Step back in time…to 24 August 79 AD.
We know about the eruption of Vesuvius in terrifying detail thanks to the eye-witness account of Pliny the Younger, but nothing prepares you for the reality of an entire city, now excavated, that was once covered in a shower of fine ash to a depth of six metres.
Much of the city – now a UNESCO World Heritage site – is in remarkable condition: as you walk along the streets worn down by chariots you can admire the grid plan and examine some of the shops, 'fast food' outlets, bars and houses. You can explore the colonnaded gardens and lovely frescoed walls before you reach the main meeting places such as the Forum, Amphitheatre, Basilica and Public Baths where the Romans hung out and socialised. Occasionally some of the buildings are closed for restoration but new buildings are also opened, such as the brothel, or Lupanare ('lupa' means prostitute in Latin). In the baths you'll notice that there are some rather fruity frescoes around the wall but, rather than to 'describe' the activiities available (as previously thought), their practical purpose was probably simply to remind a Roman where he'd left his toga (under the chap who looks as though he's just been pleasured by a couple of young ladies, for example).
The most moving part of the tour is the sight of the casts of the victims: by pumping a plaster of paris/liquid cement mixture into the shapes left by the bodies of the dead, 19th-century archeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli has immortalised the last agonising moments of the victims.
It is also possible to visit a archeological dig – the House of the Chaste Lovers has been set up so that visitors can even watch archaeologists at work as well as seeing a perfectly perserved oven and two stables where the skeletons of animals can be viewed. There are also mulitmedia screens showing a virtual reconstruction of the site. The visit lasts one hour and is available in English, French and Spanish, as well as Italian. Admission is an additional 5 euros (15 euros for a family of four). For details see the website below.
Many of the bronzes, mosaics and artworks were removed from the site and can now be viewed at the Museo Archeologico in Naples.
Allow at least three hours to visit the site (though you could spend much longer).
To arrive, take the Circumvesuviana (which runs from Naples to Sorrento) to Pompei Scavi – Villa dei Misteri. On arrival you will find signposts to the site. The entrance is at Porta Marina or Piazza Esedra.