The Pompeii excavation area, which is part of the larger Pompeii Archaeological Park, is one of the most important and visited sites in the world.
Given its uniqueness and its archaeological relevance as a historical document of antiquity, the excavation area is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Pompeii was an ancient Roman city which in 79 AD. it was entirely buried by a layer of volcanic ash following the eruption of Vesuvius, an imposing volcano that is still active today.
The ash layer preserved much of the city structure of the time, buildings and everyday objects, leaving them exactly as they were at the time of the eruption.
This has allowed historians and archaeologists to deepen their knowledge of the way of life in ancient Rome, with precious evidence of daily life, art and architecture.
The main points of interest of the Pompeii Archaeological Site
All of Pompeii is a large open-air museum with multiple points of interest to visit.
The Pompeii Forum is a large square that represented the political, religious and social center of the city.
Inside there were important public buildings such as the Basilica with an imposing façade, composed of a large room surrounded by colonnades in which legal and commercial affairs were carried out.
Another building relevant to the social and religious life of the inhabitants located in the Forum was the Temple of Jupiter (Capitolium), dedicated to the Capitoline Triad composed of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
This temple was one of the main religious and administrative centers of the city.
Pompeii Public Buildings
In addition to the Forum, Pompeii hosted several public buildings of cultural, administrative and religious importance such as public baths, theaters and temples.
Among the main public buildings that reflected the daily life of the city we find:
The Stabian Baths, the largest thermal complex in Pompeii which featured hot and cold baths, gyms and other environments for social activities.
The Central Baths, similar to the Stabian ones due to the presence of hot and cold baths and spaces for physical and social activities, but located near the amphitheatre.
The Teatro Grande (Teatro Romano) was the largest public theater in Pompeii. It was completely outdoors and had a semicircular structure. Located south-east of the Forum, the Teatro Grande could hold up to 5000 spectators and theatrical and musical performances took place there.
The Teatro Piccolo (Odeon) was located south-west of the Forum and, unlike the Teatro Grande, had a roof over the semicircular structure. The Odeon was used for more intimate performances, such as poetry recitations and concerts.
The Temple of Apollo was one of the main places of worship in the city with Doric columns located near the Forum.
The excavations have allowed the discovery of numerous patrician houses, many of which with frescoes and decorations still intact.
Among the most famous houses are:
The House of the Vettii is one of the most luxurious houses in Pompeii whose owners had become rich trading wine and other agricultural products. Inside there are sumptuous and refined frescoes with mythological themes and figures.
The House of the Faun is the most majestic and richest residence in Pompeii with an extension of approximately 3000 m2. It is called the House of the Faun by virtue of a large bronze statue depicting a faun found in the center of the impluvium (a rectangular basin intended for collecting rainwater typical of Roman houses).
Inside, the House of the Faun extends over two gardens and was decorated with stately frescoes and mosaics, the most famous of which is the one depicting the "Battle of Issus" which sees Alexander the Great pitted against the Persian king Darius (the original mosaic is now preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples).
The Villa dei Misteri, located in a less central area close to the necropolis of Porta Ercolano, is a rural complex which owes its name to the discovery of frescoes depicting mysterious or ritual ceremonies in which only those initiated into the cult could participate and, therefore, not yet completely deciphered by archaeologists.
The amphitheater of Pompeii, together with that of Nola, is the oldest Roman amphitheater known.
Built about ten years before the Colosseum, it could accommodate up to 20 thousand people to attend gladiator shows or other public events.
It is a place of great importance in the social and cultural life of the city of Pompeii, as was the role of all amphitheaters in ancient Rome.
Pompeii shops, artisan workshops and taverns
Pompeii was a city with a lively economic and social life, whose streets were lined with commercial activities such as shops, artisan workshops, shops and taverns.
The shops (Tabernae) were generally small in size with an opening facing the street and a rear to store goods.
Some still have sales counters for displaying products relating to foodstuffs, clothing, household items, etc.
