Old City Self Guided Tour I (Self Guided), Pompei

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.
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Old City Self Guided Tour I Map

Guide Name: Old City Self Guided Tour I
Guide Location: Italy » Pompei (See other walking tours in Pompei)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: Ella
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Porta Ercolano and Necropolis
  • House of Sallustio
  • House of Dioscuri
  • House of the Meleager
  • House of Apollo
  • House of the Golden Cupids
  • House of Caecilius Iucundus
  • Central Baths
  • Bakery and Vicolo Storto
  • House of the Ancient Hunt
  • Macellum
Porta Ercolano and Necropolis

1) Porta Ercolano and Necropolis

Porta Ercolano is one of the main gates leading through Pompei’s ancient walls. Composed of three barrel arches, it opens onto the Roman road linking the city to nearby Herculaneum. The gate was built by the Sullans following their conquest of Pompei in 80 BC, although this had been an access point through the city walls since the 3rd century BC. It now marks the route for tourists visiting Herculaneum and the Villa of the Mysteries, which both lie north-west of the historic site of Pompei. Passing through the gate on the left side, you can see marks in the walls where stones, launched by catapult, struck against them.

Halfway along the road from Porta Ercolano to the Villa of the Mysteries lies the Necropolis. Dating from the 1st century BC, it is the largest and most noteworthy cemetery discovered in Pompei. The large tomb here houses cremated bodies, placed in urns and interned in the tomb wall. Local figures buried here have their resting places marked with a human bust. Look out for a number of unusual tombs, including a columned platform flanked with statues, and the marble covered tombs of local luminaries, apparently designed to look like temple altars.
House of Sallustio

2) House of Sallustio

The House of Sallustio is situated in the western quarter of Pompei, close to the Porta Ercolano gate. It is believed to be one of Pompei’s oldest surviving buildings, dating back to the 3rd century BC. Like many large houses in the city, it features a number of small rooms built around a central atrium. Behind the tablinum, there is a small covered portico and garden. Within the garden there is an unusual room, which appears to be a form of summer dining area, complete with stone couches. Many of the house’s rooms face onto the streets outside, and were converted into shops, bakeries and even a bar.

Like many wealthy landowners in Pompei, it appears that the owner of this property may have used portions of it as a boarding house for travelers arriving through the Porta Ercolano. Many of the rooms have small, segregated garden areas, with a large restaurant area nearby. Whilst an inscription has led the house to be attributed to Sallustio, it is now believed to have been owned by Cossius Libanus. The building, damaged by bombing in 1943, houses a number of artworks, including a fresco of the god Actaeon, and a bronze statue of a faun.
House of Dioscuri

3) House of Dioscuri (must see)

The House of the Dioscuri is named after Castor and Pollux, the sons of Jupiter and Leda, who were collectively known as the Dioscuri. The house, an expansive villa complex in keeping with many in Pompei, does have an unusual feature at its centre. The atrium is in the Corinthian style, and is surrounded by twelve tufa columns. Other houses in Pompei tend to be built around either Tuscan atriums without surrounding columns, or tetrastyle atriums, which have four columns. The atrium has a central impluvium and tablinum, whilst the walls were once richly decorated with frescoes. Many of these have been transferred to museums, to protect them from the elements and bring them to a wider audience.

There are still a number of frescoes visible within the house, many depicting elaborate carpets and architecture, as well as a number of fine still life ‘fourth style’ artworks. Behind the atrium, there is a porticoed courtyard flanked with Doric columns, and a peristyle, complete with a large basin in the centre. There are several wall paintings around the peristyle, which are in the same style as those found in the House of the Vettii. This has led to the theory that these works were created by the same artist, whose services were paid for by the wealthy home owners.
House of the Meleager

4) House of the Meleager

The House of Meleager is known for its range of artworks, spanning from the first to fourth styles. Art historians have divided the frescoes and other works found in Pompei into four styles, ordered chronologically from the introduction of Roman culture in 150 BC to the destruction of the city almost 250 years later. Each era is known for different methods of painting, and identified by the objects that feature in the artwork. The House of Meleager is an excellent starting point for those learning the subtle differences between the four artistic styles of Pompei.

