Pompeii, Italy

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, it created a time capsule of Roman life from over 1,900 years ago. Enjoy this brief tour of these fascinating ruins. Then push Pompeii towards the top of your bucket list.

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1 Marina Gate, the Main Entrance to Pompeii, Italy

Porta Marina means Sea Gateway. This is the main entrance into Pompeii. The ancient Italian town was buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. A visit to the ruins is a walk through Roman life from over 1,900 years ago. You will see ruts in the cobblestone streets from the chariots, the remnants of gorgeous frescos, the iconic Forum and plaster molds of citizens who died during the rain of pumice and ash.

Via Villa dei Misteri, 3, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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2 House Along Via Marina in Pompeii, Italy

When you begin your Pompeii tour along Via Marina, it is easy to get immediately distracted by the Temple of Venus and the Basilica on your right. But as you walk along, stop to appreciate the houses but mostly the shops on your left. This home is a beautiful example of what you will see. This residence had 4,640 square feet which was very large for Pompeii. In front was a garden surrounded by a colonnade. This was called a peristyle.

Via Marina 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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3 Temple of Apollo in Pompeii, Italy

This temple along Via Marina is dedicated to Apollo, the mythological god of music and healing. It was built during the 2nd century BC and excavated in 1817. Unfortunately, its front gate was locked. However, you can still see many of the 48 fluted columns surrounding the white, travertine altar and the stairs leading up to the cella or main part of the temple.

Via Marina 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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4 Mix of Columns Inside the Basilica in Pompeii, Italy

The Basilica is one of the most impressive buildings at Pompeii and the oldest in the ancient Roman civilization. The arcade in the background is part of the Forum. However, the fluted column in the foreground suggests how magnificent the Basilica must have been when it was built during the second century B.C. The rectangular, two-story building measured 213 by 79 feet. Unlike what its name suggests, a Roman basilica was primarily a public space for conducting business and legal matters. Evidence suggests the Basilica lost its roof during an earthquake in 62 AD.

Forum at Pompeii, Via Villa dei Misteri 3, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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5 Columns Supporting an Architrave at Forum in Pompeii, Italy

The Forum is rectangular-shaped measuring 515 by 124 feet. Surrounding it are shops, temples and municipal offices. It was arcaded on three sides by the Samnites before the birth of Christ and was being renovated by the Romans when Mount Vesuvius erupted. Most of the columns were constructed from travertine stone. These three Doric columns supporting an architrave (the beam resting on the capitals) are located along the Forum’s western edge.

Forum at Pompeii, Via Villa dei Misteri 3, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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6 Temple of Jupiter at Forum in Pompeii, Italy

At the northern end of The Forum is the Temple of Jupiter. It was dedicated to the god of the sky and thunder plus other Roman mythological deities. The temple was also a place of worship for two other members of the Archaic Triad: Mars and Quirinus. Temple of Jupiter was initially built during the second century BC. Then it was expanded twice prior to 79 AD to a size of 121 by 56 feet supported by a colonnade. On the left is the Drusus triumphal arch.

Forum at Pompeii, Via Villa dei Misteri 3, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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7 Plaster Cast of Volcano Victim in Pompeii, Italy

Mount Vesuvius violently erupted on August 24, 79 AD. A plumb of smoke soared nine to 12 miles high before falling to earth and eventually burying the city under 20 feet of ash and pumice. A large share of the 20,000 residents fled during the early stages. But then a heat blast called a pyroclastic surge slammed into the city. It exceeded 500° Fahrenheit and traveled 70 miles per hour. This is when most of the 1,600 to 2,000 people were killed. So far, 1,150 bodies have been found. For years, as the skeletons were uncovered during excavation, plaster was used to create casts of their final seconds in death. One of the most famous is this crouching mule driver. Archeologists call him the “muleteer.” He and other artifacts are on display in the Granary Market along the Forum.

Via degli Augustali & Vicolo dei Soprastanti, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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8 Building of Eumachia at Forum in Pompeii, Italy

During the 1st century, Eumachia was the daughter of a prominent banker named Lucius Caecilius Lucundus. She became independently wealthy on her own merits. As part of several philanthropic acts, the priestess funded this building along the eastern edge of the Forum. It was dedicated to Concordia of Augusta. The large structure housed the fuller’s guild. A fullo was a worker who either spun or washed cloth.

