Naples, Italy

                                                                    Mt. Vesuvius

April 13, 2012

This visit to Naples was the third time for both of us.  In the past we have visited the ruins of Pompeii, the well-known city that was buried in ash from an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79.  So this time we decided to visit Herculaneum, the other city that was destroyed in the same eruption.  The excursion we chose was called ‘Ancient Herculaneum’.

The first stop on our tour was a cameo factory, which was a combination shopping and restroom stop.  They made beautiful cameos, but they did not tell us anything about the process of creating them.  From there it was on to Herculaneum, or Ercolano, as it is known by the Italians.

While the city of Pompeii was destroyed by a combination of ash, pumice, and noxious gases, Herculaneum was buried in lava.  Herculaneum had been a resort town enjoyed by the wealthy.  

Apparently being buried in lava resulted in much better preservation of buildings here than in Pompeii.  In Herculaneum some of the buildings still have their roofs intact, and there are both floor and wall mosaics, as well as wall paintings that are well preserved.  In addition one can see the charred ends of beams in the houses and other buildings.

One way to tell how much the landscape changed as the result of volcanic eruptions is to learn that the grassy moat at the left side of this photo is where the shoreline once was.  What you don’t see is that Vesuvius lost 800 meters in height during that explosion.

It was rainy on the day we visited, but that did not dampen our spirits even though we were on a walking tour.  Herculaneum was discovered in 1736 by a farmer who was trying to dig a well.  He never did find water, but he did find a bronze horse.  To date about 1/4 of Heculaneum has been excavated and is open for touring.  The remainder of the ancient city lies under the modern city of Naples.  The photos in the album will give you a glimpse of what we saw on the tour.

As you can see from the photos, there is much that is well preserved here.  The two views of the room with painted walls and the doorway photo previously linked show the charred remains of wood.

We would enjoy going back to Herculaneum at a time when we would be able to explore on our own as we only got to see a small part of what has been excavated.   There are some tunnels not open to the public that are being used by archeologists working underneath the modern-day city, which may end up providing more artifacts from the ancient city.  Unfortunately, many artifacts were taken when the city was first discovered.  Even though Herculaneum is not as well known as Pompeii, it is definitely worth visiting, for the quality of what remains there.

© Susan L. Stone 2015