of the river that flowed alongside Herculaneum. Finally some suggest that the name is the anagram of sirena (siren): a siren was the symbol of the village and the town of Resina until 1969.

Documents from the 11th century indicate the presence of a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary on a hill called Pugliano whose name probably derives from Praedium Pollianum, an ancient estate outside Herculaneum whose owner was called Pollio.

Renaissance

In 1418 Queen Joanna II of Naples conceded the Università (villages with local governments) of Torre del Greco, Resina, Portici and Cremano to her favourite Sergianni Caracciolo and later to Antonio Carafa. Since then, these villages belonged to the Carafa family and passed from hand to hand following the historical events of the family and the Kingdom and Vice Kingdom of Naples.

The main business of the inhabitants of Resina were: agriculture, fishing (also corals, together with the inhabitants of Torre del Greco), [2] and cut and carving the volcanic stone. In the 16th century the worship for the Madonna di Pugliano, venerated in the church of Santa Maria a Pugliano, was so spread that numerous pilgrims flooded from all the surrounding areas and in 1574 the church is first mentioned as Basilica pontificia two years later became the parish church of Resina, also including the neighbour Portici until 1627.

IN 1631 Mt. Vesuvius violently erupted after a long era of quiescence destroying the area all around, killing more than 4.000 people and altering the geography of the places. It was the second most devastating eruption of Mt. Vesuvius ever, after the one that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in AD 79. The territory of Resina was struck by two legs of lava that split behind the hill of Pugliano and spared the houses of the village one of the legs filled the valley on the western side of it and when it solidified the village grew on the new plain and the large via Pugliano was built heading straight to the basilica on the top of the hill.

After about three centuries of feudal submission, in 1699 Resina and the neighbour Portici, Torre del Greco and Cremano set free from baronial status paying 106.000 ducats (and more 2.500 for extra charge) to the Crown property as ransom price. Resina paid one third of the total amount.

The Baronial Ransom is one of the most memorable events of the history of Resina and its neighbouring towns.

Re-discovery of Herculaneum

In 1709 Emmanuel Maurice, Duke of Elbeuf, while constructing his residence on the coast of Portici, heard of a man who discovered ancient marbles and columns while digging a well in the nearby town of Resina. The duke bought his farm and started digging wells and galleries underground and excavated statues, columns and marbles that he used for his Portici residence, also giving them as precious gifts to his friends, relatives and monarchs around Europe.

The news reached King Charles VII of Naples, who became aware of the importance of the finds and bought the duke’s farm and started a methodical campaign of excavation with the aim of digging out all the treasures underground. In the meantime the news of the discovery of the ancient Herculaneum spread all around Europe, and boosted the cultural movement in Europe called Neoclassicism as well as the custom of the Grand Tour among the British and European upper-class.

Enthusiastic about the large amounts and the beauty of the archaeological finds, the king had the summer Palace of Portici constructed, on the border with Resina. Findings of Herculaneum were housed in a dedicated part of the palace, which was open for the king's guests.

The size of the collection increased after 1750, when exploration of the large suburban villa of the Pisoni family brought large amounts of wooden and marble statues to light: the two corridori (racers) or lottatori (wrestlers) and the Sleeping Mercury are the most well-known ones. Of special importance was the discovery in 1752 of the burnt papyrus scrolls of the library of the villa, known today as the Villa dei Papiri. [3] They were carefully unrolled using a special machine made by Fr. Antonio Piaggio, containing the work of the epicurean Greek philosopher Philodemus.

Growth of modern Resina

Following the king’s example, nobles of the kingdom started building their summer villas and gardens next to the royal palace and the surrounding area. On the stretch of the main street called Strada Regia delle Calabrie, which is the royal street towards to the region of Calabria, from the centre of Resina to the beginning of nearby Torre del Greco, large and representative villas were constructed. This part of the street is known as the Golden Mile (Miglio d’Oro). Amongst the most outstanding buildings are the Villa Campolieto, designed by Luigi Vanvitelli, and the Villa Favorita, designed by Ferdinando Fuga. The Villa Favorita received its name from Queen Maria Carolina of Austria, because the place reminded her of her childhood's surrounding of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.