Forum at Pompeii, Via Villa dei Misteri 3, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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9 Temple of Vespasian at Forum in Pompeii, Italy

Some experts believe this temple along the eastern edge of the Forum was built to honor Vespasian. He was a Roman Emperor from 69 until 79 AD. His credits include being the founder of the Flavian dynasty and the builder of the Colosseum in Rome. Others speculate this sanctuary honors Augustus. He was the founder of the Roman Empire and was its first emperor from 27 BC until 14 AD.

Forum at Pompeii, Via Villa dei Misteri 3, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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10 Marcelleum at Forum in Pompeii, Italy

These three Corinthian columns comprised part of the Forum’s portico and stand at the western entrance of the Marcelleum. Inside were two dozen, single-room food stores (called a taberna) lining the north and south walls. The central courtyard was 121 by 88 feet, encircled by columns and used as a fish market. This covered marketplace dates back to the 2nd century BC.

Forum at Pompeii, Via Villa dei Misteri 3, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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11 House of the Large Fountain in Pompeii, Italy

This ornate fountain is the artistic centerpiece of a building located along Via di Mercurio. It is appropriately named the House of the Large Fountain. The niche and facade are exquisitely decorated with a mosaic of colorful glass. Notice the two tragedy theatrical masks flanking the marble steps and the basin were water flowed. Jean Paul Getty was so impressed with this fountain that he had a replica built for the east garden of his Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

Via Di Mercurio & Vicolo di Mercurio, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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12 Palaestra at Stabian Baths in Pompeii, Italy

This open courtyard surrounded on three sides by a covered portico is the palaestra of the Stabian Baths. Archeologists believe parts of this structure were constructed during the 4th century BC. It remained the only therme in Pompeii until the first century BC. However, by 79 AD, there were at least seven public baths. This suggests spas were becoming increasingly popular among the Romans during the first century. This trend coincides with the building of more aqueducts at the time of the eruption.

Via dell’Abbondanza, 15, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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13 Men’s Frigidarium at Stabian Baths in Pompeii, Italy

The stages at a Roman bath were structured yet luxurious. The process began in the changing room (apodyterium), before moving to the warm room (tepidarium) and then the hot water room (caldarium). It ended here at the frigidarium which, as the name implies, is a basin of cold water. This is the men’s frigidarium at the Stabian Baths.

Vicolo delle Terme, 9 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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14 Women’s Caldarium at Stabian Baths in Pompeii, Italy

Most Roman baths had separate sections for men and women. The facilities for both genders can be toured at the Stabian Baths but they are in various stages of decay. One of the better preserved is the women’s caldarium or hot room. The remnants of the red plaster, the fluted pilaster and the frieze along the cornice hint at the elaborate décor of the Terme Stabiane.

Vicolo delle Terme, 9 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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15 Street Construction of Via Stabiana in Pompeii, Italy

Via Stabiana is a primary road running north-south through Pompeii. Also named Cardo Maximus, it demonstrates features of the city’s main streets, none of which are wider than ten feet. They were constructed with large, uneven rocks with significant gaps between them. The polished surface is the result of centuries of traffic, evidenced by the deep grooves caused by passing chariots and carts. Sidewalks sometimes flanked both sides yet the traffic flow was often one-way. The two large boulders are stepping stones to keep your feet dry when water flows between the tall curbs.

Via Stabiana & Via del Tempio d'Iside 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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16 Bakery Shop on Via Stabiana in Pompeii, Italy

Wandering through Pompeii can be overwhelming because most of the ruined buildings do not have descriptive signage. But it is fascinating when you learn their history. This ruin in Regio I on Via Stabiana is a good example. It was a bakery that served sweet pastries. On the second floor in the upper right corner is the oven. Just below it you will notice remnants of the plaster that once covered the stone walls. This building was excavated in 1872.

Via Stabiana & Via del Tempio d'Iside 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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17 Seating at Small Theatre in Pompeii, Italy

The Small Theatre in Pompeii was so named because it could only hold 1,000 to 1,500 people. This venue was built around 75 BC for staging intimate musical concerts, poetry readings and mime performances. The Teatro Piccolo od Odeon was covered by a wooden dome. Notice the seats on the left-hand side. They were covered by pieces of a soft masonry called tufa.

Viale delle Ginestre & Via Stabiana, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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18 Gladiator Barracks in Pompeii, Italy

Quadriportico dei Teatri was the Gladiator Barracks when it was built around 80 BC. It was surrounded by a portico supported by stone Doric columns and contained small bedrooms. Each one could accommodate two warriors. Other rooms included a kitchen and dining room. Numerous artifacts were discovered including helmets, armor and swords. In the foreground is a large central courtyard. It was used for training and occasional demonstrations. In the background below the cypress trees is a section of the Large Theatre.

