The question that’s been bothering me as I’ve been writing and researching this post is:
Would I take my kids, ages 1 and 3, to visit Pompeii?
The answer, I’ve decided, is no. Not yet, anyway. I think seeing the agony of a person at the precise moment they were being buried alive by boiling lava (see photo below) would be too hard on little kids (and I can just picture the questions: “Mummy, am I going to suddenly get buried alive by lava while I’m walking to school?”).
So for anyone old enough to handle it, Pompeii is one of the most incredible sites I’ve ever seen and is well worth a visit, as 2.5 million visitors a year can attest.
Once a thriving and cosmopolitan city of the Roman Empire, Pompeii and its inhabitants were frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and buried the city under layers of lava. Excavations began in about 1748 and since then a lot of the city has been uncovered, allowing the visitor to walk the streets and get a good idea of what life must have been like for people living in Pompeii under the Roman Empire.
Chicago’s Field Museum had an amazing exhibit on Pompeii a couple years ago, and did a great write-up describing the day of the eruption in detail and the experience for the tens of thousands of inhabitants who tried to flee.
The photo below shows a city gate and one of the many completely excavated streets, with the infamous Mount Vesuvius looming in the background.
Some of my favorite parts of Pompeii:
- retail stores of local merchants
- peoples’ private homes
- public baths
- brothels (to see the erotic images from the brothels, visit the Naples Archaeological Museum and make a reservation for the Secret Room Exhibit)
- art: frescoes (see photo, above), mosaics, sculpture
- an open-air amphitheatre (see photo, below)
Pompeii is easy to get to from Naples by bus, train or car.
- bus: take the SITA bus that runs from Naples to Salerno and get off in Pompei at the Piazza Esedra
- train: take the Circumvesuviana that runs between Naples and Sorrento and get off at the Pompei Scavi stop
- car: take the A3 autostrada and exit Pompei
The site is basically open every day, all day. Advance tickets are not necessary, but allow at bare minimum a half day, though I recommend spending a full day, and hiring a guide or going on a tour. There’s also a 3-day ticket which includes the excavated towns of Herculaneum, Oplontis, Stabiae and Boscoreale.
Due to a severe state of disrepair, the Italian government has declared Pompeii to be in a state of emergency.
Photos by Sanjay
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