Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Italy’s most popular attractions, with 2.5 million visitors every year. The area covers 150 acres (60 hectares) and presents a vivid portrait of what life was like in an ancient Roman city. Discover more about the mysteries of Pompeii with these fascinating facts.
1. Hidden for centuries
It seems strange now that a city can just disappear. That’s exactly what happened to Pompeii in the year 79 AD. Buried beneath layers of volcanic ash, Pompeii lay hidden for almost 1500 years. Architect Dominico Fontana accidentally discovered the buried city in 1599 when he was digging a water tunnel. Luckily for us, he did, as it is now one of the world’s most important archaeological sites. The volcanic ash acted as an amazing preservative and the site provides evidence of what Roman civilization was like. Discover more about the secrets of Pompeii with a guided tour.
2. The writing’s on the wall
The people of Pompeii were keen to leave their mark. Over 11,000 samples of graffiti have been uncovered in excavations. But they didn’t just graffiti the exterior of buildings, they did it in their own homes. The words could sometimes be vulgar but often they were poetic. One line on the staircase of the home of Maius Castricius reads, “Whoever loves, may she fare well.” It certainly beats “Maius was here.” Take a tour with an archeologist to find out more about what daily life was like in the ancient town.
3. 2,000 year old bread
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD covered Pompeii in 4 to 6 meters (13 to 20 feet) of volcanic ash. The ash preserved the city so well that archaeologists even discovered 81 carbonized loaves of bread! Explore Pompeii and visit Mount Vesuvius as part of an 8-hour tour. Drive to the top of the volcano and enjoy a breathtaking view of the Bay of Naples. Take a walk with a volcanologist who will fill you in on the geological history of Mount Vesuvius.
4. It’s all Greek
Pompeii is thought of as a Roman city, but there is evidence that it was settled by the Greeks. The oldest remains on the site are of a Greek doric temple that dates back to 6th-century B.C. The best way to explore the ruins of the ancient city and the surrounding area is on a full-day private tour. It starts with a scenic drive along the stunning Amalfi Coast: one of the world’s must-see routes.
5. Cover your eyes
The citizens of Pompeii were not a prudish bunch. The excavation of the city uncovered many examples of erotic art and artifacts, including some risqué frescoes. In 1819, King Francis I of Naples visited the Pompeii exhibition at the Naples National Archaeological Museum. He was so outraged by the artwork he ordered it to be locked away. Even today minors are only allowed to see the work in the company of a guardian. Not all of the paintings in Pompeii are quite so scandalous: there are numerous well-preserved frescoes you can find across the site. Some of them depict daily life, and offer a glimpse into how the ancient civilizations lived. Since Pompeii covers an area of 3 km, it’s best to go with someone who knows where to look.