Skip to main content
  1. Leisure
  2. Travel
  3. International Travel

Bucket List Adventure: Walking in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii

See also

It was put on the map by the very thing that erased it from map and memory. That is the paradox of Pompeii, the small Roman resort town south of Naples on the western coast of Italy and built in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.

More Photos

When this volcano erupted in August of 79AD, it buried the city, its streets, homes, businesses, citizens – even half-eaten meals – beneath 25 feet of ash and lapilli (burning bits of pumice stone), in effect, flash-freezing Pompeii into a tableau that would slowly emerge as a result of excavations that got underway in the 1700s and continue today.

You could easily spend the entire day wandering the streets of this well-preserved, 2,000-year-old city, marveling at the size of the Forum and Amphitheatre, ducking into the homes of everyday Pompeians and the more prominent citizens to see how each half lived, making your way (as every visitor does) to the brothel with its cubicles and erotic paintings.

There are a handful of sights you absolutely don’t want to miss, beginning with the Garden of Fugitives. Here, 13 Pompeians attempting to flee the city on the morning of the second day of the eruption, according to scientists, lay as they perished. To see these bodies – lifelike plaster casts of long-dead men, women and children – some covering their faces, and imagine their terror and fate, is incredibly moving.

The House of the Faun is famous for its dancing faun bronze statue and mosaics. The House of the Tragic Poet typifies the villas of Pompeii with their elaborate mosaic floors and frescoes; this one further charms visitors with its mosaic of a black barking dog. The Temple of Isis is a treasure that is beautifully intact. The Stabian Baths, a marvel of a bathing complex which predates the Romans, has a heating system, exercise area, dressings rooms and more.

To do justice on your visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, wear sturdy, comfortable shoes (the streets are treacherously uneven) and a hat for sun protection. Bring along a water bottle (you can get refills from the ancient street fountains just as the Pompeians would) and a map that annotated with those sites you most wish to see.

This advance planning will keep you from being easy prey for the guides who rush the Circumvesuviana train with arriving tourists. You don’t want to find yourself hustled onto a tour with 40 others, barely able to hear the guide and wasting precious time on a generic agenda. Rather, get your map and an audio guide and stroll back two centuries in time to Pompeii 79 AD.

Today, Pompeii takes up a quarter of a square mile. Although large-scale excavation has ceased and one-third of the city remains underground, there is plenty to give visitors a glimpse into the daily life – and the tragic end – that was all but erased it from time – of this ancient Roman city.

INFO: Pompeii can be reached via the Circumvesuviana train from Naples or Sorrento. A number of cruise ships make a port call at Naples, making it an especially convenient way to spend a day in Pompeii. Pompeii Tourism: www.PompeiTurismo.it; www.PompeiiSites.org (NOTE: the English-language website was under construction in early December.)

Read about "A Day in Pompeii" here. Get the adventure guide to don't-miss moments in Pompeii here. Don't be an easy target for a pickpocket; learn how.

Advertisement

Leisure

  • Corned beef
    Find out how to prepare a classic corned beef recipe in a slow cooker
    Video
    Slow Cooker Tips
  • Left handed eating
    Find out why you should never eat with your left hand
    Video
    Wives Tale
  • Subway message
    Subway customer finds 'Big Mama' written on her order
    Video
    Subway Message
  • Deviled eggs
    This is the only deviled egg recipe you’ll need this Easter
    Delicious Eggs
  • Natural solutions
    Natural beauty: All natural solutions to life's little beauty headaches
    Camera
    Natural Solutions
  • Chocolate souffle
    Love chocolate? Get tips on making the perfect chocolate souffle every time
    Video
    Recipe 101

Related Videos:

  • Great Grapes Wine and Food Festival
    <div class="video-info" data-id="516969092" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=516969092&autoStart=true"></div>
  • The Reclining Buddha Temple - Wat Pho - photo slideshow
    <div class="video-info" data-id="485568371" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=485568371&autoStart=true"></div>
  • Iconic celebrity-packed Grill on the Alley creates new menus for 30th anniversary
    <div class="video-info" data-id="518104160" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=518104160&autoStart=true"></div>

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about Examiner.com and apply today!