It isn’t often that entire cities vanish in a matter of hours, but Pompeii did. Destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Ad 79, the fate of this forgotten city changed with its discovery in 1748. Pompeii is one of the places you should visit in 2022 because this vibrant city has opened to the public its latest findings. In this article, I give you 11 reasons why you should visit Pompeii to experience life in ancient Rome as you’ve never done before!
11. Visit the First Stone Amphitheater in the Roman World
Pompeii’s amphitheater is known to be the first one made of stone in the Roman world. It was built in 70 BC, shortly after the city became a Roman colony, by C. Quinctius Valgus and Marcus Porcius.
This iconic oval building with a façade composed of 62 arches, was one of the most crowded buildings of the city because of the shows held.
Gladiatorial games, races, hunts, and other sorts of events attracted thousands of spectators to enjoy sports and socialize.
One of these events ended up in a fight between two factions, causing many deaths and damage in the city. Emperor Nero instructed the Senate to investigate the show and gladiatorial games were banned in the city for 10 years.
10. Stroll an entire Roman city
It isn’t often that you can stroll an entire ancient city, but Pompeii is an exception. There is even an expression “Rome is a vast museum, whilst Pompeii is an alive city” that became famous in the Age of the Enlightenment. Since its discovery, archaeologists continually unveiled the urban planning of this city. Despite archaeological works, about a third of the city remains unexplored.
Pompeii is a unique place in the Roman world where you will be able to travel back in time. Large endless avenues, balcony alleys, walkways, and squares with fountains and street altars await you. Through them, you will learn about ancient architecture entering numerous Roman houses, markets, bars, bath complexes, temples, and public buildings.
Did you know that Pompeii was a town known for its debauchery? The best way to find out is to join a guide to explore its underbelly!
9. Meet Pompeii’s victims frozen in time
About 10% of the population around Mount Vesuvius died because of the eruption in 79. In only Pompeii, archaeologists have found over 1000 bodies in the ashes.
In 1863, Giuseppe Fiorelli, director of Pompeii, invented a casting technique that captured the last moments of the victims’ lives. This procedure allowed the creation of plaster casts containing the bodies of Pompeian men, women, and children showing the moment when they died
Imagine what all of them had in common! A real and dramatic expression transmitting the agony of their last seconds of life because of their dramatic death. Pay attention to finding them within the city or in the museum because you will never forget these faces!
8. Discover the art of dying in Ancient Rome
One of Pompeii’s favorite attractions since its discovery was its necropolis. Roman cemeteries were located just outside city walls and main gates, along roads leading to suburbs, country, and other cities… and Pompeii has plenty of them, full of tombs richly decorated.
Being remembered after dying was essential for the Romans, that’s why tombs were located along roads in an elaborate showcase
You can find the better-excavated ones outside the main roads existing in Pompeii, which led to cities such as Herculaneum, Stabiae, or Nocera. This stroll is unique because it will make you experience how Romans lived with death and how they buried relatives.
My favorite one is the Porta Ercolano necropolis because it combines tombs, houses, and commercial buildings. Porta Nocera necropolis, on the other side of the city, offers a different route – yet worth it.
7. Visit the best-preserved fast-food restaurant in the Roman world
Pompeii had over 80 thermopolia, or, as we would understand them nowadays, fast-food bar-like restaurants. These bars had a rich decoration and were the meeting point where pedestrians would stop to grab a quick meal.
Usually located in road intersections and along main streets, they offered different types of dishes and drinks to passers-by. In 2019, the best-preserved fast-food bar ever found in Pompeii was discovered and excavated, and you can actually visit it. A painted dog in the counter bar welcomes the visitor, who would be served some of the meals kept warm inside big containers.
Did you know that when some of these containers were opened by archaeologists, the smell of wine was still there?
6. Discover the popular wines of Ancient Rome
In ancient times the region of Pompeii was famous for its wines because of the quality of the volcanic soil around Mount Vesuvius. Pliny the Elder wrote about “vine-growing hills and noble wine of Campania”. Archaeologists have found over 150 Roman farms around Pompeii specializing in the production of wine, which is an indicator of the popularity of this drink.
But excavations have unveiled a more complete picture. Pompeiians also planted vineyards in some of their large gardens and properties near the amphitheater because they saw a business opportunity. Thus, different wines were sold in Pompeii’s streets and bars, from red wines to the famous white Falerian one, produced in the region.
5. Visit a Roman Hotel
Pompeii was like any other city nowadays and had visitors who needed a sleepover or short stay. Did you know that hotel-like buildings exist in Ancient Rome? When in Pompeii, you must visit the hotel created by Iulia Felix because it will make you realize how little society has changed. This businesswoman had a large property with a house in Via dell’Abbondanza, near the amphitheater.
After the earthquake of 62 AD, she decided to convert her house into a letting business. Her ´hotel´ included rooms, an extensive garden, dining area, luxury bath, and some shops, which resemble current resorts.
4. Discover an Ancient Brothel
You may or may not have heard about Pompeii’s famous chief export – sex! The streets are literally lined with big phalluses, naked sculptures, sexual paintings, and of course brothels. You should know that Romans had a different understanding of sexuality, which makes sense when you observe so many sexual allusions all around the city.
When visiting the Suburban Baths of Pompeii, you will learn about how Romans conceived sex through the many paintings showing sex practices: from same-sex lovers to threesomes, its walls speak of ancient desires. In the brothel, you will learn about the conditions of sex workers and how little these spaces have changed over history.
Many believe the paintings on the walls of brothels were sort of a menu of sexual positions that customers could choose from. Many were even on the ceiling in case you happened to be on your back while choosing!
3. See the Most Recent Finds in Pompeii
Pompeii is an open laboratory where archaeologists and restorers have been working for centuries. If you are planning to visit Pompeii for the first time or you’ve already been there… 2022 is the perfect year because you will be able to visit its latest findings. Since 2018, archaeologists have excavated a new sector of the city which provided astonishing discoveries. After months of restorations and consolidation, now you can visit it.
Walk a street, stop by a plaza, read political propaganda and visit the last two houses excavated in Pompeii. This is a unique chance to experience Pompeii as it was in the moments before the eruption. You will be amazed because of the state of preservation. You’ll even see the charcoal graffito which demonstrated that the eruption of 79 AD probably took place on October 24. Book in advance not to miss the vivid colors of walls, the ongoing repairs in houses, and the rich decoration.
2. Have a masterclass of Pompeiian history
One of Pompeii’s most recent attractions is its Antiquarium museum because of the new display of objects it exhibits. The new permanent exhibition showcases the history of Pompeii in different spaces. It houses a selection of the most famous findings from the city which will make you attend a master’s class.
I recommend visiting the museum at the beginning of your visit to Pompeii, entering from Porta Marina, because it will introduce you to the beautiful treasures you will discover inside the city. Yes! Don’t worry about buying souvenirs, you can always stop by the shop at the end of your visit.
1. Beyond Pompeii
Did you know that Pompeii was not the only city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD? Many other cities and farms were also buried by volcanic materials and now you can visit them too. Yes, archaeologists excavated them and they are hidden gems in the Bay of Naples. Do you want to visit them too? Then “Pompeii Arte Bus” is a must.
This bus will take you for free to the luxury villas of Stabiae, Oplontis, and the country villa of Boscoreale. I recommend you use this service provided by Pompeii Sites because you will discover new sides of the Roman past. If you want to get a sense of how it was to live in a nearby city… Herculaneum is a must. This partially excavated site houses with different floors, a port, and a beach with hundreds of victims.