The Story Behind Pompeii

Buried for centuries under a thick layer of volcanic ash and stone, this doomed Roman town is well preserved and fascinating to explore.

Travelsphere ambassador Penny Smith in Pompeii


Before the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, Pompeii was a popular holiday resort frequented by the wealthy citizens of Rome. Its streets were lined with elegant homes and people would meet in open-air plazas and gather at the vast amphitheatre.

A large cloud of ash drifted south

The events of that fateful day were witnessed and recorded by author Pliny the Younger. His account tells us that after the eruption, a large cloud of ash drifted south, plunging the area into darkness. Stones and debris fell on Pompeii, before several waves of hot gas and rock flowed down the sides of the mountain, engulfing everything in their path.

Pompeii lay hidden until 1594

After the eruption, Pompeii lay hidden until 1594, when it was discovered by an architect digging a canal. It was another 150 years or so before proper excavation of the site began, and as explorers started to search for ancient artefacts, they found that the city was almost intact. The ash had helped to preserve it.

Around two-thirds of the site has been recovered

Today, almost three centuries on, excavation work continues. Around two-thirds of the original site has been uncovered and efforts are now focussed on restoring what has been excavated, preserving it for generations to come.

Pompeii Top 5


The amphitheatre

This really is a must-see site. It’s the oldest surviving amphitheatre on earth and is thought to have held up to 20,000 people.

The forum

The forum was once the economic, political and religious heart of Pompeii. It is where public debates and religious events would have taken place.

The Stabian Baths

This is the oldest of the town’s three bathing complexes. It consists of a separate bathing section for men and women, a swimming pool and courtyard.

Villa of the Mysteries

This villa houses some of Pompeii’s most important frescoes, including a large painting on a vivid red background. It depicts a young women, thought to be going through some kind of initiation ritual.

The lupanar

Pompeii’s brothel is one of its most visited sites. Inside, the walls of the small bedrooms are adorned with explicit paintings.