vedere a Ercolano

What to see in Herculaneum: guide to the excavations and the archaeological park

She’s the younger sister. But that doesn’t make her less charming. We are talking about Herculaneum, the magical Roman city came down to us after time stopped in 79 AD. because of the Vesuvius who covered her with a casting of 16m high pyroclastic flows. Just like it happened to Pompeii, the more famous sister, but here, if possible, the legacy is even more exciting. First because the city, being smaller, it can be visited even more easily. Second because the things to see in Herculaneum are more: that deadly mud and lava flow even allowed the conservation of two-story houses inside which life has been suddenly blocked.

Even getting there furnishings, furnishings and organic material which allow us today to know a lot about the life of its inhabitants.

What to see in Herculaneum: myth and history

The same inhabitants who boasted that their city had been founded by Hercules – hence the name- even if obviously the mythical hero has nothing to do with it. Probably, it is one Etruscan city conquered a century before Christ by the Romans. Here there was the sea, a mild climate and splendid nature: and it soon became the holiday destination for vips. It is a pity that behind so much beauty there was also a dangerous geology, given that in the 62 AD an earthquake damaged it. And then 17 years later Vesuvius did the rest.
Herculaneum stayed therefore for centuries forgotten and covered by earth until in the 1709 during the excavation of a well, statues and pieces of ancient buildings magically appeared. Needless to say, it was understood that there was a treasure underneath and Charles III of Bourbon – formerly Duke of Parma and then king of Naples He gave the order to dig. He worked until late 1700s and then other centuries of abandonment until 1927. When research resumed with modern methods that still continue today.

We said it before: compared to its more famous sister, Pompeii, Herculaneum has smaller dimensions and for this reason it is possible to visit it even in half a day without being destroyed by this walk through time. And in memory.

The largest house: with the spa

The starting point to go and discover the things to see in Herculaneum is the so-called Hotel housethe largest of Herculaneum and which is located on the edge of the hill with a view of what at the time of the eruption was the city beach. It is one of the first houses excavated in Herculaneum and this justifies the fact that it is quite damaged (the millennia underground they protected it, a few decades outside marked it) but it’s still huge.

It occupies almost 2500 square meters, or an entire city block. The name comes from the fact that having an internal thermal area it was thought to be a hotel with what we would, today, call it a Spa for customers. The dimensions of the columns still present make it clear the richness of the structure it preserves decorations and mosaics as well as a courtyard with fruit trees.

Opposite, on the other side of the road, are the House of Aristides, a sumptuous country villa, and the House of Argos where the peristyle is striking, that is a portico that develops on three sides while the fourth houses the rooms where one dined and spent time stretched out on the triclinium.

see in Herculaneum

Another house to see absolutely is the so-called deer house, a luxurious home that could count on the sea view. But this splendid panorama did not serve his master, a recently freed slave, to save himself. The name derives from the fact that they were found in the garden marble tables and deer statues in addition to paintings that are kept at Archaeological Museum of Naples. A detail: the house was on two floors and the owners lived on the ground floor while the servants lived on the upper floor.

Columns, courtyards and a great view

In front of the Casa dei Cervi, the House of the relief of Telephus: the name comes from a marble relief that tells the story of Telefo, one of the sons of Hercules. It is certainly one of most elegant houses of Herculaneum and was placed in a panoramic position with three superimposed levels embellished with statues. In its large atrium is a marble basin and a colonnade leading to the park, which slopes down to the marina.

During the visit to discover what to see in Herculaneum do not miss the Seat of the Augustales: it is a square building which housed the freedmen they honored, at the time of the eruption lEmperor Augustus. Although at first it was dedicated to Hercules, protector of the city. The columns, arches and splendid frescoes can still be admired. While, cruel detail, the keeper’s body he remained crouched where he was sleeping at the time of the eruption.

At the corner between the Decumanus and the Thistle is located there Samnite house, one of the oldest patrician residences in the city, so much so that it is estimated that at the time of the eruption it had existed for about three centuries. The atrium has a gallery with ionic columns, and throughout the house there is rich stucco and fresco decoration with fantastic motifs. In the center, look up and admire the carved tuff capitals with care and arrived intact up to us.

What to see in Ercolano: discovering the thermal baths

The Romans, as we know, loved a lot the baths and those of Herculaneum we can still admire today thanks to some excavations from the 1930s. They are located on the lower decumanus and as usual separate areas for men and women with a dressing room with niches where you can leave your clothes and then move on to the different spa areas. Depending on the areas then you notice the mosaics on the floors and the most beautiful is in tepidarium where a scene with dolphins and sea animals stands out.

We conclude this summary guide to things to see in Herculaneum with the exploration of the supply usor to those environments that served as shelters for boats and depots. Herculaneum, in fact, at the time of Vesuvius eruption it was right on the sea while now the shore has moved about half a kilometer. During the excavations of 1980 were found about 300 skeletons of inhabitants died while trying to escape.

That they wanted to save themselves is shown that with them the precious goods they brought with them were found, including jewels and coins. The escape route was towards the sea and in fact there is also one here boat of the time. But it didn’t help: the heat and the waves of the tsunami left them no way out. And today, still, she is shocked to see the perfectly preserved skeletons of people who tried to protect their faces from hot wave coming down from the volcano.

How to get to Herculaneum

To get to Herculaneum from Naples with the trains Circumvesuviana you can take two trains that leave from the station in Piazza Garibaldi. You can choose the line that goes from Naples to Sorrento or the one for Torre Annunziata-Poggiomarino. In all cases, get off at the stop Herculaneum excavations.

Using instead the trains of the Italian railways always from Garibaldi Square you have to take the train Naples-Salerno and get off at Portici- Ercolano. From there three bus lines – the 5, 176 and 177 – lead to the excavations.

see in Herculaneum

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