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Unearthing Ancient Italy: Pompeii & Herculaneum

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Unearthing Ancient Italy: Pompeii & Herculaneum
Italy is a treasure chest of ancient worlds. Come with us as we unearth the famous and fascinating ruins that were immortalised by destructive Mount Vesuvius.
In August 79 AD, Roman families congregated, as they did on the same day every year, to make offerings of small fish to Vulcan, their god of destructive fire. 
The ancient god responded the following day when the mighty Mount Vesuvius rained down fire for 18 hours straight. The result was catastrophic, with several Roman settlements enveloped in heavy lava and volcanic ash.
Despite occurring centuries ago, this natural disaster remains all too real around the now dormant volcano in the Bay of Naples
Image of the ancient ruins at the site of Pompeii in Italy


The Roman town of Pompeii, located about 45 minutes from Sorrento, has become a place of pilgrimage for visitors from all over the world, offering both a history lesson and a cautionary tale. 
Pompeii was a coastal city and a fond holiday destination for wealthy Romans, many of whom had second homes there. It was filled with open-air squares, marketplaces and even boasted an arena that could seat 20,000 people. Despite their fervent interest in predicting the future, many Romans knowingly remained in the path of Mount Vesuvius, unaware of just how potent the danger was.
At its height, the town had a population of around 20,000, and thankfully, the majority survived the eruption.
For over 1,700 years, the citizens of Pompeii that had not managed to flee in time, were entombed under mud and ash, and today, about a third of the city remains buried. Upon its rediscovery in the early 1800s, it was found that all the ornate detail of Pompeii had remained, almost as if it had been placed in a time capsule.
Today, you can stroll along the ancient stone streets, which were arranged in a grid layout, typical of Roman developments. More than just the historic ruins, you’ll get a chance to understand what life was like before the towns were buried and learn about the series of events that caused their destruction.
Pompeii was a pleasure playground. Wander past public bathhouses, bars and brothels that once thrived, and observe the structures of typical Roman suburban villas. It really is like taking a step back in time. You’ll find 80 fast food shops, known as thermopolia, which would have sold Roman specialities such as baked cheese and honey, sun-kissed fruits, and salted fish.
Archaeologists were able to excavate and immortalize the ill-fated residents by casting their skeletons in plastic, and you’ll find their faces and final poses, as well as other preserved mosaics on display. This is a powerful, moving tribute to the former city. 
Image of the resort of Herculaneum in Italy


In a neighbouring coastal village north of Pompeii, you’ll find the lesser-known summer resort of Herculaneum, which also suffered the same fate at the hands of Mount Vesuvius. 
If you wish to avoid the crowds of Pompeii, then we highly recommend UNESCO World Heritage site Herculaneum, which was preserved incredibly well, arguably due to the fact it was sealed by lava instead of ash. 
You will find fascinating examples of unspoiled mosaic tiled floors and frescoed villas, as well as wooden furniture and textiles. Skeletons uncovered here indicate that there was a prolific slave population in Herculaneum. 
Given its small size, you can easily take in all the sights of Herculaneum in just a couple of hours.
Image of Oplontis an archaeological site in the town of Torre Annunziata, Italy


Midway between Pompeii and Herculaneum is the lesser known - but just as stop-worthy - Oplontis.  Just a tem-minute drive from Pompeii, Oplontis is an archaeological site situated in the town of Torre Annunziara, where you'll find the ruins of two Roman villas. 
The Villa of Poppaea is believed to be a grand vacation home for the wife of Emperor Nero, and featured ornately decorated rooms, private baths, and a swimming pool. 
At the Villa of Lucius Crassius Tertius, the second residence, several amphoras filled with foodstuffs were excavated, suggesting it was a storage and distribution house. A large quantity of pomegranates were also found, which are thought to have been used for leather tanning.
Our guided excursions of these epic ancient sites also give you the chance to climb to the crater of Mount Vesuvius, mainland Europe’s last remaining active volcano, where you'll be rewarded with spectacular views over the Bay of Naples.
Image of the Bay of Naples in Italy

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