The ancient city of Herculaneum - well preserved Roman ruins beneath the volcano


The excavations of the prosperous Roman city of Herculaneum


In the year 79 AD, the population around the Mount Vesuvius was surprised by an eruption of the volcano that buried everything in its reach. The huge dimension of this eruption, that buried whole towns, ironically bestowed the best preserved testimony of ancient life on the posterity. Protected under a thick layer of lava, entire cities survived the centuries. If one enters the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, one feels like the hands of time were turned back to Roman times, as these cities have been preserved so well that one can picture ancient life without much imagination.

The volcanic eruption came as a surprise to the public, some say people did not even know they were living on the fertile slopes of a volcano. The volcano had been quiet for a long time before this eruption, but already 16 years before the eruption, the first activities inside the volcano must have begun, when Pompeii and the region were hit by a strong earthquake. Nowadays, this would have been interpreted immediately as a warning signal, but back then the people simply rebuilt their city. As one can still detect at the excavation site, when the Mount Vesuvius erupted, the people hadn’t even finished rebuilding the reconstructions.


The lives of the wealthy, ancient Romans in Herculaneum


Herculaneum (Italian: Ercolano) is a smaller archaeological site and was, just like Pompeii, overwhelmed with lava after the eruption of 79 AD.

Ercolano is not as frequented by tourists as is Pompeii, and therefore it is almost an insider tip. Most probably Pompeii attracts most tourists because there is a much larger excavation area to visit, yet the smaller excavations in Herculaneum are in large parts preserved much better.

25 meters above the old Roman city the new city Ercolano was constructed. Therefore the excavations proved to be difficult, and up to today, not the whole Roman city could be excavated.

Since Herculaneum was not targeted by ashfall and it must have been several hours after the eruption that the stream of lava reached the city , no remains of people have been found, and it seems as if the population of Herculaneum was able to escape the disaster.

The absence of the glowing ashfall also ensured that organic materials such as wood or food did not burn, and thus are today available to extensive research.


Two storied houses and fascinating mosaic art


Unlike Pompeii excavations in Herculaneum are small, but in a much better condition. Even multi-storied houses are preserved and sometimes the houses are in its interior almost in preserved in original condition with frescoes and paintings. No other excavation of the ancient world is so well preserved as is Herculaneum.

The luxurious town houses often had several floors and an advanced canal system, suggesting that Ercolano, or at least the excavated part , was a town of wealthy Romans.



The archaeological sites are located in the middle of the modern city of Ercolano. The best way to reach them is by train. There is a direct connection from Sorrento to Ercolano. The trains run at frequent intervals and the journey takes less than 40 minutes. You need to get off at the stop Ercolano Scavi.


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