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Historic Places of Pompei (Self Guided), 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.
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Historic Places of Pompei Map

Guide Name: Historic Places of Pompei
Guide Location: Italy » Pompei (See other walking tours in Pompei)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Author: Ella
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • House of the Vettii
  • House of the Faun
  • Forum
  • Temple of Vespasian
  • Basilica
  • Ancient Walls
  • Building of Eumachia
  • Theater
  • Great Palaestra
  • Amphitheater
  • Circumvesuviana
House of the Vettii

1) House of the Vettii (must see)

The House of the Vettii is a mansion built around a central open space, and was once one of Pompei’s most luxurious residences. It is particularly well preserved, featuring many exceptional wall frescoes. This suggests that it was constructed and decorated between the earthquake of 62 AD, which damaged many of the Roman city’s buildings, and the 79 AD volcanic eruption that buried it altogether. It is named after its owners – Aulus Vettius Conviva and Aulus Vettius Restitutus. Both are believed to have been freed slaves that subsequently amassed a large fortune.

Visitors will enter the mansion through a darkened atrium. You can see the servants’ quarters off to one side, built around a smaller atrium. In the entrance foyer, there is an almost life size image of Priapus, the Roman god of fertility. Priapus features heavily in frescoes all over Pompei – often appearing in graphic images which have led to repeated attempts to censor the original artwork. At the centre of the complex stands a peristyle, an open air garden space flanked by Doric columns. Symmetrical in design, it once contained several marble fountains and sculptures of mythological figures. The walls, as with many of the rooms, are lined with several ornate frescoes, framed in red and yellow paint, as is common throughout the buildings of Pompei.
House of the Faun

2) House of the Faun (must see)

Casa del Fauno, or the House of the Faun, was built in the Samnite period, at least 100 years before the volcanic eruption which consumed Pompei. Largely ruined by the two earthquakes, which preceded the eruption, it has been preserved to represent the scale and layout of a Roman mansion.

It is known as the House of the Faun due to the discovery of a bronze statue on the edge of an impluvium – a basin used to collect rainwater for drinking and bathing. The statue depicts a dancing faun – a small, mythical creature believed to roam the wild woodlands that were once common across southern Europe. The original sculpture is housed in Naples’ National Archaeological Museum, but the exact replica of it is now found in the centre of the basin.

The house covers three thousand square metres, occupying an entire block of the ancient city. It is divided into five sections – four built around atriums and peristyles, and a network of service rooms. Look out for two other notable artworks in the complex. Firstly, the mosaic spelling out ‘HAVE’ (a popular Roman greeting) at the entrance, and, secondly, a replica of a detailed mosaic inside the house, that depicts Alexander the Great’s victory at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC.

3) 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.
Temple of Vespasian

4) Temple of Vespasian

This temple, dedicated to the Imperial Cult, faces the Forum Emperor. There is a sculptured white marble altar in the Temple of Vespasian that depicts a bull being led to sacrifice. On the sides of this altar appear items used by the priests in worship. These articles can be identified by some religious leaders today as things used in modern worship in some churches. On the back side of this altar, in the Temple of Vespasian, there is a depiction of a circular wreath.

5) 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.
Ancient Walls

6) Ancient Walls

The great goal of Pompei's protection of citizens was to built walls around the city in order to keep enemies out and feel safe. Nowadays, due to these walls city seems to be more attractive and very ancient and involves a mass of tourists to come.
Building of Eumachia

7) Building of Eumachia

The Building of Eumachia is found on the eastern side of the Forum. An elegant, well preserved house, it can be identified by an ornate carved marble frieze around the entrance. Two inscriptions found within the building show that it was owned by Eumachia, a local priestess of Venus. Eumachia was also a successful business owner, having inherited a wool production company from her husband. It is believed that this building may have housed a factory, producing wool and cloth for the entire city. Others argue that due to Eumachia’s status as a priestess, it may have been used as a place of worship.

The building dates back to the Tiberian age of Rome. It has a façade with two apses, and four rectangular niches which once housed statues. Two further statues were housed in a colonnade at the centre of the house. In the style of many grand Roman residences, it surrounded an open air peristyle, or courtyard. The statues depict the Concordia Augusta, the wife of Augustus Caesar, and Eumachia herself. These figures, combined with the known history of Eumachia and the building she commissioned, show the influence and respect afforded to many successful women in the Roman era.

8) 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.
Great Palaestra

9) 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.

10) 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.

11) Circumvesuviana

The Circumvesuviana Line is used by many visitors to reach Herculaneum and Pompei. The complete journey from Sorrento to Naples takes about one hour. Half-way along the line there is a station at Pompei Scavi, situated about 100 meters from the entrance to the excavations. There are also stops within reasonable walking distance from the Roman city of Herculaneum and the Villa Poppaea. The train passes through several tunnels and bridges and offers scenic views.

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.
Pompei Introduction Walk

Pompei Introduction Walk

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.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
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 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
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
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