Pompeii, Herculaneum & Classical Campania
Nowhere in the world could give a deeper insight into Roman life than the dramatic seaside towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Before the eruption of Vesuvius these were thriving, lively seaside towns - the Brighton and Hove of the ancient world! Bars, shops and brothels did a roaring trade and Pompeii was well-equipped to entertain the passing traveller with amphitheatre, baths and theatre.
All this came to an abrupt halt, however, one August day in AD 79 - when Vesuvius - which had done little more than rumble for years - erupted with cataclysmic force. Two thousand years later, the sites of the Bay of Naples confront the modern visitor with a vivid, haunting immediacy like nothing else in the ancient world. In some cases we even know the names, professions and personal histories of the people who owned the villas and shops we visit.
Your guide lecturer will bring to life the ordinary people of Pompeii, Herculaneum and beyond. New discoveries are constantly being made, and new areas of the site constantly opened up. Lose yourself in the past, walking the ancient streets in the footsteps of gladiators, slaves, senators and citizens...
- Private access to the Piscina Mirabilis, the largest cistern in Europe
- Visit off the beaten track villas at Stabiae
- Walk through the evocative Herculaneum
- Explore the unique National Museum of Naples
- Climb the crater of Vesuvius and experience its magnitude
- Historic Churches
- Ancient Greek
- Special Access
- Low Single Supplement
- Just One Hotel
We arrive in Naples.
We drive south to explore the temples, site and museum at Paestum. Long before the Romans came, this was a thriving Greek city, part of the Ancient Greek empire from the 6th century BC. We wander among the three mighty temples, some of the best preserved anywhere in the Greek world. After lunch, we visit Paestum Museum which houses the unique painted ‘Tomb of the Diver’ dated to around 480 BC.
We devote a whole day to Pompeii. No other site can compare in revealing the scale and proportions of a Roman town. We visit some of the best-preserved buildings, as well as an amphitheater, theater, forum, bathhouses, bars and brothels. The fountains in the street, worn where thousands of people have rested their hands to take a drink; the stepping stones, wheel ruts; the graffiti on house walls. Travelling by the best routes to avoid the crowd we visit several villas which have only recently re-opened to the public. Many of our Guide Lecturers have excavated at Pompeii and will introduce the very latest research that is shedding light on this extraordinary site and thus, the whole Roman world.
Today we marvel at the exceptional collections of artifacts at the National Archaeological Museum at Naples. Many of the best wall-paintings and statues were brought here in the early years of the excavations. More poignant, perhaps, are the tableware, glass beads, dice and other incidental objects of everyday life. After lunch in Naples, we continue to Pozzuoli to see one of the best-preserved amphitheaters in the world. We explore the passage-ways where gladiators would once have awaited their fate...
We have special access to the cavernous Piscina Mirabilis at Misenum, usually closed to the public. This gigantic cistern stored water for the Roman fleet and fed the towns of the Bay of Naples.
We go off the beaten track to the villas of Stabiae, an exclusive Roman resort for the very wealthy. The vast Villa San Marco is one of the most opulent along this coast - and remains very impressive in its scale. The Villa Arianna gives wonderful views over the Bay of Naples and is remarkably little visited. We walk through the grand rooms, chambers and gardens in splendid isolation. Free time this afternoon to return to Pompeii or relax.
We visit the town of Herculaneum, which perfectly complements a visit to Pompeii. The town was buried to a much greater depth than Pompeii. Here, you wander streets with almost complete Roman houses rising on either side, preserved up to their rooftops in some cases! After lunch we visit another ‘hidden gem’ of the Bay of Naples, the modest farm-house that has been discovered at Boscoreale, named the Villa Regina, now with a fine small museum.
On our final full day, we ascend to the great volcanic crater of Vesuvius. Most of our journey is by bus, but the last part requires a short walk. We are rewarded with amazing views both down into the crater and out across the Bay of Naples, putting everything we have seen during the week into perspective. After lunch we spend the afternoon at the villa at Oplontis; buried and preserved, the villa is grander even than those at Stabaie and makes a fitting end to our tour.