In 1799 during the last days of the Parthenopaean Republic, final fights took place in the streets of Resina and Portici between the king's supporters and the republicans. To celebrate the return of King Ferdinand IV of Naples against the “atheist” and pro-French republic, the inhabitants of Resina constructed a chapel of thanksgiving with a crucifix on the spot that replaced the republican Tree of Freedom. On 27 June 1802, the king returned in Naples landing to the pier of Villa Favorita.

During the kingdom of Joachim Murat Villa Favorita still was used for parties and celebrations held by the king and the winding and narrow leg of the Strada Regia delle Calabrie in Resina was straightened and widened throughout the town centre.

19th to 20th centuries

Together with the construction of the first Italian railway in 1839, some industrial facilities were established along the coast (glassworks, tanneries, train wagons, etc.) that altered the previous landscape. Nevertheless, Resina remained an agricultural town, celebrated for its fruit and healthy air and was the well-known destination for the visits to the underground Theatre of Herculaneum and the ascension to the crater of Mt. Vesuvius.

In 1845 was inaugurated the Real Osservatorio Vesuviano (Royal Vesuvius Observatory) the first in the world.

In 1863 the local artist Marco De Gregorio founded the School of Resina an art movement that broke up with the academic painting tradition.

In 1865 the King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II inaugurated the open air excavations of Herculaneum.

In 1880 the Funicular railway on Mount Vesuvius was inaugurated and the event inspired the world famous Neapolitan song Funiculì, Funiculà. The funicular was repeatedly wrecked by volcanic eruptions and abandoned after the eruption of 1944.

Since 1904 the Circumvesuviana railway operated from Naples to Castellammare di Stabia with a station in Resina-Pugliano, close to the Basilica of Santa Maria a Pugliano and the funicular to Mt. Vesuvius. On 1927 King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy inaugurated the new entrance of the archaeological site of Herculaneum on the Miglio d’Oro and a new street was opened some years later to join the archaeological site to the Circumvesuviana railway and funicular stations.

In 1930 was opened the second oldest Italian motorway from Naples to Pompeii with an exit in Resina.

From the second half of the 19th century to modern times Resina has been a residential and holiday place for both aristocracy and Neapolitan middle class who lived in the celebrated villas of the Miglio d’Oro or modern ones such as Villa Battista, an elegant art nuveau building. Among the famous people who lived or used to frequent the town have to be mentioned: the poet and writer Gabriele D’Annunzio, the scientist Arnaldo Cantani, the former Khedive of Egypt Isma’il Pasha who opened the Suez Canal and lived six years (1879-1885) during his exile in Villa Favorita, the Italian Prime Minister Antonio Salandra, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carlo Sforza, King Gustav VI of Sweden, amateur archaeologist. To these ones hundreds of artists, scholars, historians, scientists, kings, Roman Popes, Presidents, prime ministers, ambassadors, politicians, and other celebrities came to Resina to visit the underground Theatre and the archaeological site of Herculaneum and Mt. Vesuvius.

Famous citizens of Resina were: Benedetto Cozzolino, who founded in 1788 a school for the deaf and dumb, the first in the Kingdom of Naples and the second in Italy after the one in Rome Amadeo Bordiga, founder with Antonio Gramsci of the Partito Comunista d’Italia, the Communist Party of Italy the philosopher Adriano Tilgher the painter Alfonso Marquez as well as the already mentioned Marco De Gregorio.

In the years after WWII in via Pugliano flourished the street market of Pugliano (or Resina) that quickly became nationwide famous for the selling of used clothes (“pezze”) and a mecca for seekers of vintage clothes and bargains.

On 12 February 1969, following a formal request of the Town Council, the President of Italian Republic decreed the change of the name of the town from Resina to Ercolano that is the Italian version of ancient Herculaneum.

In 1971 the Ente per le Ville Vesuviane was instituted and it is now a foundation, with the objective of restoring and preserving the main 18th-century villas. The villas that were first restored were Villa Campolieto, Villa Ruggiero and the seaside park of Villa Favorita and its facilities that all now host cultural events and the headquarters of cultural institutions and postgraduate School.

