Pompeii was an important large city in ancient Rome, with a population of about 20,000 during its heyday. The population consisted of about 50% citizens and 50% slaves. Pompeii was a port city as well as a holiday destination due to its close proximity to the sea and thermal springs.
Everything changed in 79AD, when Mount Vesuvius unleashed its wrath on the town, covering it with about 20 feet of volcanic ash. Those people that did not immediately leave perished from toxic gasses, and then the entire city was buried under volcanic ash. As a result of the eruption, Pompeii now sits well inland from the sea coast.
Discovering an ancient city ... in your backyard
Centuries passed after the eruption, and soon a small village was established above the buried city. In the 1700's a farmer (or a group of workers) was digging in the land and discovered a frescoed wall. Excavations began in the 1700's and took place throughout the following century. The ash preserved the city and its deceased inhabitants remarkably well over the millennia. Much of the structural damage was due to the earthquakes that plagued the city before Vesuvius blew its top.
We had about two hours to see the site, which is massive. We therefore felt it prudent to hook up with a tour guide in order to make the most of our limited time. We used Pompeii Walking Tours and our tour guide, Fabio, was great.
POMPEII TIP: If you would like a guided tour, don't wait in the massive line for tickets. Simply find one of the tour guides who will cut the line and buy your tickets for you.
The following is a photo journal of our stroll through ancient Pompeii: