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Pompeii, Italy: Must-See Sights of Pompeii

Updated on December 8, 2010

The city buried by the volcano

Pompeii, Italy is a popular place to visit for its historic ruins and tragic history. But did you know that the lost city of Pompeii was also a popular destination for wealthy Romans before its destruction? At the height of the Roman Empire, it featured an amphitheatre, public baths, a forum, and all the amenities that affluent Romans had come to expect.

That all changed on August 24th, 79 AD. Pompeii was located next to an active volcano named Vesuvius and the residents were so used to rumblings that perhaps they didn't notice that they had been worse than usual. The city was buried in the molten rock and ash of the first eruption, and then a super-heated cloud of gas, rock and ash finished off any survivors. The eruption was so fierce that it actually altered a river's course and altered the nearby beach, so its location was forgotten until its discovery in 1748.

Wander down a street in ancient Pompeii

Wander down a street in ancient Pompeii
Wander down a street in ancient Pompeii

Pompeii At A Glance

You really have to go there to get the full impact of how the residents of Pompeii must have lived before the volcano eruption. But this video should give you a good idea.

Attractions around Pompeii

While there is plenty to do in and around the modern version of Pompei, you're missing out if you don't take a tour of the ruins and see Mount Vesuvius. The top attractions include:

Mount Vesuvius, along with the surrounding National Park and UNESCO Biosphere. Keeping in mind that Vesuvius has erupted several times since that day in 79 AD, a climb up to the crater is definitely worth the effort. It's not too strenuous, and you can peer right into the crater of the volcano that caused all this destruction.

Herculaneum was a residential town near Pompeii that was destroyed by a huge pyroclastic flow on the same day that Pompeii was buried. Many of the wooden parts of houses and Roman household items were well-preserved. Like Pompeii, it was discovered by accident, this time by someone digging a well in the early 18th century. It was initially looted for saleable items but the Bourbon Kings of Naples and the Two Sicilies commissioned a more scientific exploration between 1749 to 1765.

The National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy contains many finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum, including a mosaic known as Battle of Alexander and Darius, which was found in the House of Faun.

Pompeii is accessible by train, bus or car. Be sure to check on tickets and times before you go.

Questions? Comments?

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    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      I did a report on Pompeii in grade school and was able to go there after college and see some of the mosaics I learned about, including one of a dog at a bakery. It's a pretty famous mosaic. The body casts are so sad. What a horrible death it must have been for those people.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I've read a few about Vesuvius and the sad story of Pompeii. Nevertheless, it is without a doubt one of the must see places in Italy. Thank you posting useful tidbits about this fascinating places.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Pompeii buried in the volcano is a very sad story. Somehow it makes me want to pack and see the place. It makes us think how lucky we are even if things are difficult.