Thursday, May 19, 2011

Herculaneum and Pompeii Tips

You do not need to take an organized tour to see either of these remarkable sites. The Circumvesuviana Train, a local one that runs only from Naples to Sorrento, has stops at both places.

Herculaneum is the smaller of the two sites and better preserved.  Ironically, the volcanic mud which instantaneously killed the town's population almost two thousand years ago, preserved much of the town's buildings and artifacts by "freezing" things in a concrete-type sludge.  Pompeii, on the other hand, was covered in ash and therefore much easier to loot over the years.  Much more of Pompeii has been uncovered, but  you may not find it quite as interesting to see.

Herculaneum - Exit at Ercolano (Herculaneum) Scavi (“scavi” means “ruins”), and follow the brown directional signs toward town and down the hill. The walk is about eight blocks and then there is a very long sloping entrance taking you down into the site itself.

There are a few cafes in town right before the entrance and bathrooms and a bookstore near the ticket booths, but no facilities in the ruins themselves. If you go on a warm day, you will want to take plenty of water and a hat. Also, the walking surfaces at both sites is, of course, uneven so it's imperative to wear comfortable shoes.

Pompeii - The Circumvesuviana Train exit for Pompei Scavi deposits you very close to the entrance. It's only a few hundred feet, past a few open-air restaurants and tourist stalls, to the ticket/bookstore/bathroom area. The entrance to Pompeii is up a long hill covered in uneven paving stones. If you have mobility issues or heart problems, there is another way to access the site; ask at the front desk.

Both sites rent audio guides for 5 euros each or you can hire a personal guide.

A train ticket that is “good” all day so you can use it to go to Herculaneum and then Pompeii and back to your apartment, is 6.20 euros. Each site costs 11 euros admission or you can buy one ticket good for all the sites (There are five altogether: Pompeii, Herculaneum and three lesser know, much smaller, sites.) for 20 euros. Note that the 20 euro ticket can be used for three consecutive days, but will only admit you to each site once.

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