City Orientation Walk (Self Guided), Pompei

Once, almost 2,000 years ago, the prosperous city of Pompei was buried under the ash from Vesuvius and this preserved its historic and cultural treasures for hundreds of years. Rich in archaeological and historic sites, Pompei is well worth seeing. Take this orientation walk down Pompei streets, and enjoy the most popular sights of Pompei.
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City Orientation Walk Map

Guide Name: City Orientation Walk
Guide Location: Italy » Pompei (See other walking tours in Pompei)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 20
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: Ella
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Basilica
  • Temple of Apollo
  • Forum Granary (storage of artifacts)
  • Macellum
  • Forum
  • Forum Baths
  • Temple of Fortuna Augusto
  • Bakery and Vicolo Storto
  • House of the Golden Cupids
  • Central Baths
  • Stabian Baths
  • Brothel/Lupanareum
  • Temple of Isis
  • Great Theater and Quadroporticus
  • Theater
  • House of Menander
  • House of Julius Polybius
  • Great Palaestra
  • House of the Venus in Shell
  • Amphitheater
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Basilica

1) Basilica (must see)

The Basilica stands on the left hand side of a large square, which has the Forum at its centre. It is the oldest Roman Basilica ever discovered, and has stood here since the 2nd century BC. This was one of Pompei’s most important buildings, housing the town’s law courts, as well as halls for commercial and financial transactions. The main entrance was located on one of the building’s two short sides, behind a portico. The portico contains 28 columns, which are made of cut tiles. There is some debate over whether these thick columns held a complete roof, or whether the centre of the building was open to the elements.

Immediately next to the entrance is where the tribunal, or law court, still stands. Dominating one side of the Basilica building, it consists of a two metre high podium originally topped with six Corinthian columns. There are no stairs down from the podium, suggesting that temporary steps were used for judges to access it, preventing members of the public from reaching them whilst passing judgment. The outside walls of the Basilica are made of painted stucco, much of which has been preserved by the ash falls which buried the city in 79 AD.
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Temple of Apollo

2) Temple of Apollo (must see)

The Temple of Apollo stands next to the Forum in the historic heart of Pompei. It is thought to have been the most important religious building in the city for much of its history, and certainly during Greek and Samnite rule. The cult of Apollo, a Greek congregation who worshipped Apollo, son of Zeus and God of light, knowledge and the sun, drew a great many followers in Campania from the 6th century BC onwards.

The temple gained its present form in the 2nd century BC, and was a central part of Pompei life – so much so that the mensa ponderaria is carved into its perimeter wall. This chart forms the town’s guide to official measurements, for use by traders in the Forum. Damaged extensively by the earthquake of 62 AD, it was never fully rebuilt. Its elevated podium still allows visitors a clear view to Vesuvius, north west of the city.

The Temple of Apollo was built in the form of a peripteros – a raised platform surrounded on all sides by columns. This creates an arcade which runs around the outside of the temple. This area was redecorated under Roman rule, but the changes have almost completely disappeared over time. In the centre of the temple, you can see a white marble altar, and a set back cella, which contains statues of Apollo and Diana.
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Forum Granary (storage of artifacts)

3) Forum Granary (storage of artifacts)

The Forum Granary is situated near the Forum and the Temple of Jupiter, and initially it was a grain and product market. Now, it’s used as a storage of artifacts, including large number of amphorae, carts, pottery, clay ware and many petrified victims, among which there is a pig and a dog. This building had many shops and storage rooms and probably wasn’t finished by the time of the catastrophic eruption.
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Macellum

4) Macellum (must see)

The Macellum of Pompei was built alongside the Forum, in order to provide further space for the city’s growing central market. The existing building was constructed in approximately 130 BC, replacing the original macellum building. Built around a central courtyard, the north and south sides both hold twelve separate units for the sale of foodstuffs.