In the 1880s and 1890s the town was hit by the industrial crisis with a dramatic growth of unemployment and crime. Since last years of the centuries started a renewed commitment for a U-turn of policy and strategies to boost social and economic growth oriented to a touristic and cultural exploitation.

In 1995 the Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio (Mt.Vesuvius National Park) was created and all the area of Ercolano north of motorway is included in the Park in 1997 the Archaeological site of Herculaneum was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage together with Pompeii and Oplonti and Mt. Vesuvius and the Miglio d'Oro were included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves under the Unesco's Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme in 2005 the MAV (Virtual Archeologic Museum) was opened and the open-air permanent exhibition Creator Vesevo was inaugurated with 10 stone sculptures of contemporary famous international artists lined up along the street heading to Mt. Vesuvius crater.


"An entire Roman theatre - hidden from the modern world"

To visit the incredible sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum as a tourist is incredible enough, stepping through wonderfully preserved Roman streets just as they were when Vesuvius erupted in AD79. But to be given the privilege of entering the ancient tunnels of rock created by the first archaeological pioneers to discover Herculaneum is quite another.

Working on this series has provided any number of fantastic opportunities to visit archaeological sites that are well off the beaten track, from the sweltering jungles of southern Mexico to Scandinavian peat bogs, but the underground world beneath Herculaneum topped the lot. The tunnels, hacked by workmen through the hardened pumice, are testimony to the efforts of 18th century archaeology.

The expression 'frozen in time' is an over-used cliché but as my eyes adjusted to this dark world from the bright Mediterranean sun, searing the ground outside, it was an overwhelming thought. not only because I was entering the hidden world of the Romans, but because I was doing so through the eyes of archaeological excavators who had first entered the ground here nearly 300 years ago.

A hard fought privilege

It was spine-tingling. Around every corner there appeared a pile of excavated rubble, a note in the stone scrawled by a workman who regarded the tunnels as "his house", the empty mould of a face in the rock where a valuable statue had been prised away.

This whole place was first discovered in 1709 by a farmer who was digging a well, and was later excavated by the Duke of Elbeuf and then more systematically by a Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre.

These early 'excavators' literally burrowed down through the volcanic rock searching for any marble valuables and other artistic treasures that could be brought to the surface and laid claim to. But there was one thing they couldn't remove.

It was the most extraordinary moment of all: an entire Roman theatre. The old tunnels still provide the only access to the ancient theatre, hidden from the modern world.

Due to its fragile state and the dangers posed by dark steep passages, and the water that flows down them, the theatre is closed to the public and my visit was the result of some hard fought negotiating skills from the production team.

Glimpses of a long lost world

Moving through the claustrophobic darkness, the flickering torch light of the guide reveals glimpses of a long lost world - ghostly seating and walls still decorated with coloured plaster and even graffiti scrawled by its clientele nearly 2000 years ago.

The piece de resistance was walking out onto the stage itself. It feels as if the banks of empty benches are merely waiting to once more be filled by a throng of noisy, laughing spectators bringing to an end a two millennia-old silence.


Main landmarks

Archeological Site of Herculaneum

The Archeological site of Herculaneum (in Italian: Scavi di Ercolano) is the area south of the town centre of modern Ercolano opened on the Roman town of Herculaneum that was destroyed and buried by lava and mud during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 together with Pompeii, Stabiae and Oplontis. In 1997 was listed in the World Heritage Site of UNESCO. Although Herculaneum was discovered before Pompeii, the excavation was very hard so that was repeatedly interrupted in favour to the easier excavation of Pompeii. They are smaller and less famous than Pompeii, but better preserved due to the different materials that covered the town: in fact, in Herculaneum there are many wooden remains (doors, furniture, beams) and organic goods (fruit, bread, seeds, cordage) that in Pompeii were burnt and many buildings still keep the upper floor entirely or partially. The area unveils only one quarter of the entire ancient town because the other parts still lay down beneath the modern Ercolano.

A new access was recently opened on the eastern side of the archaeological area with a large parking area for cars and buses, souvenir stands, and public gardens. In Corso Resina n. 123 there is the old access to the underground Theatre of Herculaneum the first monument of the ancient town to be discovered and known around the world. The access has to be agreed with the office of Scavi di Ercolano and according to the underground condition.

