Pompeii, situated at the feet of Vesuvius, on a plateau of volcanic formation, almost 30 metres above sea level, is not only one of the most famous archaeological centres in the world, because it keeps, in its excavations, traces of ancient civilizations like no other place, but it is also an important religious centre venerated and visited, every year, by thousands of tourists. The ancient Pompeii was probably founded by Oscans, and inhabited, then, by Etruskans, Greeks, Sannites and became a Roman colony in 91 B.C.
The town was completely destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius on August 24th, 79 A.D. Its rediscovery occurred thanks to the excavation work begun in 1748 by the King of Naples Charles the Bourbon. Excavations, finds and heated debates conditioned, in 1700, the flourishing of Neoclassical art. In an area which was, until a century ago, marshy, the inhabited centre was created; this developed especially thanks to the construction of the Sanctuary of Madonna del Rosario, in 1833, by Beato Bartolo Longo. The centre developed as an independent town on March 29th, 1928, including parts of the territories of Scafati, Boscoreale, Gragnano and Torre Annunziata. The latest expansions have determined the almost complete linking up of the centre with the neighbouring conglomerates of Scafati and Torre Annunziata. At present, the town extends on a territory of 12.4 sq. Km. with 25,745 inhabitants.
Its main resource is, above all, tourism, attracted by the famous Sanctuary and by the remarkable archaeological heritage, unique in the world, so that in 1997 the UNESCO declared Pompeii World Heritage of Mankind, considering, on the basis of cultural assumptions, that Pompeii, together with Herculaneum and other neighbouring towns, buried by the eruption of 79 A.D., are a complete and living testimony of society and daily life in a precise moment in the past, and do not find any equivalent in any other part of the world. Moreover, the town is well-known also for its artistic and craftsmanlike productions of which the numerous shops located along the roads are an evidence, and every year the Religious Handicraft Exhibition is held there. So, also in Pompeii it is possible to make various tourist, cultural and religious itineraries, with the possibility to stay comfortably thanks to the multiplicity of accommodation facilities, such as hotels, residences, bed and breakfasts and campsites. The most longed for destination is certainly that of Excavations, visited, on the basis of an estimate, in 2007, by 2,571,725 people. In the area of the Archaeological Excavations, a whole civilization, buried by the eruption of the neighbouring Vesuvius in the year 79 A.D., has been brought to light; it is the Roman civilization, with its usages and habits, that is possible to reconstruct thanks to the several monuments which were rediscovered after the excavation work. The Forum , where the most important public and religious buildings were, was the area around which life whirled , or the Basilica, the place appointed to the administration of justice, or the temples of Jupiter and Apollo, or the spa baths and the Macellum, a sort of market where any kind of good was sold.
To commerce the ancient Pompeians alternated idleness, by frequenting various entertainment places, like the Teatro Grande, with a seating capacity of almost 5,000 spectators, the Teatro Piccolo, with a terrace able to seat almost 1,000 people and the Amphitheatre, where almost 12,000 people were present at gladiators’ fights. Of the Pompeians’ refined taste for architecture and art various evidences remain, like the House of the Vettii, of Menandro, of the Fauno and the Villa dei Misteri, where interesting evidences of ancient pictorial decorations remain. In the last years it has been possible to make a night visit to the excavations, through an illuminated and multimedia itinerary. We start from the Suburban Spa Baths and go on along the tangle of houses, gardens, vegetable gardens, peristyles and alleys overlooking Via Marina, up to the inside of the temple of Apollo (info at 081 8575111).
Of great effect is also the Antiquarium, the museum which goes over the most important events of the history of Pompeii, destroyed by the bombings of 1943 and later rebuilt. In the pre-Samnite section the most ancient material of the Oscan- Campania civilization in the Sarno Valley is kept. Then, there are other sections dedicated to economic and commercial life of the ancient Pompeii, with a remarkable iconography and with remains of tools, work tools, workshop material and medical instruments (info. 081 8575111). Of great religious value and destination of flows of pilgrimages coming from all over the world is also the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Rosario, built in 1876 according to the future Beato Bartolo Longo’s will. The inside, Latin cross shaped, with a nave and two aisles risen above by a dome 57 metres high, is rich in frescos, mosaics and marbles. On the high altar there is the painting of the Madonna going back to 1600 and enclosed in a big bronze frame. For its size, the Sanctuary rises above the surrounding area and culminates with a statue of the Madonna del Rosario, derived from a unique Carrara marble block. The magnificent bell tower is 80 metres high and is endowed with a lift which can take people up to the top and allow them to admire the suggestive view of the Gulf of Naples. Pompeii is a town rich in traditions, and numerous are the shows which occur during the year, such as shows in the square, concerts and festivals. The most ancient tradition is surely the worship of the Madonna del Rosario, patron of the town and celebrated on May 8th , who every year attracts, to Pompeii and to the Sanctuary, millions of believers coming from all over the world.
How to reach Pompeii:
Distance from Sorrento: 28 km
By car/motorcycle: by going along the State Street 145 towards Naples and then the Highway A3 towards Naples, exit in Pompeii.
By train: by Circumvesuviana, line Sorrento- Naples, go off in Pompeii Villa dei Misteri.
Local police: tel.: 081 8506164
Taxi. Tel.. 081 8632686 – 081 5367852 – 081 8503199
Post offices: 32, Via Sacro Cuore – 3, Via Sacra – 1, Via Esedra.
Local Tourist Board: 1, Via Sacra, tel.: 081 8507255