Upon discovering the large, columned building, archaeologists at first believed it to be a pantheon – a central temple for the worship of many gods. It was only after the discovery of fish bones and jarred fruits underneath the ash that it became clear this building was used as a market. It is believed that permanent stalls were set up on the north side, hidden for much of the day from the sun. These stores sold fruit, nuts and bread, amongst other things. The stalls on the south side were used by local traders to sell meat and fish. There is a well in the centre of the courtyard, which was used by vendors to clean and gut fish.

The Macellum had three entrances – the southern entrance is notable for the checkerboard patterned wall adjacent to it. It is considered to be the finest quality wall constructed during the Roman era of Pompei. At the back of the market, there is a mysterious room, which was used as a shrine. There has been much debate over the paintings and statues found there. The latest and most widely accepted theory is that they depict Emperor Augustus Caesar, as well as local figures that commanded respect within the town.
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Forum

5) Forum (must see)

The Forum, a feature present in many Roman settlements, was a public space found at the centre of Pompei. It stands in the middle of a square, which contains several of the town’s most significant buildings. From the southern end of the forum, moving clockwise, there are the Basilica, the Temple of Apollo, the grain and food markets, the sanctuary, the temple of Vespasian, the building of Eumachia, and the Comitium.

It is safe to assume that the Forum was at one time the centre of Pompei. It stands on the junction of two Roman roads, linking Pompei with Naples and the nearby settlement of Stabiae. However, within the preserved ruins of the city, the Forum is found towards the outskirts. This is believed to be due to large scale development in the 2nd century BC, which moved the city centre away from the Forum.

Now a square of grass, the Forum area appears to have undergone many changes during the history of Pompei. Prior to the earthquake in 62 AD, the floor was receiving an upgrade – it is still partially paved with travertine. It is thought that a market was held in the middle of the open space. There are also a number of marble bases missing the statues that should sit upon them, and a half finished suggestum – the Roman equivalent of a soapbox for public speaking.
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Forum Baths

6) Forum Baths (must see)

The Forum Baths are one of four bath houses discovered in the ruined city of Pompei. Along with the Central, Stabian and Suburban Baths, they have given a fascinating insight into the importance of public baths in Roman life. With little in the way of bathing facilities found inside private dwellings, it appears that bathing in these buildings would have been a daily ritual for many citizens. The Forum Baths were not the largest or most decorated in the city, but survived the 62 AD earthquake relatively unscathed, and as a result were the only baths still in use when the city was destroyed.

The Forum Baths are located opposite the Temple of Fortuna Augusta in the centre of Pompei. Divided into men’s and women’s sections, this compact bath house contained all of the features found in larger public baths, including a frigidarium, where customers could take a cold bath. The apodyterium, or changing room, is notable for its high barrel vaulted roof, complete with a skylight. The caldarium, which contained hot baths, was heated by warm air circulated within cavities in the walls. The room also features a marble labrum bath which allows bathers to cool off after bathing.
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Temple of Fortuna Augusto

7) Temple of Fortuna Augusto (must see)

The Temple of Fortuna Augusto stands on the corner of via del Foro and via della Fortuna. It was built by Marcus Tullius, a wealthy local benefactor and relative of Cicero. Tullius even appointed a minister for the cult, which worshipped the then Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar. When Augustus died, the temple began worshipping his successor, and continued to worship whoever claimed the title of emperor.

The temple, like many Roman places of worship, kept religious statues in its cella. Each time a new emperor was crowned, the minister would order a new statue and place it in a niche within the cella. This led many of the citizens of Pompei to believe that the temple was politically rather than religiously motivated. A statue of Augustus remained in the central niche throughout the temple’s history, however.

