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Herculaneum Archeological Area

Explore the not-so-ruined ruins of Herculaneum
We were offered the chance to visit Pompeii or Herculaneum when we docked at Sorrento. People rave about Pompeii because it's absolutely huge and gives you a great sense of just how sophisticated Roman civilisation was. Herculaneum, by contrast, was a Roman seaside town, a sort of holiday resort, and doesn't offer the same kind of scale.
Still. I remembered my Latin lessons, and how we'd learned that while Pompeii's buildings were smashed and burned by the falling volcanic ash, Herculaneum was actually preserved in the thick mud that engulfed it. And it's true: wandering around the archaeological remains of the town, you feel like you're in a place that's only recently been abandoned. The wine shop (above) still has its amphorae stacked to the side, the houses have beautifully preserved frescoes and mosaics. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in detail.

A Walk Down Avenues of a Dead City
We opted for Herculaneum over Pompeii as we heard the latter was overrun with tourists. Arriving at Herculaneum shortly before dusk, we were struck by how vacant it was. This desolation was a bit disconcerting at first, as we weren't sure the safety of the site and the parkade, but we caught the last opening hours of the site, so we assumed other tourists had naturally cleared out. The site is shockingly accessible with few guards to regulate where to go and what to touch. The result was a one of a kind experience with history. We walked down city streets, abandoned and buried in ash for centuries, in the quiet of dusk, popping our heads in one building or another to discover mosaics, wall paintings or vessels that had been long since abandoned. One tip for visitors: bring or wear bug spray! The site has a stream running through that is home to many mosquitos. We experienced the souvenir of itchy welts for a couple days following.

The wealthy resort town of Herculaneum was home to around 5,000 people when Vesuvius erupted in 79 C.E. Most of the ancient Roman settlement is still buried under modern Ercolano, and the archaeological site can be visited in around an hour. As you walk the ancient streets where channels worn by cart wheels are still visible, highlights include the thermal bath complex, the Casa dei Cervi, Priapus’ Tavern, the Casa di Nettuno e Anfitrit and the Casa dell’Atrio a Mosaico.

Street in Ercolano
Notice the intact balcony

Roman Resort for the wealthy
Pompeii was the working class city compared to the art work in these rooms. Walls ceilings and floors are decorated with beautiful, graceful images of nature and the human form. Well worth a trip.

80045 Pompeii, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy