In search of ancient life in Pompeii - Roman ruins beneath the volcano

Excavations of a Roman city – a trip to Pompeii


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 excavations of Pompeii


Pompeii is the larger city that has been excavated from a 25 meter high lava soil after about 1,500 years. Walking around in the excavation area that comprises several square kilometers, one almost believes to wander in a real city in Roman times. Houses, villas, temples, public buildings, squares and spas, everything can be found here. One can detect the different parts of the city and see which social class used to live there. One can see where shops and bars were located, and spot the aqueducts and the intelligent canal system of the city.


Relics of Roman life

Here in Pompeii one finds also the largest inventory of antique paintings. Especially the magnificent villas were and still are decorated with magnificent frescoes. Only the most valuable paintings and frescoes were removed and can be admired today in the Archaeological Museum in Naples. The paintings depict the life of the city, from street scenes to mythical scenes and images of deities. Moreover many precious mosaics and frescoes can be seen in Pompeii.



Maybe most impressive yet also depressing are the remains of the people and animals who could not save themselves, that were poured with plaster. Pompeii was caught by ashfall before the lava came. Therefore organic substances such as wood or indeed even the people in the city burned. Like a cast the ashes covered the people and animals, so you can even still see the facial expressions of surprised people. Most citizens of Pompeii yet managed to escape.

For the visit to the ancient city you should use a whole day because the site is very large and has lots of attractions.

Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, since you will have to walk very much, and it is also recommendable to bring sufficiently liquid with you, because shadow is rare in Pompeii. Of course there are also many spots at the excavation site where refreshments and snacks are offered.



The best way to reach Pompeii from Sorrento is with the train. The journey takes about half an hour and trains leave the station of Sorrento at frequent intervals. You need to get off at the stop “Pompei Scavi Villa Misteri”. The train station is very close to the archaeological sites, which are signposted.


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