What’s so important about Pompeii?During its heyday, Pompeii was a moderately important town locally, but it didn’t have the same significance as Ostia, for example, or Herculaneum. Estimates suggest that it was home to around 11,000 people, a medium-sized town with a busy industrial port but no particular political or cultural significance. That was until it was destroyed by a volcano in 79 AD, forgotten until its rediscovery in 1738. The town’s preservation under ash, though fatal for the inhabitants, meant that it provided a wealth of material to archaeologists and historians. From preserved buildings and items for sale to the physical remains of the people who died in the eruption (including their clothing and skeletons), historians have been able to piece together what life might have been like for an average citizen of the Roman Empire. It’s been an invaluable resource, so much so that schoolchildren are taught about Pompeii all around the world and that there have been near-continuous excavations going on at Pompeii for over 250 years.
What’s there to see at the archaeological site?The archaeological site of Pompeii is huge and there’s a lot to see. The shortest route takes you past a set of Roman baths, the Sanctuary of Apollo, the Temple of Jupiter, and several houses which are notable for their content or decoration, including the House of the Tragic Poet and the House of the Geometric Mosaics. The House of the Tragic Poet is famous for its mosaic containing one of the first ‘Beware of the Dog’ signs - ‘Cave Canem’. You can see bakeries with intact ovens, private homes with surviving wall paintings, two theaters, gladiators’ barracks, and many other buildings which you’d expect to find in a well-off city in the Roman Empire.
Should we take a guided tour?Yes! There are some signs throughout the site, but the best way to make the ruins come to life is to take a walking tour with an expert guide. They’ll be able to show you the small details you might otherwise miss, like ancient graffiti or small items inside houses which show you who lived there or what the room was used for. If you’re not planning to take a guided tour then you should definitely bring or buy a guide book which will give you some extra information.
How long should we plan for our trip?You should plan at least 2 to 3 hours for exploring the archaeological site of Pompeii. If you’re intending to take a day trip from either Rome or Naples then it’s likely to take the whole day, but you may be able to combine the trip to Pompeii with a trip to either Vesuvius or another archaeological site. If you’re fascinated by Ancient Rome and want to explore thoroughly then you might need to spend more than one day exploring not only Pompeii but the nearby sites of Oplontis, the Antiquarium of Boscoreale, the Stabiae Ruins, Villa Ariana, and Villa San Marco.
Is the archaeological site accessible?The entire archaeological site is not accessible, but there has recently been work done to ensure that visitors with mobility problems or other needs are catered for. There is a 3.5km itinerary called ‘Pompeii for All” which is designed to allow visitors in wheelchairs or parents using strollers to access the most important buildings in comfort. Visitors intending to use this route should enter via the Piazza Anfiteatro entrance. Wheelchair users may need to bring a companion as some ramps may have a greater than 8% incline, and some areas of paving are still uneven. Guided tours in Italian Sign Language (LIS) are also available for Deaf and hard of hearing visitors.