This small temple was destroyed in the earthquake of 62 AD, and never fully rebuilt. It originally had a very similar layout to the Temple of Jupiter, located nearby at the edge of the Forum. A raised podium at the centre of the temple, accessible via a stone staircase, contained an altar and the cella. Within the cella, five niches housed statues of Augustus and his successors.
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Bakery and Vicolo Storto

8) Bakery and Vicolo Storto (must see)

Pompei’s largest bakery is located in the Vicolo Storto area, a market place area similar to the Forum, which is also known for housing the only known brothel in the city. The building is one of a remarkable thirty five mills and bakeries discovered in the ruins of Pompei; by contrast, no other sufficiently preserved Roman bakeries have been recovered anywhere else in the world. The bakeries of Pompei therefore give us a unique insight into the advanced milling industry possessed by the Roman Empire. It is thought that the majority of citizens would have travelled to bakeries to collect bread, as there was no facility to bake it at home.

The machinery used to produce bread here consists of millstones, formed from igneous rock, which were turned by mules or donkeys, grinding grains that fell through an hourglass-shaped funnel and through the millstones. It has been suggested that whilst this appears a fairly primitive method, there may been improved techniques in operation within larger cities such as Rome and Naples. The mills of Rome were hard places to work – Apuleius, a Roman author, recorded the hardships of the women, slaves and animals that were put to work in bakeries. The playwright Plautus himself worked in a bakery at one time, and wrote about the struggles of life in the mill.
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House of the Golden Cupids

9) House of the Golden Cupids (must see)

The House of the Golden Cupids was first excavated between 1903 and 1905. It is situated on the via del Vesuvio, and is believed to have been owned by Gnaeus Poppaeus Habitus, a wealthy local figure. Hidden behind an unremarkable façade, the house is renowned for several ornate third style artworks discovered on its walls. Dating from the end of the reign of Augustus Caesar, the third style is defined by delicate, colourful frescoes, influenced by Egyptian art.

The walls of the house feature a number of red and yellow panels with elaborate paintings at their centre. Whilst many of the artworks have faded, there are a number of surviving artworks depicting mythical scenes. In the atrium, the only surviving panel is a fresco of Helen and Paris meeting at Sparta. The exedra, an alcove off to one side of the atrium, features a number of large panels depicting scenes from Roman life. Both the exedra and tablinum, or main living room, have fine mosaics on their floors.

The building gained its name from two glass discs, found in a cubiculum, with cherubs etched onto them. The room also features a remarkable fourth style decoration – a symmetrical pattern of painted red and yellow patterned hexagons, which almost resembles modern wallpaper. Many of the rooms also feature frescoes on their ceilings, making the house one of the most heavily decorated in the city.
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Central Baths

10) Central Baths (must see)

The Central Baths are located on the corner of two main streets in Pompei – via Stabiana and via di Nola. They were built as part of the city’s regeneration plans following the earthquake of AD 62, and may have replaced a destroyed building on this site. The relative modernity of the building is shown in the use of skylights and a larger outdoor gymnasium – hallmarks of later Roman bathhouses.

The baths were designed with many of the features found in most Roman bathhouses. They included a large central palaestra, with an adjacent apodyterium for changing and relaxing. The bathing rooms themselves consisted of a lukewarm pool (tepidarium) and two hot baths in the caldarium. One unusual feature was the laconicum, a room with an intense, dry heat – similar to the modern saunas thought to have originated in Scandinavia.

Built with access from all four sides, the baths occupied an entire block of the city. The presence of a new bath house, designed to be ultra modern and exquisitely decorated, suggests that the surrounding area was to become more central in the regeneration of Pompei. Sadly, it appears the baths were never used – many of the pools were still incomplete at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius.
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Stabian Baths

11) Stabian Baths (must see)

The Stabian Baths are the oldest bath complex discovered in Pompei. Covering 3500 square metres, they are also the largest in the city. Located on Via Stabiana, like the nearby Forum Baths, they are divided into men’s and women’s facilities. The two newer baths in Pompei, the Central and Suburban Baths, both had one large changing facility.

At the entrance to the baths, there is a courtyard, which would have been used as a gymnasium. The yard is surrounded on three sides by colonnades, with a 1.5 metre deep swimming pool on the other side. A door in the right hand corner of the longest colonnade leads to the men’s bath house. The frigidarium, a room for cold bathing, is round, with four corner niches and the bath in the centre. This is the only room for which there is not an equivalent in the women’s section.

