Explore the Ruins of Herculaneum

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Added by Crystal Sibson

Herculaneum is an archaeological site well preserved by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.

Much like the city of Pompeii, Herculaneum was devastated by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The site is located to the West of the Volcano in the modern town of Ercolano. Easily reachable by car or a short walk from the train station.

Prior to the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, Herculaneum was a thriving metropolis founded in the 6th-7th century BC. After being inhabited for centuries, the city was completely wiped out and buried under 30 meters of ash and pumice in a matter of hours. During the initial eruption, Mt Vesuvius blew a column of volcanic material high into the atmosphere. The winds carried this volcanic material to the southeast over the city of Pompeii and surrounding area. Since Herculaneum is to the west of the volcano, it was only mildly effected by this phase of the eruption. Unlike the massive amounts of ash and debris that fell on Pompeii collapsing roofs, only a few centimeters fell on Herculaneum allowing many of the residents to flee the city. Late into the night conditions changed for the worst when the first pyroclastic flow hit the city. A mixture of hot gases and ash blew out from the volcano at 100 mp/hr and at more than 500 degrees centigrade engulfing the city. A series of six flows completely buried the city freezing it in time. Many of the buildings were well preserved while other parts of the city collapsed or was badly damaged.  

After the eruption, the city was long forgotten, buried until under ash and rubble until 1709 when it was discovered by chance. In 1738 official excavations began at the site revealing how the residents of Herculaneum lived a lavish lifestyle. It was a seaside retreat for the Roman elite. During excavation, it was determined that treasure hunters had previously tunneled into the site removing many artifacts, however it is estimated that as much as 75% of the city is still buried. When visiting Herculaneum, extravagant paintings and artwork can still be found in many buildings throughout the site. Upon entry there are options for both guided and self guided tours. Be sure to budget 3-4 hours to see the full site.

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Well Preserved

The archaeology site of Herculaneum is very well preserved and not nearly as crowded as nearby Pompeii. If you're in the area, it's definitely worth a visit.

If you visit Pompeii, make sure you come here!

Pompeii was one of the most fascinating experiences of my visit to Italy, so I knew we had to stop here as well. They are well preserved (for ruins) and honestly not very busy. Pompeii was filled with tourists, so this was refreshing. And make sure to take the guided tour, you'll learn a ton!

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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