UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE VESUVIUS: A visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum

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I always wanted to go to Pompeii, so I jumped at the chance when my mother said she was going there. I was staying in Rome, so we woke up early in the morning to get on the fast train to Naples.

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Pompeii and Herculaneum are such unique sites to visit. You get a clear grasp of what life looked like 2,000 years ago, so it’s no wonder that people are fascinated by these places.

Herculaneum:

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Our first stop was Herculaneum, which many say is better than Pompeii. I can’t help but agree – overall Herculaneum provides a much better experience to the visitor.

On the day I visited, unfortunately there was a massive (and very disorganised) queue, so it took us two hours to get in. But when we finally got through, it was worth it.

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Herculaneum is only partially excavated, so it’s not very big. As you walk around the many narrow roads, you get a chance to explore little houses, big villas, local food shops and more. There are many great details of beautiful frescoes, mosaics and patios.

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And because of the way Herculaneum was hit by the eruption of the Vesuvius, you even get to see bits of preserved wood (which is not available in Pompeii).

Pompeii:

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We then got the train to Pompeii, where we managed to get in straight away. Immediately we were struck by how big it was, with large monuments and a spacious square, from where you reach narrow roads full of houses. It really is an impressive archaeological site!

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Again there were similar architectural features, but not as many places were open to the public (often you can only see inside the buildings from the outside).

But Pompeii was absolutely rammed with hordes of tourists everywhere, which made the experience much less enjoyable. I’m glad I got to see Herculaneum in more detail first!

HOW TO DO IT:

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  • Go: I went as a day trip from Rome, taking an early train to Naples. From there you can hop o a crowded train to Pompeii (which takes 30 min) or Herculaneum (16 minutes) – these are quite cheap and regular.
  • Visiting the sites: Combined tickets to both sites normally costs 20€, but I happened to go on the first Sunday of the month when it’s free (I’d avoid that option as this is one of the reasons why it was so crowded). There are also lots of excursions departing from Naples.
  • How long you need: Ideally you need a few hours in each site. Pompeii is really big, so you can probably spend a whole day there (if you have the patience to battle the crowds for that long!).
  • Weather: I went in May and it was already quite hot, so it’s definitely best to avoid the summer months.

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