Pompeii & Herculaneum: The Lives of the Romans | Oxford Alumni

  • Haunting vision of everyday life 2000 years ago, and a wonderful introduction to the Roman world.
  • Led by Dr Damian Robinson, lecturer at Oxford and specialist in Roman Archaeology, who will tell the whole story of these ancient sites.
  • Visit not only Pompeii and Herculaneum, but also some of the lesser-known villas and farmsteads preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius.

The eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 devastated lives and livelihoods throughout the Bay of Naples. It also preserved for posterity the evidence of those lives - ordinary people, caught in an extraordinary disaster.

The sites and cities in this area provide a unique opportunity to understand how people lived 2000 years ago. We know the names, houses, occupations and, from other personal details, we can even get a feel for the personalities of individuals who once walked these streets.

Nowhere in the world could give a deeper insight into Roman life than the seaside towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the villas and farms on which life came to an abrupt halt with the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79.


  • Romans
  • Ancient Greek

Itinerary 2015

Day 1

Fly to Naples from your airport of choice. Visit Naples Archaeological Museum, housing the extraordinary finds from the excavations not only of Pompeii, but also those from other towns, villas and farms in the region. Exquisite metalwork which would normally have been melted and recycled; marble statues which would have been broken up to make lime; wallpaintings which would have decayed or been obliterated and plastered over - all would have been lost, had Vesuvius not exploded and buried them all. Lunch in a local pizzeria.

Day 2

Travel south to the coastal plain which was once the terrain of the Greek colony of Poseidonia, later the Roman town of Paestum. This is the opportunity to understand the development of the region in antiquity, from Greek colonization to the early Middle Ages. Three impressive Doric temples still stand tall in the Greek city, and their continued use for up to a thousand years shows how artistic styles, religious practice, technology and commercial and political considerations changed with time. We also follow in the footsteps of Jason and the Argonauts and visit the remains of a religious sanctuary to the goddess Hera.

Day 3

This morning we visit Herculaneum. This harbor town was closer to Vesuvius, and was buried by a pyroclastic surge which raised the present ground level by 25 meters. Whilst a much smaller area has been excavated than at Pompeii, buildings are preserved to a greater height, and moving details of everyday life are preserved: carbonized organic matter survived – timber, foodstuffs, rope… Walking through the tunnel to what was once the seashore, where hundreds of bodies have been found huddled in the boat-houses (but are not on display) is an unforgettable experience.

We finish the day with a visit to a splendid villa at Oplontis, once possibly owned by Nero’s wife Poppea. The relatively recent excavations here have allowed excellent preservation for the wall-paintings, and a detailed study of the gardens and the plants which were grown there.

Day 4

Spend today exploring the streets and buildings of Pompeii. This is a whole Roman town, with wall-circuit, two-thirds of the interior has been excavated over more than 250 years. It contains the story of the development of a fairly ordinary Italian provincial town down to its Roman form in the 1st century AD when it was buried by Vesuvius. This is the first natural disaster for which we have an eye-witness account.

Day 5

Morning flight to US or onward journeys.

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager - works unobtrusively to ensure all practical aspects of the tour run smoothly.
  3. Meals - All meals included (dinners with wine & water) except lunch on Day 4. Other lunches in local trattorie or pizzerie - a taste of real Italy.
  4. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
  5. Field Notes
  6. Hotel - 4 nights in a grand 4* hotel converted from a palazzo on the Miglio d’Oro (Golden Mile of once wealthy houses) in Herculaneum, close to the excavations.

Useful Information

For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.

Many of our tours can be linked together to form longer programmes. We are happy to arrange connecting flights and hotels, allowing you to spend as long as you wish exploring the ancient world... See suggestions below:

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