Herculaneum here we come…..

When we were in Naples in 2010, we visited Vesuvius and Pompeii and I blogged about it here…..

Since we had already seen Pompeii, we decided that we wanted to visit the ruins of Herculaneum this time. Like it’s sister city of Pompeii, Herculaneum was buried in ash during the Vesuvius eruption in AD 79. It is one of the few ancient cities to be preserved more or less intact, with no later modifications. Although it was smaller than Pompeii, Herculaneum was a wealthier town, apparently possessing many fine, lavish houses.

We headed to the train station with the idea of catching the Circumvesuviana, which connects Naples to Sorrento with stops at the excavations along the way. The “binario” (platform) was super crowded when we arrived and we couldn’t find anything that would tell us that it stopped at Herculaneum. We had also read conflicting accounts of the best way to get there and were pretty confused!! One of the express trains came thru and tons of people got on but we made a decision to wait for the next one. Then a smaller train approached and a woman who worked for the station started shouting that this one did NOT go to Pompeii. I asked her if it went to Ercolano and she said yes and motioned for us to get on board. We were so thankful that she had been there as we would probably still be standing on the platform!!!

The trip was about 20 minutes and we hopped off and walked the 1/2 kilometer to the entrance to the ruins. Our first views were exciting as we looked at the places that we would soon explore…..

I was surprised to see the Bay of Naples that opens into the Mediteranian Sea in the background.

This wall is all hardened ash that was cut out during the excavation. This was actually the shoreline prior to the incident but the volcanic eruption filled it in.

There were quite a few restoration projects going on….

….and we watched while this man used a syringe to fill in some of the stones and then to meticulously add bits of concrete to the outside of the rock…..

I watched this woman as she carefully worked to restore the tile in one area. There were so many steps involved…..

We wondered exactly what criteria they use to restore a particular area. We understand when something needs to be worked on so that it doesn’t fall down……

….but what dictates when a tile area is restored????

Speaking of tiles, there were numerous floors that I had to take photos of. The first was this tiled room that was part of a women’s bath house…..

I loved the overall image, but really liked seeing the details in the inner tiles…..

The funny thing about these tiles is that no one wanted to walk on them. We were all skirting around the edges of the tile “carpet”!!

This large tile piece is a great quilt pattern…..

The other interesting thing were the frescoes that were visible in the various houses. A fresco was created when pigment was applied to wet plaster, fixing the pigment to the wall. The designs were often architectural, with large areas of paint and small, intricate details…..

You almost had to stand and look at the frescoes for a few minutes before you would start to see the details…. like the woman in the upper middle of the above photo. There were some areas that were almost perfectly preserved and were covered with glass to further protect them…..

These two walls were in very good shape as well……

I really liked the blue colors that were in these two!!

This table is made of marble and perfectly preserved on the second floor of one of the houses…..

….and these earthenware jugs were some that were excavated as well……

I have always been enamored with the shapes of these vessels!!

In 1980, several hundred bodies were unearthed in caverns that would have been very close to the sea. Apparently many people tried to escape on boats but were killed anyway and I am thinking that these poor souls never even made it to the boat before the heat and ash overtook them……

This room would have been the kitchen for a tavern…..

…and this street would have been crowded with people……

It was fun to walk down the cobblestone streets and wonder who had walked there before you and a bit macabre to wonder where they were going when the ominous cloud of ash started to fall!!

It was also a bit eerie to see Vesuvius in the near background….

….especially with the modern houses of the city of Ercolano even closer to the volcano!!

We spent a good bit of time taking photos of the things that caught our eye. For me that included a lot of windows and “skylines”…….

We had downloaded one of Rick Steve’s guides on our phone and spent a fair bit of time reading from it as we walked along…..

This final shot is basically just an “art” shot, but I really liked the pattern that the collected stones made…..

All in all, we made a great decision to visit Herculaneum rather than Pompeii. Although it is a much smaller archaeological site, there are wonderful opportunities to see the ruins and to imagine the ways in which these people lived. And the biggest plus…..there weren’t many people around so you could really spend time and look to your heart’s content!!

As we left the site, we wanted to have a quick lunch but didn’t really want to go to the first sandwich shop that was just outside the gate, figuring that it was probably really touristy. We realized that three of the restorers were walking in front of us so decided to follow them to the best spot and, of course, they went to that sandwich shop!!! We had a nice lunch, found our train back home, and collapsed on the couch for the rest of the day!!!

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One thought on “Herculaneum here we come…..

  1. Looks like a great choice of place to go. There are so many places to see but we rarely get the opportunity to visit a second time . I enjoyed the photos.

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