Journey to a distant world frozen in time. A land where ancient cities lay buried for centuries, etombed by the eruption of a volatile volcano, Mount Vesuvius. A trek up this humpbacked mountain is the starting point for this itinerary.
Vesuvius’ last eruption was in 1944, but not to worry, the volcano is being monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by the Naples branch of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), which is now located in Fuorigrotta. A stop at the original Vesuvius Observatory, the oldest vulcanological monitoring station in the world on the way back down the mountain is a welcome and educational detour. Nature lovers who want to extend their time on the mountain will find Tenuta Le Lune del Vesuvio at 400 meters a good choice.
When it erupted in 79 AD, Vesuvius buried several Roman towns and their inhabitants along the southern side of the Bay of Naples under 1.5 million tons of pumice, ash and boiling mud. Pompeii is the most famous city, lost and found, and for those with time to linger, the next stop on this tour. While it is true that a visit to Pompeii can be done in a few hours, any real exploration of these vast Roman era archaeological excavations will require the better part of a day, or two or three or more.
If you’ve not gotten your fill of Roman ruins after Pompeii, venture southwest (best for those traveling by car) to the Stabian Villas to see how the Romans vacationed. Those who prefer less crowds, are short on time or have little ones with tired feet will want to forgo Pompeii and the Stabian Villas and visit Herculaneum instead. After, the nearby Virtual Archaeology Museum (MAV) is fun for the kids and an innovative way to see what life was like in these Roman towns before the eruption of Vesuvius. Diehard archaeology and history buffs will want to add Herculaneum and MAV to their itinerary and venture to the Villa of Poppaea at Oplontis and Boscoreale as well.
Once you’ve seen WHERE the Romans lived, go have a look at HOW they lived. The “stuff” that filled their homes, artifacts like statues, pottery and frescoes are on display at Naples National Archaeological Museum in downtown Naples. The Papyri Scrolls from Herculeanum can be seen at Naples National Library, the Biblioteca Nazionale.
– Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae, Oplontis and Boscoreale are collectively known as the Pompeii Sites. A 3 day ticket to visit all five sites costs around €20 (in reality, entry to Stabia is free). A one day ticket to Stabiae, Oplontis and Boscoreale is €5.50. Thanks to Italy’s #domenicaalmuseo program, entrance to all five sites is free the first Sunday of every month.
– Pompeii, Herculaneum and Oplontis are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
– If you get an early start, this itinerary can be done in one day, however, we think, two days (or more) would be a much more relaxed and meaningful pace.
– Pompeii is the top tourist attraction in the Campania region. Visit in the summer and you’ll be amongst crushing crowds. Visit in the winter and you can roam the city almost completely undisturbed.
– Find more Roman ruins in the Campi Flegrei and Naples Historic Center.