Pompeii and Herculaneum are two ancient Roman towns built at the foot of Mount Vesuvius and distant just over 15km from each other. They were both damaged and covered by volcanic ashes during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. As most of local inhabitants perished and the towns were completely covered by up to 6 metres of ashes, their existence was long forgotten. After an accidental rediscovery in 1599, excavations began only in 1748.
Today Pompeii and Herculaneum are both listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and are among the most popular tourist attractions in Italy. A visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum offers a detailed insight into everyday life in this corner of the Roman Empire.
At the time of the eruption, Pompeii was popular with the Roman aristocracy and many influent families had their holidays villas here. What makes these archaeological sites unique is that hot volcanic ashes have preserved everything in extremely good conditions to the time of modern excavations. The lack of air and moisture have protected the ruins of the buildings, several skeletons and objects. In Pompeii it is possible to visit the amphitheatre, the food market (Macellum), the gymnasium, the forum, and an ancient version of a bar serving beverages, the Thermopolium.
The area has an incredibly rich historical heritage and you can visit other interesting archaeological sites within a short distance. The archaeological site of Paestum is dominated by three colossal ancient Greek temples, all preserved in very good conditions. Two temples are dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera, and one to Athena. The complex, which also has an amphitheatre, is centred around the Roman Forum. Paestum was an ancient Greek city, founded when the area was part of the Greek colony known as Magna Graecia. Near the town of Castellammare di Stabia you can also visit part of the ancient city of Stabiae, with beautifully preserved Roman villas.