Today the archaeological site is visited by some 300.000 tourists every year: in 2012, it recorded 288.536 visitors and was the 16th more visited monument in Italy. [4]

Basilica of Santa Maria a Pugliano

The Basilica Pontificia of Santa Maria a Pugliano, in Piazza Pugliano, is the main church of Ercolano and the oldest in town and the area all around Mt. Vesuvius. In 1076 a Neapolitan lady included the church of Santa Maria at Pugnanum in her will among the Neapolitan churches and monasteries to which she left her legacy. It is the oldest document that confirms the existence and the high reputation of the church in the 11th century. During the following centuries the popularity of the temple increased more and more and pilgrims flooded here from everywhere. In the early years after the Council of Trent the church obtained formal acknowledgement of its eminence: in 1574 was first mentioned as “basilica” two years later became the parish church of Resina and Portici and by papal bull on 13 June 1579 Pope Gregory XIII confirmed the plenary indulgences of his predecessors to the pilgrims visiting the temple on the first Friday of March, Easter Day and 15th August, Assumption day. In that century main works were made to enlarge and embellish the temple. During the eruption of 1631 the temple was miraculously spared by the lava. Some years later a new street (via Pugliano) was built on the solidified lava to easily reach the temple from the town centre. On 18 October 1849 Pope Pius IX, hosted in the royal palace of Portici by the king of Naples during his exile from Rome, visited the basilica.

The temple is worth a visit for its remarkable history and art treasures: the massive 36-meter high belfry from the end of the 16th century is one of the oldest of the area. Inside the church, there are sarcophagi from the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, that prove the existence of inhabitants in the area of Herculaneum in the aftermath of the eruption in AD 79 the exquisite wooden statues of Madonna di Pugliano and Black Crucifix, both of the 14th century the font of 1425, one of the oldest outside the cathedral of Naples the high altar, of the 16th century the wooden bust of St. Januarius of the 17th century, the magnificent wooden pulpit of 1685, coeval to the wooden choir and behind the altar. Most of the paintings were made by local artists in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Madonna di Pugliano is worshipped since ever, but before the statue of the 14th century the painted Byzantine-like Madonna di Ampellone was venerated. The main patronal festival is on 15 August, Assumption Day. A special worship is dedicated to St. Januarius, that is co-patron of Ercolano the statue of the saint has always been carried in procession during the eruptions of Mt. Vesuvius toward the lava front. A bust of St. Januarius facing Mt. Vesuvius was frequently erected in villas and buildings to protect them by the fury of Mt. Vesuvius.

Il Miglio d’Oro (The Golden Mile)

The Miglio d’Oro is the leg of Corso Resina ( the old Strada Regia per le Calabrie) in Ercolano from the Archeological Site of Herculaneum leading to Torre del Greco where are lined the largest, the finest and the most sumptuous villas designed by the best architects of that time and built in the 18th century by the noble families of the Kingdom of Naples around the Royal Palace of Portici. The most famous are Villa Campolieto, Villa Favorita and Villa Aprile. All the villas had backside gardens and woods, some of them rivaling with the ones of the Royal Palace.

In 1997 the Miglio d'Oro, together with Mt.Vesuvius, was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves under the Unesco's Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme.

Although the expression Miglio d'Oro was created in the 19th century to highlight the splendor of the buildings along the leg of old Strada Regia per le Calabrie in Ercolano (Resina) and the beginning of Portici and the whole territory of Torre del Greco.

Villa Campolieto was built in 1755 and designed by Luigi Vanvitelli the architect of the Royal Palace of Caserta who enriched the original project of Mario Gioffredo. Despite its austere and simple façade on the street, the internal side facing the sea opens on a magnificent elliptic exedra with a continuous arcade that also functions as belvedere towards the bay of Naples. The staircase leading to the upper floor is one of the most monumental in private buildings: it is surrounded by large windows and evokes the one of the Royal Palace of Caserta. The rooms of the main floor (piano nobile) preserve the original paintings and decoration of Jacopo Cestaro, Fedele Fischetti and Gaetano Magri.

Villa Campolieto hosts the executive office of Fondazione Ente Ville Vesuviane and The School Management Stoà. Also opens for exhibitions, conferences, fairs and festivals. Among the most remarkable events have to be mentioned: the Terrae Motus art exhibition after the earthquake of 1980 and the summer Festival delle Ville Vesuviane.