Viale delle Ginestre & Via Stabiana, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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19 Seating at Large Theatre in Pompeii, Italy

The horseshoe-shaped seating at the Large Theatre consisted of three tiers. From the lowest to the highest they were called ima, media and suma cavea. The seats were covered in marble but only a few of the white slabs have survived. Approximately 5,000 spectators had excellent views of the circular orchestra pit and the rectangular stage where the typical performances were tragedies and comedies. This entertainment complex was designed by Marcus Artorius Primus during the third century BC and renovated after the earthquake in 62 AD.

Viale delle Ginestre & Via Stabiana, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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20 Elevated View of Ruins in Pompeii, Italy

Somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000 people lived in Pompeii in 79 AD. Consequently, the town’s landscape was filled with homes, shops and public buildings. Almost all are now in ruins with only their foundations visible. Plan on spending three to eight hours exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then if you want to learn more, I strongly recommend two excellent websites. AD 79 Eruption by Peter and Michael Clements. Also Pompeiiin Pictures by Jackie and Bob Dunn.

Via Stabiana & Via del Tempio d'Iside 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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21 Fresco of Greek Gods at Thermopolium in Pompeii, Italy

Imagine you are strolling along Via dell’ Abbondanza during the mid-1st century and it is dinnertime. You might stop at the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus and be served from the marble countertop facing the street. This fresco (called a lararium) adorns the wall. The two Greek deities shown at either end seem perfect for a bar/restaurant. On the right is Bacchus, the god of wine. On the left is Mercury (also named Hermes) who is the god of commerce and profit.

Via dell’Abbondanza 8, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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22 Peristyle and Garden at House of Menander in Pompeii, Italy

This tranquil scene is the inside garden at the House of Menander. The Romans called the colonnade with Doric columns a peristyle. Look closely and you’ll see the remains of bright red paintings that once decorated the eastern portico. Some experts speculate the owner of Casa del Menandro was a wealthy merchant named Q. Poppaeus Sabinus.

Vicolo del Menandro & Vicolo di Proculus 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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23 Abduction of Cassandra Fresco at House of Menander in Pompeii, Italy

This fresco is a mythological scene that takes place shortly after the Greeks capture Troy by hiding in the Trojan Horse. It shows Ajax the Lesser abducting the beautiful Cassandra while she is clutching to a statue of Athena for protection. Next to the attacker is her father Priam, the King of Troy. This painting is in room four of the House of Menander located along Vicolo del Menandro.

Vicolo del Menandro & Vicolo di Proculus 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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24 Carved Lion Table Leg at Domus di Casca in Pompeii, Italy

This close up of a lion carved in marble has an interesting history. It is part of a table once owned by Publius Servilius Casa Longus. He struck the first blow among the assassins who killed Julius Caesar in 44BC. After his death in 42 BC, his property was sold and the owner of a home in Pompeii purchased it. It now stands in an atrium next to a mosaic-covered impluvium, a sunken cistern used to collect rain water from the open roof (compluvium).

Via dell’Abbondanza, 26 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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25 Theatrical Fresco at Domus di Casca in Pompeii, Italy

This theatrical fresco is located along the east wall of the atrium inside Casa dei Quadretti Teatrali. It is one of several ancient paintings that decorate this room but it is the best preserved. This home is also called the Domus di Casca Longus because of the lion table that acts as its centerpiece.

Via dell’Abbondanza, 26 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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26 Façade of Anfiteatro in Pompeii, Italy

Historians believe Pompeii’s Anfiteatro was built in 80 BC, making it one of the world’s oldest surviving amphitheaters. Its elliptical shape is supported by an elegant stone colonnade. The design has been copied by sports stadiums for nearly 2,100 years. Equally fascinating is it could be partially covered by a velarium or awning during inclement weather.

Piazzale Anfiteatro 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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27 Seating of Amphitheater’s Arena in Pompeii, Italy

Some of the seating sections of Pompeii’s Anfiteatro, called cavea by the Romans, were dug into the side of an embankment. The lowest level (ima cavea) was reserved for the social elite. The Amphitheatre had a capacity for 12,000 people. However, some experts suggest it could accommodate several thousand more spectators of gladiator flights, mock naval battles and performances by wild animals.

