At the foot of the Mount Vesuvius lay the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii. The city was an important roman settlement and port that could reach up to 20.000 people when the eruption of the AD 79 buried it under tons of volcanic ashes. Much of the information about the catastrophic event is provided by the letters of Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus.
The city of Pompeii has been brought to light again in the 16th century even if it is only in the 18th century that had been revealed most of its hidden treasures.
These ruins are relevant because offer the possibility to admire several Roman houses belonged to people of different social classes. The town was enclosed by walls and had 8 main gates but nowadays the main entrance is Porta Marina; nearby is the Temple of Venus and a little bit further the Temple of Apollo which is the oldest; there are also other temples such as the Temple of Jupiter, and the pre-roman Temple of Isis. A short distance away from the Temple of Apollo is located the Foro which was the centre of the social life, it’s one of the most damaged part of Pompeii due to the earthquake occurred 17 years before the eruption. In the opposite side you have the law court or Basilica. Worth of attention are the Stabian Thermae, baths for both men and women, which also used to have a dressing room and three different rooms with hot (caldarium), warm (tepidarium) or cold (frigidarium) water. In the theatre district are still visible the Big Theatre and the Small Theatre (Odeion). You can also admire the oldest example of Roman Amphitheatre which dates back to the 70 BC.
Some houses are holding several treasures and are really remarkable such as the House of the Vettii, belonged to two merchant brothers, enshrines frescos and statues; the House of the Tragic Poet and its mosaic like the famous “beware of dog” in the entrance; the House of the Faun, the largest house in Pompeii, with its statue of the Dancing Faun, and the famous mosaic of the Battle of Alexander; the House of Mysteries with stunning frescos of Dyonisus. In the preserved Brothel, the city used to have about twenty, are still visible several erotic frescos, probably stating the available offer, and carved names of prostitutes and clients.
What/where to eat
The cuisine of Pompeii recalls the Neapolitan one, with great classics such as Neapolitan pizza and dishes based on fish and mozzarella such as the peppered mussels, spaghetti with clams, Sorrento gnocchi, caprese and many other delicacies. If you have time to stop for a dinner or an aperitif, we recommend:
Vineria La Bettola del Gusto restaurant. In the heart of Pompeii, next to the excavations, the Sanctuary and the railway station, it offers a refined environment and a menu full of traditional and other more innovative dishes.
Osteria Da Peppino. In a quiet street a few steps from the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Pompei, a family-run tavern offering regional dishes with a menu for celiacs and vegetarians.
Hostaria Plinio. A simple and familiar trattoria near the excavations, where you can taste genuine traditional Neapolitan dishes at fair prices.
Trammiere Pizzeria. If you want to taste an excellent Neapolitan pizza, this is the right place.
Hermes Cafè. Located on the top floors of the Sole hotel, a restaurant and bar open to all where you can taste specialties of the local gastronomy or have a simple aperitif admiring a spectacular panorama of Vesuvius and the excavations.
What/where to buy
Next to the excavations you will find numerous stalls and some shops selling souvenirs related to the archaeological park: reproductions of amphorae and artifacts, ancient coins and books dedicated to Pompeii. In the historical center, in addition to the souvenirs dedicated to the excavations, religious objects linked to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rosary are sold. For gourmets and gourmands there is no lack of typical local products, in particular Neapolitan traditional desserts such as babà, sfogliatelle, pastiera and San Giuseppe zeppole to be purchased in local pastry shops.
The main shopping avenue in Pompeii is via Lepanto which crosses the entire historic center in a succession of shops, bars and restaurants. Between one shop and another you can also notice the artisan shops specialized in the production of the cameo: it is a jewel that is made by carving a layered stone, usually the onyx, from which a figure is obtained which is often a face. Engraving these stones requires a very careful technique and a lot of experience.