Villa Favorita, also known as Real Villa della Favorita, was designed by architect Ferdinando Fuga in 1762 for the Principe di Jaci e di Campofiorito who bought and restored a pre-existent smaller building. In 1768 the prince gave a sumptuous party in honour of the King Ferdinando of Bourbon and his wife Maria Carolina of Augsburg just arrived from Vienna. The Queen liked the villa that reminded her of Vienna’s Schönbrunn palace and since then was called “Favorita” (favoured). In 1792 the villa joined the Crown property and the King bought a close area by the sea so that created a great park from the main building on the street to the sea and a pier for the access by boat. It was frequently used by the royal couple and their children. The second son of the King, Leopoldo of Bourbon, while living there enlarged the palace and built some pavillons for entertainment and recreation such as the Casino of mosaics (so called after its interior decoration with a coloured patchwork of mother-of-pearl and porcelain scraps), the Montagne Russe (wooden switchback), two twin cafehaus on the pier as well as balancoirs and bandstands. He used to open the park to his subjects during public holiday. From 1879 and 1885 Villa Favorita hosted Isma'il Pasha, former Khedive of Egypt who was worldwide famous after the inauguration of Suez Canal. He decorated the interiors of his apartments with a Moorish style and built some Moorish gazebo in the park.

In the 20th century the park was split in two: the palace with the upper park was used as military facility and the park on the sea (Parco sul Mare della Villa Favorita) was used as firmland and after the earthquake of 1980 was requisitioned by the Town Council for temporary housing the evacuated families. In the nineties the Fondazione Ente per le Ville Vesuviane acquired and restored the wood, with the pavillons and the pier and now uses it for exhibitions, concerts and other events.

The main building alongside Corso Resina is remarkable for its double court and the magnificent semicircular staircase on the backside that connects the main hall of first floor to the park and its visible from Villa Campolieto. The façade was recently restored. The wood needs a major restoration.

Villa Aprile also known as Villa Riario Sforza after the first owner who built it in the second half of the 18th century. It is among the largest villas of Miglio d’Oro and keeps one of the most elegant parks still intact nowadays. The author Carlo Celano [5] described the villa as “la regina delle ville” (the queen of the villas). Between 1818 and following years the new owner, the niece of the Duke Riario Sforza, transformed the building by elevating the second floor and the woods giving the ultimate shape: the splendid fountain of Prometheus, little temples, statues, fake ruins and Roman columns, an alpine chalet with a water-lily pond, grotto and spring. From 1879 the villa belonged to the Aprile family until recent years and became a well patronized cultural and fashionable salon and also a comfortable hotel. After decades of neglect, the villa and its park were bought and destined into luxury hotel.

Other interesting and nice villas of the 18th century are: Villa Ruggiero, owned by Fondazione Ente per le Ville Vesuviane, Villa Durante, Villa Granito di Belmonte, Villa Signorini and the Town Hall although the last three are not lined on the Miglio d’Oro.


Beautifully conserved

The town of Herculaneum has been magically conserved all these years. Objects like beds, and doors managed to remain under the layers of ash and mud without decaying.

Although it isn’t as well-known or as large as Pompeii, Herculaneum’s ruins are extremely impressive and gripping. Definitely worth visiting!

Today, the town of Ercolano lies extremely close to the ruins of Herculaneum, creating an interesting contrast.


Human remains

In 1981, human skeletons from the 1st century CE were unearthed at Herculaneum. 55 skeletons were found together (30 adult men, 13 adult women and 12 children). The discoveries were found on the beach and in the chambers for boats on the shore. Since only a few skeletons had been found before, it was thought that almost all residents of the city managed to escape the disaster. However, the 1981 discovery changed the view of scientists.

The inhabitants of Herculaneum, waiting on the shore for rescue from the sea, suddenly died as a result of a strong heat flush – about 500°C. High temperature caused contraction of members and breaking bones or teeth.

It is worth noting that the find is all the more valuable because until the third century the Romans cremated the corpse and few human remains from that period have survived to our time.

