Buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, the buildings, homes, and daily lives of the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii, Ercolano, and Oplontis have remained frozen in time, unchanged for 2,000 years. Ercolano was flooded by a river of lava 25m thick, which managed to preserve all of its material objects, including fabrics, food, and wood, albeit in a slightly different form. The most exciting discovery made during the excavations was probably the Villa of the Papyri, whose marble and bronze sculptures are today exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. More than 1,800 scrolls of papyrus containing philosophical writings were also found here, and are now kept in the National Museum of Naples.
Pompeii, in contrast, was buried under a layer of ash and lapilli. Most of the inhabitants, who left the city, died along the coast. The few who stayed hoped to survive by taking refuge in underground cellars but died of suffocation. By injecting plaster into the cavities left by bodies that had been reduced to cinder, it was possible to reproduce the dying figures of these men and women who lived almost 2 thousand years ago. A walk through the streets of Pompeii feels almost like travelling back in time. This city, which was buried under the eruption but miraculously remained almost completely intact when it was rediscovered, still displays not only the most important public buildings, but also the humble shacks of ordinary people. Similarly, near the Forum, Temple of Apollo, and the thermal baths, you will find the butchers, shops, and taverns.
The third Roman city buried by the raging volcano was Oplontis. Here, a villa was found that probably belonged to Poppaea, the second wife of the Roman emperor Nero. Inside, the ancient building boasts sculptures and wonderful frescoes.
The Temple of Jupiter stands on the north side of Pompei's Forum. It dates back to around 150 BC.© Cunaplus / 123RF
The original frescoes in this ancient Roman villa have been preserved.© Alex Popov / 123RF
We don't know the exact theme of the Villa of the Mysteries frescoes but it is probable that it is the Dionysian rites of initiation.© Danilo Ascione / 123RF
There are many patrician villas in Pompei, all witnesses of bygone days.© Giuseppe Fucile / 123RF
For several years now, night tours have been organised during which all of the major monuments are lit up.© Trevor Benbrook / 123RF