Staying in the Naples or Sorrento area during a trip to Italy? The region is home to two fascinating archaeological sites in Herculaneum and Pompeii. But if you only have one day to spare, which should you visit?
We visited both last year and although it’s amazing to see such a famous site as Pompeii, for me Herculaneum has the edge. Read on to find out why!
Herculaneum was, like Pompeii, destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. It was rediscovered in the 18th century when some of the site close to the sea was excavated. Some of the ruins including the forum remain under the modern-day town of Ercolano. Being further away from the eruption site, Herculaneum is better preserved than Pompeii with mosaics and colourful murals still on view. Even the second storeys of some of the houses still exist, whilst at Pompeii it’s just the outer walls of the ground floor that remain.
Herculaneum (at least the excavated part) has a relatively small footprint compared to Pompeii, which allows you to get a much better idea of how the town looked and felt during its heyday. It also means you can come across inns, villas and shrines in close proximity, giving you a better idea of how people lived in Roman times.
I found Herculaneum one of the best preserved Roman sites I’ve been to (apart from the Forum in Rome) and it was easy to imagine what life must have been like in a small Roman town. You can even see the small harbour where boats were tied up – apparently remains were found here of those trying to escape the eruption of Vesuvius by boat before the clouds of volcanic dust descended.
How to visit Herculaneum
It costs 11 euro to visit Herculaneum – you can also buy a combined ticket which offers access to Pompeii as well.
To visit Herculaneum, take the Circumvesuviana train from Naples or Sorrento to Ercolano. From there it’s an easy 5 minute walk downhill to Herculaneum. You can also arrange half-day trips to Vesuvius from the tour agencies by the train station.