Both sides of the bath house feature a whitewashed apodyterium, a tepidarium for warm baths and a caldarium, furthest from the entrance, which was used for hot baths. The baths are richly decorated, with many statues discovered in the ruins. The building has vaulted, ornately decorated ceilings throughout. It was believed to have been built as a symbol of the wealth of Pompei’s ruling classes.
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Brothel/Lupanareum

12) Brothel/Lupanareum (must see)

The Lupanar is the largest brothel within Pompei. It is located close to the Forum, on via del Lupanare, a street which bears its name. Whilst it has been established that prostitution was in existence during the Roman era, there has been some debate over the prevalence of brothels in a settlement like Pompei. A number of homes and bath houses in the city featured erotic artworks on their walls. Early excavators initially believed any building with erotic frescoes to have been a brothel.

When thirty five buildings with erotic artworks were discovered, it became apparent this couldn’t be the case. Further investigation has led experts to suggest that the Lupanar was the largest of ten brothels in the city, with many of the others single room establishments. The Lupanar has ten rooms, all plainly decorated, with brick platforms serving as beds. It is thought that brothels were mainly frequented by ordinary townspeople, rather than rich or well known figures. Graffiti found on the walls gives an insight into the activities that went on here. The term ‘lupanar’ is derogatory towards prostitutes – it means ‘house of the she-wolves’, a nickname given to prostitutes, who were considered predatory in Roman times.
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Temple of Isis

13) Temple of Isis (must see)

The Temple of Isis is a small Roman temple, though unusually, it is a place of worship for an Egyptian goddess. Isis was worshipped in Ancient Egypt as a form of universal mother goddess, benevolent to all in Egyptian society. She became worshipped by many Roman communities, particularly those, like Pompei, which had strong trade links with Egypt. One of the first buildings discovered in the excavation of 1764, its origins were revealed upon the discovery of an inscription one year later.

The Temple of Isis is located behind the Large Theatre. Originally built in the late 2nd century BC, it was destroyed by the earthquake in 62 AD, and was in the process of being rebuilt. This work was funded from the personal fortune of a freed slave. The temple was thought to have been particularly popular with slaves, servants and the working classes of Pompei.

Like many temples in the city, the Temple of Isis is built in the Hellenic style, and features a cella where sacred statues of the goddess were kept. The temple also features a columned podium, accessed from a stairway, in its centre. Excavation works at the site also unearthed a number of unusual treasures, including a marble hand, bronze candlesticks and a human skull, believed to have been used in cult rituals.
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Great Theater and Quadroporticus

14) Great Theater and Quadroporticus (must see)

The Quadriporticus is a large four sided courtyard, flanked by colonnaded buildings. It resembles a larger version of the peristyle courtyards found in most Roman dwellings. There is some uncertainty over the function of the buildings here, although it is known that portions of the complex were used as barracks for the town’s gladiators. The courtyard was also used by the gladiators for training exercises, and was ideally located immediately next to the Great Theatre, where gladiatorial games were held regularly. It is shown in an ancient painting, now housed in Naples’ National Archaeological Museum, with a swimming pool in the centre of the courtyard. This may have been covered after the site was damaged in the earthquake of 62 AD.

Gladiatoral games are one of the most notorious rituals of ancient Rome, and have inspired paintings, novels and films throughout history. Graffiti carved by the gladiators in the columns of the Quadriporticus hint at public opposition to the violent games they took part in – and even call for wider condemnation. A large quantity of gladiatorial armour was also found at this site, including helmets, belts and shoulder protectors. They were marked with the letters NER, suggesting that the gladiators came from the Neroniam, Nero’s imperial school in nearby Capua.
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Theater

15) Theater (must see)

Pompei’s theatre was known as the Large Theatre during its use, to differentiate it from the Odeion, a nearby arena. The theatre was built in the 2nd century BC in the style of ancient Greek amphitheatres. Set in a natural indentation in the land, the theatre features tiered stone seating on sloping sides, leading to a central horseshoe shaped performance area. During the reign of Augustus Caesar the theatre reached its peak, being refurbished and extended by the Holconius brothers. They were rich wine growers from the region, and fitted the rows of seating with marble tops. Following the earthquake in 62AD the theatre was damaged, and the marble was removed. The stage had to be rebuilt, and a grand façade was added, complete with columns and statues.