Piazzale Anfiteatro, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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28 Columns at Palestra Grande in Pompeii, Italy

The Palestra Grande was a sports training camp for young athletes. It was built during the reign of Roman Emperor Augustus a decade or two before Christ’s birth. It now has a large open courtyard measuring 460 by 344 feet. Formerly this was a roofed gym and swimming pool supported by columns. On three sides of the perimeter are ruins of former porticos. The Large Palaestra reopened to tourists in August of 2015.

Palestra Grande, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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29 Venus in a Seashell and Cupid Fresco in Casa di Venus in Pompeii, Italy

This large fresco of “Venus on a Seashell” and Cupid riding a dolphin are on a garden wall within a peristyle at Casa di Venus. The painting, sometimes called Venus Anadyomene, was excavated in 1960. Venus was the Roman goddess of love, fertility, seduction and sex. Many of the discovered frescos, mosaics and statues were considered so erotic they were locked away for over a hundred years before going on exhibit in 2000. A large collection of artifacts from Pompeii and surrounding Vesuvian towns are on display in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Via dell’Abbondanza & Vicolo della Venere, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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30 Tablinum Fresco at Casa della Fontana Picccola in Pompeii, Italy

A tablinum is an inside garden located at the opposite end of the house’s front door. This one at Casa Della Fontana Picccola was highly decorated with colorful frescos. The structure in the center is an ornate water fountain. Notice the small bronze sculpture at its base. Archeologists believe this was a fisherman who once held a pole over the basin of water.

Vicolo Di Mercurio & Vicolo Della Fullonica, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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31 Fountain Close Up at Casa della Fontana Picccola in Pompeii, Italy

Casa della Fontana Picccola is appropriately named. In English it is called House of the Small Fountain. The craftsmanship of its façade is still evident after more than 1,900 years. The colorful and delicate mosaic is framed by rows of sea shells. The figure within the semi-dome appears to be a mythological deity.

Vicolo Di Mercurio & Vicolo Della Fullonica, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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32 Herculaneum Gate in Pompeii, Italy

In the northwestern corner of Pompeii is the Herculaneum Gate which dates back to around 80 BC. Its layers of stones and bricks are a Roman building technique called Opus Listatum. The archways on either side were designed for pedestrians. Also called Porta Ercolano, this gate is approached by Via delle Tombe. Once inside the city, the street becomes Via Consolare.

Villa delle Tombe 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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33 Mausoleum on Via delle Tombe in Pompeii, Italy

Before entering the northwest section of Pompeii there is a road called Via delle Tombe. This Street of Tombs follows the Roman tradition of burying their dead outside of the city walls. This ancient graveyard has a mix of tombs, temples and mausoleums. Notice the elaborate painting that once brightly decorated the inside dome of this burial monument.

Villa delle Tombe 8, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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34 Two Clay Vases in Pompeii, Italy

These are two vases uncovered by archeologists in Pompeii. Although these ceramics are plain, several others have been found with elaborate decorations. A shop which probably crafted them was also discovered nearby. It included pottery wheels, kilns and additional vases in different stages of production.

Via Marina, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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35 Arch of Caligula Via di Mercurio in Pompeii, Italy

Via di Mercurio is a short yet primary street running north to south in the northwestern section of Pompeii. I presume its namesake is Mercury, the Roman god of commerce. In the background, at the intersection of Via delle Terme, is the Arch of Caligula. However, some sources call this red brick structure the Arch of Tiberius, Augustus, Nero or Mercurio. It was a portal to the Tempio della Fortuna Augusta.

Via Di Mercurio & Via delle Terme, 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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36 Exterior of Sarno Baths in Pompeii, Italy

First century Romans relished their baths. These complexes were typically a place for social gathering. They were equipped with taverns, dining facilities and gardens. Most were richly decorated with ornate frescos, mosaics and statues. There were two public baths near the intersection of Vicolo della Regina and Via delle Scuole at the southern edge of town. The Palaestra Bath was fully operational. However, archeological evidence suggests the Sarno Baths shown here was being built at the time of the eruption.

Viale delle Ginestre 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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37 Final View of Ruins at Pompeii, Italy

This is your last view of Pompeii as you exit the city. If you are like most people, you have just experienced one of the most fascinating tours of your life. But don’t check Pompeii off of your bucket list. Despite being excavated since 1748, approximately one third of its 170 acres are still buried. I returned after 20 years and was amazed all over again.

Via Mare, 3 80045 Pompei NA, Italy
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