Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata
Highlights of Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata
Introduction to Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata
The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, on the 24th August AD 79, created a tremendous snapshot in time; the event gave a unique and unparalleled portrayal of life at that precise time, a phenomenon unseen anywhere else in the world. The Roman towns of Pompei and Herculaneum were encapsulated by ash, soot, and lava, preserving everything in its path, including buildings, and over 20,000 people who lost their lives.
Following the disaster, the sites were not uncovered again until the 18th century, and progressively both Pompei and the seaside town of Herculaneum were discovered. As well as these two towns, Villa Oplontis, at Torre Annunziata was included in the UNESCO listing because of its incredibly intricate wall paintings.
Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata Gallery
Guide to Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata
Pompei covers an area of 663,683 square meters or 163 acres, and as well as the significant buildings and highlights, the whole site is a living museum. The only way to explore is on foot, and even in what appears to be a ‘normal’ street there are remarkable examples of modern Roman technology. On the surface of the pavements there are cat’s-eyes, small tiles that reflected the light of candles or the moon, which acted as guides after dark.
Along the main street, shops and bars with public counters are visible, holes which housed containers of food or drink can clearly be seen; the bakery with its oven and millstone, and the brothel with erotic frescos above the doors and small stone beds are also exceptionally well preserved. On the Via dei Sepolcri carriage tracks are clearly visible, the tracks were designed to create a smoother ride. There are stepping stones, allowing pedestrians to cross the road from high pavements without getting their feet wet, in addition, this feature also creates today’s equivalent of speed ramps, slowing down fast moving traffic. On the south east side of the site, the Garden of the Fugitives displays plaster casts of victims where they fell, adults, children, and plants are an unfortunate highlight.
The experience at Herculaneum is decidedly different to that of Pompei; here, the volcanic rock gives a better understanding of the immensity of the lava flow. Many of the buildings remain intact as the weight of the ash was much less, the rock also helped to preserve the buildings, giving an excellent depiction of Roman life.
Due to its location Herculeneum is less crowded, and it is easy to see many intricate details such as the beautiful mosaics at the House of Neptune and Amphitrite, wife of Poseidon, at close hand. There are excellent examples of engineering, such as the baths which were fed by a network of pipes from a deep well, these pipes also fed the central heating system; other buildings of particular note are the Villa of the Papyri, the House of the Deer, and the Samnite House, the oldest property to be discovered so far.
Finally, the Oplontis Villa Complex at Torre Annunziata. Three villas occupy a seaside location at the ancient Roman town known as Opontis, now Torre Annunziata; one is thought to have had a connection with Nero’s second wife Poppaea Sabina. The complex was discovered in 1590, when foundations were being laid for an aqueduct, and it has become known for its exceptionally beautiful wall paintings and attractive gardens.
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History of Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata
Founded by Hercules in the 6th century BC, Pompei and Herculaneum were developed by the Oscans, Samnites, Greeks, Etruscans, and finally, in 89 BC, by the Romans. The Romans added to the Forum, built by the Samnites, they constructed a large amphitheatre, baths, and an aqueduct to bring water from the Samo River. They constructed a complex network of pipes to carry water to houses and businesses, and constructed cobbled streets with high pavements and crossings. The river brought prosperity to the commercial town, which also became a centre for Roman wine production.
Herculaneum, on the coast, was much smaller. The Romans constructed large sea view villas as holiday homes, and the wide main street, with its prominent buildings and public baths on both sides, acted as the Forum. Unfortuantely, an earthquake hit the area, and a short time later Vesuvis erupted. Pompei and Herculaneum became history; Pompei under volcanic ash and rock, and Herculaneum under a river of mud and lava.
Getting to Pompei, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata
All the sites are open daily, between November and March, 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission 3.30 p.m.), and between April and October, 8.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. (last admission 6 p.m.). Entry typically includes a map of the site, although they are often unavailable or only available in Italian. Booksellers at the site have an official guide, audio tours are also available.
There are bus and train services which stop at Pompei, and by car exit at the Pompeii Ovest exit (if travelling from Napoli to Salerno) or Pompei Est (if traveling from Salerno to Napoli) of the A3 Autostrada.
For Herculaneum take the Ercolano exit on the A3, or the stop at Ercolano by train.
For Torre Annunziata, exit the A3 at the Torre Annunziata Sud, or the Torre Annunziata stop by train.
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