The Holconius brothers also added an upper circle and two side boxes, which were reserved for guests of honour – much like a modern theatre. The Large Theatre could host 5000 people within segregated seating areas. The eldest Holconius brother even had his own reserved seat, inscribed with bronze lettering. Now open to the elements, the theatre was at the time covered by a large canopy, protecting the audience from the Mediterranean sun. The opposite side of the amphitheatre housed dressing rooms and access to the outer courtyard.
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House of Menander

16) House of Menander (must see)

The House of Menander is a large villa, built in the Classical Greek style. It is located in the southern half of the city centre, close to the Large Theatre and Stabian Baths. An unusually large property so close to public amenities, it is believed that the owner, who remains a mystery, may have been one of Pompei’s wealthiest residents. It is notable for the large columns in the peristyle, a hallmark of the Doric style of classical architecture.

It is also entirely possible that the owner was a tourist, and the house is a very early version of the modern holiday home. Tourism played a major part in Pompei’s development – the Greek influence on architecture stemmed from Greeks visiting the city from the 6th century, whilst residents of Rome would visit Pompei in summer due to its hot Mediterranean climate.

The house features a number of intricate frescoes, including, in a niche on the peristyle wall, an image of Menander, the Ancient Greek dramatist. He is pictured seated and reading, against a red and yellow background typical of artworks in many wealthy homes in Pompei. A neat slogan, of the type for which Menander was renowned is inscribed, in the atrium by the owner – it simply says ‘welcome, money’.
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House of Julius Polybius

17) House of Julius Polybius

The House of Julius Polybius is located on the north side of the Via dell’ Abbondanza. Only fully excavated in 1978, it has two entrances from the street which lead into two separate parts of the house. The western side, which once had an upper story but is disconnected from the peristyle at the centre of the house, is believed to have been used as servants’ quarters. The eastern side was used by the owner, named in an elaborate fresco as C. Julius Polybius.

The house features artworks in a number of different styles, which suggest the building was redeveloped during its history. Rooms to the east of the atrium are decorated in the first and second styles, but these paintings had been covered over with plaster, suggesting the rooms were only used for storage. Rooms around the peristyle are decorated in the later third and fourth styles, and the art works here are much better preserved.

The building has a number of rooms on its eastern side, including a master suite separate from the main triclinium. The House of the Vettii has a similar side room, believed to be reserved for more intimate gatherings with friends and family. A number of artifacts were unearthed in the triclinium, including a bronze statue of Apollo, and a number of lamps and drinking vessels, also cast in bronze.
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Great Palaestra

18) Great Palaestra (must see)

The Great Palaestra is a large rectangular building, flanked by porticoes on three sides, with a pool at its centre. Like many buildings in the city, it was commissioned under the empire of Augustus Caesar. It was used as an exercise complex by the youth associations which he set up, a Roman version of the youth branches of political parties we still see today. There was even a room, in the centre of the western portico, set aside for worship of the emperor. Behind the portico, a double row of sycamore trees provided a shaded area for attendees to relax and unwind.

The tree roots have been recreated with plaster casts. Like many natural organisms, from plant life to human beings, the roots were buried under the ash layers left by the deadly volcanic eruption, and decomposed. This left behind air pockets which were filled with plaster, creating exact replicas of the tree roots. At the time of the eruption in 79 AD the eastern portals and north wall were being restored, having been damaged in the earthquake of 62 AD. The complex even had toilet facilities – a latrine, served by water carried from the pool, can be seen on the south side of the building.
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House of the Venus in Shell

19) House of the Venus in Shell (must see)

The House of the Venus Marina is a domus horne – a dwelling designed for a single family. It is typical of the more conventional dwellings found in Pompei, alongside the larger, more heavily decorated villas owned by the wealthy. More compact and understated than the other notable houses found in Pompei, it is still centred around an atrium and peristyle. This suggests that these features were present in all Roman architecture, and not reserved for the wealthy alone.

