Pompeii is, probably, is the only archaeological site in the world capable of helping people understand and see the style of life in an entire ancient Roman city. In fact the catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius only stopped the time in order to give back to us Pompeii as it was at daybreak of 24th August 79 a.D. Pompeii has been declared by UNESCO as World Heritage Site and was one of the stops of the Grand Tour, during the past. Stendhal commented in 1817 "It is a real pleasure to look upon such antiquity after reading so many volumes about it."
The excavation work, which started in 1748 under the Bourbon monarch, Carlo III, has so far unearthed three-quarters of the town which probably had a population of between 20 and 30 thousand. The area already excavated is extremely vast and covers 44 hectares. The rectangular-shaped Forum built between the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C. hosts a number of public buildings as it was the town's commercial and political centre: the Capitolium (main temple), Apollo's Sanctuary, the Basilica (where the local administration and justice offices were located) and, beyond the Temple of Venus, stood the Macellum (market area), the Temple of Vespasian and the Eumachia building which is well visible as you enter the Forum because of its fine quality marble. Next to it is Via dell'Abbondanza. Going down this road you come to the Stabian Baths: part of the building backs on to Vicolo del Lupanare, which gets its name from the most famous brothel in Pompeii (Lupa meant prostitute). On the walls you can see several sexually explicit scenes of love-making. Nearby is the Large Theatre, which provides an excellent view over the excavations from the top of the seating area, whereas the portico behind the stage was the gladiators' barracks. Next to it is the Odeion or Small Theatre, used as a concert hall and for public meetings. Going along Via dell'Abbondanza again, you come to the House of Menander, a rich house covering 1800 square metres. Further on, you come to the House of Loreius Tiburtinus with its beautiful loggia and garden, the House of Venus (with a fresco immortalizing the Goddess) and the Villa of Julius Felix, whose private apartments are worth seeing.
From here, you can see the Amphitheatre, built to house up to 20 thousand spectators. Then you can visit the Pompeii of private residences, the ones which are the most famous for their paintings and internal architecture: all you need do is go to Via dell Fortuna from the Forum and find the House of the Faun, the largest of the middle-class homes (3000 sq. metres) and also the House of the Vetii with its famous frescoes. But Pompeii's most famous house is the Villa of Mysteries. You can find it by going along Via dei Sepolcri, a road on the outside of the town walls leading down to the coast with a large number of tombs along its course. It is Pompeii's most beautiful house due to its frescoes and the layout of the rooms. There is a splendid terrace on top of the portico and a marvelous series of wall paintings in the triclinium: 17 metres by 3 metres, a record in size, including the scenes with the God Dionysus and Ariadne.
Do not miss to visit the chalk replicas of the eruption's victims - men and animals - are on display in the Antiquarium in Boscoreale, 3 kilometres from Pompeii, and provide the last "snap-shot" in the life of the Pompeians. Other exhibits come from the archaeological sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, Stabiae, Terzigno and Boscoreale itself.
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