The house is named after Meleager, a mythical Greek hero and one of Jason’s band of Argonauts. There is a faded painting of Meleager with his lover Atalanta close to the house’s left entrance. The house is also notable for its unusual layout, featuring a perpendicular peristyle to the north of the central atrium. The peristyle houses a garden and swimming pool. At the front of the house you will find an oecus, a sort of drawing room, designed in the Corinthian style. The rooms located around the atrium still have their well preserved original white tiled floors, as well as an array of mythically themed frescoes.
House of Apollo

5) House of Apollo (must see)

The House of Apollo is a good example of an ancient home, probably constructed during the Samnite period, which was developed in later years by the Romans. Believed to be one of Pompei’s oldest buildings, it features a number of well preserved decorations that belong to the fourth style, an artistic method popular in the years before the city was destroyed. These art works mostly depict mythical events, a popular theme during this period. Amongst these works is a depiction of Apollo, Greek god of light and knowledge, and Marsyas, which gives the house its name.

The image of Apollo decorates the walls of an unusual room housed within the garden. Thought to be a cubiculum, a small interior room normally used as a bedroom or study, it features mosaics around its entrance, and a series of mock buildings which resemble the structure of a theatre. The house also features a number of the traditional features associated with Roman villas, including a triclinium, atrium and tablinium. It is not known who owned the House of Apollo, though it is suspected that like many homes in Pompei, it belonged to a wealthy local business figure, such as a trader, rather than a member of the aristocracy.
House of the Golden Cupids

6) 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.
House of Caecilius Iucundus

7) House of Caecilius Iucundus

Iucundus was a type of banker called argentarius, which means he acted as a middleman at auctions. Part of Iucundus’s house still stands on Stabiae Street, and provides many interesting pieces of information about Iucundus himself and Pompei in general. Archaeologists discovered here wax tablets and lararium or shrine. This house features a relief depicting the Temple of Jupiter during the 62 AD earthquake. The atrium was once decorated with paintings. The floor is covered by a black-and-white mosaic, and at the entrance, a reclining dog is depicted. Several graffiti messages have been found on the walls of the house, including the one reading, “May those who love prosper; let them perish who cannot love; let them perish twice over who veto love.” The tablinum (or study) in Iucundus’s house, contains some beautiful wall paintings and an amphora given to the house owner by one of his sons.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Central Baths

8) 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.
Bakery and Vicolo Storto

9) 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.
House of the Ancient Hunt

10) House of the Ancient Hunt

The House of the Ancient Hunt is located on via della Fortuna, close to the Porta di Nola gate and the House of the Faun. It is named after the large, spectacular fresco painted on its internal garden wall. The fresco shows an ancient hunt for wild animals amid the local mountain landscape. The house, originating from the Samnite period before Roman occupation, is one of the city’s best examples of a dwelling decorated with fourth style artworks. The fourth style covers the era between Nero becoming Emperor and the destruction of Pompei. Therefore many of these types of artworks are the best preserved in the ancient city.

Many of the hallmarks of fourth style painting are found on the walls of this house, including a great many scenes from Greek mythology. These include frescoes of Leda and the Swan, and Venus fishing, both housed in a cubiculum within the house. There is also a depiction of Actaeon watching Diane bathe, and busts of both Diana and Jupiter. In addition to the main fresco in the garden, there are a number of excellent, well preserved landscapes, include an Egyptian vista, complete with Pygmies, cherubs and carpets blowing in the wind – a hallmark of the fourth style of art in Pompei.

11) 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.

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 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
Places of Worship

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
Pompei Introduction Walking Tour

Pompei Introduction Walking Tour

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