Top 10 Must-Do’s in Pompeii

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Although such advice as wear a hat, bring water, and sport a pair of trusty walking shoes is valuable for those wanting to tour Pomepii, the most crucial words of wisdom are the following: mentally prepare to be emotionally winded. The scene at the ancient city is dramatic: Moulds of plants, animals (such as a collared dog) and people (including a pregnant woman) are huddled together, cowering from the Volcano’s ash that doomed their city . Thanks to excavators’ plaster-pouring techniques onlookers get a more in-depth visualization of Pompeii in its heyday circa AD 79, before catastrophe struck. This is no place for the faint of heart.

That said, there’s something captivating about a visit to Pompeii – respectful visitors can experience a sort of personal restoration by putting oneself in a Roman’s sandals during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvias. You can’t help but be grateful you’re alive. There are Italian tour guides who specialize in tours of Pompeii.

Here are suggestions for the top 10 must-do’s in Italy’s must-see city of Pompeii.

The Villa of the Mysteries

Having sustained little damage in the eruption, the Villa is worth the walk for two reasons: first, to admire colourful frescoes depicting what appears to be the events leading up to a wedding, and, second, to learn what an ancient wine-press looks like (many wealthy Romans had the luxury of dedicating a room to wine making).

The Garden of the Fugitives

This is one of the most moving sights in Pompeii; here, thirteen fossilized victims (children holding hands included) lie on the floor desperately trying to shield themselves from the volcanic dust, which is said to have been like breathing in rocks.

The Lupanare

Also known as the brothel, this is a must-see, but bring along your patience because crowds tend to gather here due to the intriguing nature of the building. You’ll see the five tiny cubicles where lady-services were provided as well as erotic paintings that, interestingly, acted as the Roman equivalent of today’s Yelp reviews.

The Stabian Baths

These offer the most comprehensive idea of bathing Roman-style (i.e., a routine of rubbing oneself with oil, sitting in hot rooms and baths followed by a cold water plunge , then scraping off the oil applied earlier to thoroughly clean the skin). The Stabian Baths are one of three main bathing complexes in Pompeii, but these are the ones to see because they’re the the least crowded, best preserved with their richly decorated steam rooms and beautiful vaulted ceilings, and the largest: from a paved alley for bowling to swimming pools and open exercise areas, Pompeians were not at a loss for space to play.

The Temple of Isis

This is another you definitely don’t want to skip, largely owing to the Egyptian features (Isis is an Egyptian goddess) and history (fun fact: Mozart is said to have visited the temple in 1769 when he was just 13 years old, and later composed The Magic Flute in ode to his memories of it).

The House of the Tragic Poet

Deceivingly, this building has no relation to any poet; villas in Pompeii were nicknamed, often nonsensically. What it does have is an elaborate mosaic flooring and stunning frescoes depicting bits of Greek mythology. Note: don’t miss the “CAVE CANEM” (“beware of the dog”) mosaic in the vestibule!

The House of the Faun

This House offers precious insight into Roman aristocratic life. As one of Pompeii’s largest (it occupies an entire city block) it is deemed one of the best showcases of life during the 2nd century BC. Of note is the (recreated) mosaic at the entrance that reads “Have” (“Hail to you”) and the private bath system.

The Amphitheater

Situated on the outskirts of Pompeii (thus making it a less crowded spot to visit) the Amphitheater offers great insight into the Roman entertainment industry, namely the gladiatorial culture. Besides “man vs. beast” contests, one notable event that occurred in the amphitheater – the oldest in Rome, by the way – was a vicious brawl between Pompeians and spectators from the neighbouring town of Nuceria, which resulted with the Emperor banning all games at Pompeii for a decade.

Museo Archeologico Virtuale

To truly get a deep understanding of life in Pompeii before it was buried under a sea of ash, visit the Museo Archeologico Virtuale just steps from ancient Herculaneum. Here, reconstructions, visual interfaces and holograms transport you into a virtual world where you can pretend to be living amongst the Pompeians of long ago. The MAV intrigues people of all ages; after all, who wouldn’t enjoy a multimedia installation that allows you to wipe the steam off a window that looks into a Roman bathhouse?

Mount Vesuvius

The volcano makes the cut because, well, it would be plain wrong to leave Pompeii without seeing the root of all the destruction. Despite being ugly in nature, Vesuvius is stunning in stature, and the views of Naples throughout the hike are breathtaking. Go ahead, enjoy climbing the network of well-worn paths, but beware, today it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world; Vesuvius, my friends, is still one feisty volcano ready and waiting to erupt.

Golden Ice Gelateria

Though not quite as old as the aforementioned sights, this Gelateria deserves to go down in history: the abundant fresh fruit packed into the gelato, reasonable prices (hefty portions mean you get big bang for your buck), and friendly scoopers make this stop a must, especially after a day spent on your feet. Alternatively, you can enjoy a traditional lunch in a winery restaurant that specializes in local and organic fare.

What part of Pompeii has you most interested?

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