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Pompei, Province of Napoli, Campania

Pompei is world-famous for the ruins of the Roman city destroyed during a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
The volcano buried the city under many feet of ash and it was lost for 1,600 years before its accidental rediscovery. Since then, the excavations has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. Today, it is one of Italy's leading tourist attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Info

  • Population: about 25,000 inhabitants in 2017
  • Zip/postal code: 80045 Pompei and Messigno, 80040 Pompei Scavi
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 081
  • Demonym: pompeiani
  • Patron Saint: Beata Vergine del Rosario, celebrated on 8 May
  • Frazioni & Localities: Chiesa della Giuliana, Fontanelle, Fossavalle, Mariconda, Messigno, Parrelle, Pompei Scavi, Ponte Izzo, Ponte Nuovo, Ponte Persica, Treponti.

How to reach it

  • By road: Pompeii is near the A3 Napoli-Salerno motorway with three exits: Pompeii Ovest, Castellammare di Stabia, Pompeii Est - Scafati
  • Bt train: there are 3 railway lines stopping at Pompeii: Naples-Poggiomarino and Torre Annunziata-Sorrento of the former Circumvesuviana network, and Naples-Salerno.

History - Antiquity

The town was founded around the 6th century BC by the Oscans, a people of central Italy, the ancestors of the Roman family called "gens pompeia", and was a port used by Greek and Phoenician sailors. In the 5th century BC, the Samnites conquered it together with the rest of Campania.

Pompeii took part in the Samnite war against Rome, in 89 BC was besieged by Sulla, and in 80 BC was forced to surrender and became a Roman colony with the name of "Colonia Cornelia Veneria Pompeianorum". It became an important transit hub for goods arriving by sea and had to be sent toward Rome or Southern Italy along the nearby Appian Road.

In early August 79 AD, springs and wells dried up, small earthquakes started taking place from 20 August, becoming more frequent over the next four days, but the warnings were not recognised; on the afternoon of August 24 a catastrophic eruption of the volcano started. The eruption devastated the region, burying Pompeii and other centers.

The only surviving reliable eyewitness account of the event was recorded by Pliny the Younger in two letters to historian Tacitus. From his uncle's house in Misenum, approximately 35 km from the volcano, Pliny was able to describe in detail all the stages of the event. His uncle Pliny the Elder, who had already taken several trips to investigate the phenomenon and rescue people trapped at the foot of the volcano, died in his attempt. Thick layers of ash covered two towns located at the base of the mountain, and eventually their names and locations were forgotten until the 18th century.

History - the Middle Ages

Some Byzantine finds testify to the existence of a small settlement even in the Middle Ages; in this period the inhabitants were concentrated in the locality Civiltà Giuliana, to the north of the ancient city and in a higher position, due to the marshes near the river Sarno. Subsequently the Sarno was diverted from the Prince of Scafati, and this caused the death of almost all the inhabitants of the valley. Some centuries later, the Bourbons then built some hydraulic works and the river mouth was completely reclaimed.

History - Modern Times

From the 15th century until 1928, the valley of Pompeii was part of the municipality of Torre Annunziata and shares its history. These sites have since been excavated to reveal many intact buildings and wall paintings; they had actually been found in 1599 by an architect named Fontana, who was digging a new course for the river Sarno, but it took more than 150 years before a serious campaign was started to unearth them.

From 1805 to 1810 it was called Gioacchinopoli, in honor of the sovereign Gioacchino Murat. Modern Pompeii rose after the construction of the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary of Pompeii, consecrated in 1891. A prominent figure in the construction of the Shrine was Bartolo Longo, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980; also hospices for the children of prisoners are due to him.

The municipality was established in 1928, and included the entire territory of the archaeological excavations and the sanctuary, formerly part of the municipality of Torre Annunziata. The remaining territory was obtained by the municipalities of Scafati, Boscoreale, Gragnano and Castellammare di Stabia.

What to see

  • The archeological site of ancient Pompeii, easily reachable from Naples and surroundings by trains and buses. Herculaneum was rediscovered in 1738, and Pompeii in 1748. The Forum, the baths, many houses, and some villas remained surprisingly well preserved. A hotel (of 1,000 square meters) was found a short distance from the town; it is now nicknamed the "Grand Hotel Murecine". Pompeii is the only ancient town of which the whole topographic structure is known precisely as it was, its streets are straight and laid out in a grid in the purest Roman tradition, paved with polygonal stones, and have houses and shops on both sides of the street. During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer were found that contained human remains. Giuseppe Fiorelli had the idea of filling the empty spaces with plaster, obtaining highly accurate forms of the doomed Pompeiani who failed to escape, in their last moment of life.
  • The Shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary, one of the most important and visited Marian shrines in Italy. The history of the sanctuary is linked to that of the blessed Bartolo Longo, its founder, and of Countess Marianna de Fusco (wife of Count Albenzio de Fusco), with whom he shared a life dedicated to the service of the most needy. The sanctuary was built thanks to the offerings of the faithful from all over the world. Its construction began on May 8, 1876 by collecting the offer of one cent a month. In 1902 the Ciccodicola family of Arpino donated to the sanctuary of Pompeii two precious relics, a blood-drenched thorn, said to come from the crown of Jesus, and a piece of wood from the holy cross. Now a Pontifical Basilica full of ex voto (donations "for grace received"), the Shrine preserves a 17th-century canvas of the school of Luca Giordano, depicting the Madonna of Pompeii.

Where to stay