The house has earned its name from the spectacular fresco found on the rear wall of the peristyle. It depicts Venus, the Goddess of Love, in an aquatic scene. Reclining on an oyster shell, she is pictured wearing jewellery and a shawl, and has golden curled hair. On either side of Venus, Cupid and a Nereid on a dolphin are pictured. This depiction of Venus, as an aquatic creature, has been recreated in numerous artworks, and is perhaps the image most commonly associated with the Roman goddess, who was widely worshipped in Pompei. Described as the ‘protectress of Pompei’ in inscriptions found elsewhere in the city, it is perhaps ironic that, while much of Pompei was destroyed, her likeness has survived almost entirely intact.
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Amphitheater

20) Amphitheater (must see)

The Pompei Amphitheatre is the oldest building of its kind to have survived from the Roman era. Pompei houses many of the best preserved examples of Roman architecture, after the city was buried under volcanic ash for almost 2000 years. The Amphitheatre, one of Pompei’s most well known attractions, predates the Coliseum in Rome by over a century. It is believed that the success of the Pompei Amphitheatre, the first stone arena built within the Roman Empire, was the inspiration for a larger stone-built arena in Rome itself.

A circular structure with arches and stairways creating several entrance points, the Amphitheatre is still considered by crowd control analysts to be a near perfectly designed venue. Built around 70 BC, it was initially known as the Spectacula. Paid for by wealthy local statesmen Quinctius Valgus and Marcius Porcius, it was primarily used to host gladiatorial games and ceremonies. Twenty years before the eruption that destroyed Pompei, games were banned at the Amphitheatre, following a brawl between locals and residents of nearby Nuceria. In recent years, UK progressive rock band Pink Floyd became the first people for almost two thousand years to perform at the arena, filming a live concert here.

Walking Tours in Pompei, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Pompei

Create Your Own Walk in Pompei

Creating your own self-guided walk in Pompei is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Tour of Pompei Places of Worship

Tour of Pompei Places of Worship

The true age of Pompei can be determined through the temples and places of worship found there. They provide us the clearest picture of the cultural life of Pompei citizens. Take this tour and discover the remnants of places of worship of the various cults practiced in the ancient city that laid buried in ash and clinker from the Vesuvius eruption since 79 AD.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
Old City Self Guided Tour I

Old City Self Guided Tour I

Due to the quick and unexpected death of the city of Pompei, it has become a window into the past, which shows us the way people lived back in the 1st century A.D. Roman Empire. Take this tour to discover the preserved sights of the ancient city -- the details of its public, private and cultural life.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
Old City Self Guided Tour II

Old City Self Guided Tour II

2,000 years on, the secrets of Pompei have not been fully revealed until today. Wonderful pieces of art have been found in the excavations of the ancient town. Enjoy the view of Vesuvius and touch the preserved walls, which keep the memories of Pompei and its citizens alive. Take this tour and discover the town once buried under the thick layer of ash.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles
Historic Places of Pompei

Historic Places of Pompei

One of the most visited places in Italy, Pompei is a prosperous ancient city of merchants that in 79 AD was buried under ashes and cinders from Vesuvius volcano. Because of that disaster, many fragments of antiquity were preserved and are now brought back to life. Don't hesitate to spend a few hours of your time to explore the historic places and the open-air museum of Pompei.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Pompei Ancient Life Tour

Pompei Ancient Life Tour

Pompei is a prosperous ancient town that was buried under ashes from Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD. The disaster perfectly preserved some of Pompei's artifacts can now tell us about the daily life and traditions of its citizens. Follow this self-guided tour to explore the town houses and learn more about the life of its inhabitants.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.9 Km or 0.6 Miles