The term Tabernae, in addition to shops, also indicated public places associated with entertainment. Some tabernae had areas dedicated to performances and were frequented by artists and musicians.
Pompeii hosted artisan workshops equipped with specific tools and equipment for various skills such as blacksmiths, ceramists, glassmakers etc...
The taverns (Thermopolia) often had a counter where the prepared foods were displayed and had built-in containers to keep food and drinks hot or cold.
Many of these businesses, just like today, had visual signs that indicated to passersby the nature of their trade.
These were decorative frescoes or murals that specified the type of goods sold or the type of activity.
The lupanari (from the Latin lupa = prostitute) of the Roman era are places associated with prostitution which in ancient Rome was a legal and authorized activity. These are multi-storey houses with small rooms dedicated to paid sexual activity.
The best-known lupanare in Pompeii, located near the Forum, is a two-storey house with rooms equipped with stone or brick beds and whose walls were frescoed with erotic motifs indicating the services offered to customers.
Via dell'Abbondanza is the lower decumanus of Pompeii and represents one of the most important and well-preserved streets of the city.
With a length of approximately 150 metres, Via dell'Abbondanza was the connection between the Forum and the amphitheater and was lined with numerous workshops, shops and private homes which made it an important economic and commercial centre.
The presence of raised pavements, grooves in the stone dug by the passage of carts, the remains of public fountains with statues and decorated niches give the visitor the opportunity to completely immerse themselves in the atmosphere of an ancient Roman city.
Where to enter the Pompeii Archaeological Site
The Pompeii Archaeological Site cover a visitable area of approximately 44 hectares which can be accessed from three entrances: Porta Marina, Piazza Anfiteatro and Piazza Esedra.
The main entrance to the excavations is Porta Marina, located exactly in front of the Pompei Scavi railway station and, therefore, easily reachable on foot.
Entering from this entrance, you can have access to the information kiosk, rent audio guides and buy souvenirs. Therefore, the entrance from Porta Marina is generally the busiest with rather long waiting times.
The entrance to Piazza Anfiteatro is a 15-minute walk from that of Porta Marina and leads directly to the Amphitheatre, the Forum and other important places in the city. Even entering from here it is possible to rent audio guides and there is also a free luggage storage service.
The entrance from Piazza Esedra is not very far from the main one in Porta Marina and is used especially for group visits in order to avoid long waiting times. From this entrance, however, the rental of audio guides and the luggage storage service are not possible.
Opening hours of the Pompeii Archaeological Site
The Pompeii Archaeological Site can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 AM to 7 PM, with last entry at 5.30 PM.
The archaeological site is closed on Mondays for weekly rest and on the following days: 25 December, 1 January and 1 May.
How long does it take to visit the Pompeii Archaeological Site
The Pompeii Archaeological Site extend over a fairly large area of approximately 44 hectares which correspond to approximately 170 thousand m2. It must be said, however, that most of the most relevant points of interest are concentrated in much more limited areas.
Some guides divide the visit to Pompeii into 3 routes, each of which lasts approximately 2 hours in order to have a global vision of the site which, although superficial, cannot last less than 4 or 5 hours.
To visit the area more calmly and in greater detail, it is better to spend the whole day there.
Guided tours also last a couple of hours on average and focus on visiting the places of greatest interest.
Where to buy tickets for the Pompeii Archaeological Site
The ticket to enter the archaeological site of the Pompeii excavations can be purchased online from the only authorized reseller or at the official ticket offices located at the entrances of Porta Marina, Piazza Anfiteatro and Piazza Esedra.
The online purchase will result in the receipt via email of the ticket in PDF format to be presented in paper or digital format on your smartphone at the entrance, so as to speed up entry to the archaeological area.
How much does the ticket cost for the Pompeii Archaeological Site
There are different types of tickets for access to Pompeii ranging from simple entry, to entry + audio guide, to entry + tour with official guides, to entry + tour with official guides + transfer from Naples or Rome.
Rates vary depending on the type of ticket chosen and can be consulted on the official website of the Pompeii Archaeological Park.