We return home this morning.
Arrive in Naples and transfer to the hotel. Take the time to unwind before having dinner this evening as a group.
Our day begins with a visit to the fascinating site at Paestum, ancient Poseidonia. Long before the Romans came, this was a thriving Greek city that was part of greater Greece from the 6th century BC. During our time in this atmospheric and enchanting area we will wander among the mighty temples. It is interesting to note that some of them are among the most well-preserved anywhere in the Greek world. Following a
leisurely lunch, we will visit the Paestum Museum, which houses the unique, painted archaeological monument, ‘Tomb of the Diver’, which is dated to around 480 BC. This museum boasts impressive collections of Prehistoric, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age pottery.
We devote a whole day to Pompeii. No other site can compare in revealing the scale and proportions of a Roman town. We visit some of the most well-preserved buildings, as well as an amphitheatre, theatre, forum, bath-houses, bars and brothels. The fountains in the street are worn where thousands of people have rested their hands to take a drink, wheel ruts are carved into the street, and Roman graffiti still marks house walls. Travelling by the best routes to avoid crowds, we visit several villas that have only recently re-opened to the public. Many of our guide lecturers have excavated at Pompeii and will illuminate this extraordinary site with their expertise.
Today we marvel at the exceptional collections of artefacts at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. Many of the best wall-paintings and statues were brought here in the early years of excavations. More poignant, perhaps, are the glass beads, dice and other objects that reflect everyday life. After lunch, we move on to Pozzuoli to see one of the most impressive amphitheatres in the world. Later, we gain special access to the cavernous, giant cistern Piscina Mirabilis, which is specially opened up for us. It stored water for the Roman fleet and fed the towns in the area.
Go off the beaten track to the villas of Stabiae, an exclusive Roman resort for the very wealthy. The vast Villa San Marco is one of the most opulent along this coast and it remains very impressive in its scale. It originally consisted of just a few rooms, but was extended at some point during the Claudian period where both a swimming pool and garden were added. The Villa Arianna gives wonderful views over the Bay of Naples and is remarkably little-visited. During our visit there, we will walk through the grand rooms, chambers and gardens, all in splendid isolation. Later in the afternoon, we can indulge in a little free time, either to return to Pompeii for more independent touring or to just soak up the atmosphere and relax. The culture, history and heritage that can be found in this area will simply enchant you.
The town of Herculaneum, which perfectly complements a visit to Pompeii, is our next port of call. This location was buried to a significantly greater depth than Pompeii and here, we can wander streets with almost complete Roman houses rising up on either side that, in some cases, have been preserved up to their rooftops. Herculaneum is a much more compact site and has fewer visitors, but is certainly no less fascinating. We will stop to enjoy lunch and then afterwards, we explore another hidden gem in the Bay of Naples - a modest farm-house that was discovered at Boscoreale. This rustic farm-house is named Villa Regina and has an interesting museum nearby. The area that surrounds this villa would have been agricultural in Roman times, producing wine and olive oil, and there are vines growing outside in the gardens today.
On our final full day, we ascend to the great volcanic crater of Vesuvius. The majority of our journey will be by bus, but the final part requires a short walk which will be well worth the effort. Upon arrival, we will be rewarded with magnificent panoramic views both down into the crater itself and out across the Bay of Naples. Walking up to the crater is an experience as we will observe different coloured lava rock that sits in layers. This time to reflect is sure to put everything we have seen and experienced during the week into perspective.
After lunch, we will continue onto the impressive villa at Oplontis. This villa was supposedly owned by Emperor Nero and was both destroyed and subsequently preserved by Vesuvius’ eruption. Excavations have taken place in more than 100 rooms and some of the spaces boast sumptuous frescoes and amazing decorative detail. This particular villa is even more grand than those found at Stabaie, and this stop makes a truly fitting end to our fantastic tour.
After breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - Most meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Field Notes