The skeletons of the Romans were also examined. Dr Sara C. Bisel carried out a chemical and physical analysis of the remains and shed completely new light on the health and diet of the inhabitants of Herculaneum. The researcher noted some amounts of lead in the bones, which led to speculation about lead poisoning. Moreover, numerous traces have been recorded on the female pelvis, which may give a clue in future studies regarding the fertility of women of this period.

Some of the exposed skeletons can be admired at the Museum of Anthropology in Naples.


Index of Buildings

( a) Numbering of Buildings in Herculaneum

The city blocks (insulae) created by the grid of streets were usually divided in two from east to west, then subdivided into properties of more or less the same width. Measurements obtained have shown that, with the exception of the large peristyle houses, house facades generally varied between 7m and 14m wide the northern halves of the insulae adjacent to the Decumanus Maximus don't follow this pattern, but rather have been subdivided lengthwise, so that the houses opened onto the decumanus rather than the side streets.

The insulae have historically been numbered as shown in the accompanying schematic. Hence we have Insula II - Insula VII running anti-clockwise from Insula II. To the east are two additional blocks: Orientalis I (oI) and Orientalis II (oII). To the south of Orientalis I (oI) lies one additional group of buildings known as the 'Suburban District' (SD).

To further define a property's location, each entrance in an insula has its own individual number. Thus a property can be defined by its insula and entrance number. For example, the House of the Deer is labelled ( Ins IV, 3 ).

Each insula on this site has its own location plan, an expanded view of the insula showing individual buildings and a table of all the properties within the insula with door numbers, dimensions and a brief description. You may access each dwelling by name from the list below, or select an insula from the above schematic (or the table below) and explore from there.


Should I visit Pompeii or Herculaneum?

The biggest difference between Pompeii and Herculaneum is size: the ruins of Pompeii cover about 44 square hectaures, while Herculaneum covers just 4.

Pompeii was an important city and trade center, while Herculaneum was a small resort town without the large public buildings (forum, amphitheater, theaters, gym) found in Pompeii.

However, Herculaneum is in a much better state of preservation due to the deep layer of ash and dust that covered the site, filling the buildings without damaging them. Pompeii was heavily battered by falling rocks and hot air that knocked down upper floors of buildings and incinerated wood, both of which are still intact at Herculaneum.

All things considered, if you only have time to see one site, choose Pompeii. Herculaneum is a good alternative if you don't want to do too much walking or if the temperatures are particularly scorching, as it has more shade than Pompeii.

We do not recommend visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum in one day, as it is simply too tiring.

The Ruins of Pompeii

  • It's a unique example of a perfectly preserved Roman city with temples, theaters, homes, restaurants, and public buildings.
  • More sites open to the public and a greater variety of architectures to visit.
  • You can experience first-hand the majesty of a Roman forum, theater, and amphitheater.
  • You only have an hour or two, as it takes a significant amount of time and energy to visit.
  • It's a particularly hot day, as there is little shade.

The Ruins of Herculaneum

  • It's a small town that was a resort destination in ancient times, and can be visited in less that two hours.
  • There are multi-story houses, wooden furnishing and decorations, and perfectly preserved mosaic and sculptures to admire.
  • You only have time to visit either Pompeii or Herculaneum we do not recommend attempting both in one day.
  • You want to explore it all, as many of the houses and buildings are not open to the public.

Do [ edit ] [ add listing ]

PompeiIn[4] [email protected] +39 3284134719 offers itineraries at the ancient Herculaneum lasting minimum 2 hours and covering all the highlights of the city such as Northern Cardo (road oriented north-south), the House of the Skeleton,Thermopolium (restaurant food), Men's Thermal Bath, Temple of Augustali, Forum (main square), House of the Black Saloon, House of Neptune and Amphitrite, House of Bel Cortile, the Samnite House, the House of the Wooden Partition, the Bakery, the Gym, the Home of the Bucks, the Marina gate, terrace of Marcus Nonius Balbus and the beach. The guides are locals, are licensed, and are graduated in archaeology they are able to provide kids and disabled people friendly tours, and with their vast knowledge of ancient history and society are capable of making the ancient Herculaneum come to life.


Watch the video: The Villa of Papyri at Herculaneum