Visiting Pompeii: 12 Incredible Pompeii Ruins

June 28, 2023


Pompeii is a vast UNESCO World Heritage excavated archaeological site near the coast of the Bay of Naples. Once a booming and sophisticated Roman port city, in 79 A.D. Pompeii was buried under up to 20 feet of ash and pumice after the catastrophic 2-day, 10-mile-high eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The fine ash and mud preserved the site but asphyxiated its 200,000 residents. Visiting Pompeii reveals excavated ruins of streets, temples dedicated to various gods, shops, houses, frescoes, pottery, and artifacts, giving visitors a glimpse into Roman life at that moment in history.

How Long to Spend?

visiting pompeii

The Pompeii ruins are expansive, so it will depend on how much you want to see and how much time you have. Certainly, a full-day, self-guided tour would be best. However, it is still worth visiting Pompeii on a more limited basis with a pre-booked guided tour of 2 – 4 hours visiting selective sites.

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12 Plaster Casts

visiting pompeii

Those that chose not to flee Pompeii before the eruption were doomed and their corpses were buried by hot ashes raining from the sky.

In 1870, when Guiseppe Fiorelli started excavating Pompeii, he noticed empty spaces around the skeletons where the bodies had decomposed. By pouring liquid plaster into the void, once the plaster hardened, the final moments and positions of many were immortalized.

11 City Walls

visiting pompeii

The city walls of Pompeii were not built by the Romans, but by a local Italic people, an Osco-Samnite population, long before the formal incorporation of the city into the Roman state after the Social War (1st century BC). The walls can be partly seen immediately at the entrances to the archaeological site.

10 House of the Small Fountain

visiting pompeii

The House of the Small Fountain is beautiful, with a large back room, wonderful frescoes, and a stunning mosaic fountain. Almost all of the rooms lead to the central atrium. The innovative sloped roof was duly used to collect rainwater as well as serve as a fountain.

Archeologists believe that the house was owned by a wealthy family.

9 Gladiator Barracks

visiting pompeii

As the name implies, the gladiator barracks were where the gladiators lived and trained for their life-and-death matches at the Amphitheater. Since gladiators were basically slaves, it could be considered a jail where they would be locked away at night.

gladiator barracks

The barracks surround a large square with 24 columns and feature small walls with pictures of hunting scenes.

8 House of the Ancient Hunt

house of the ancient hunt

The House of the Ancient Hunt, dating back to the 2nd century BC, features a typical layout of a Roman house with an entrance, atrium, and tablinum. The Samnite-style structure has large frescoes that are great examples of fourth-style decoration. Two mythological paintings overlooking the garden stand out – one depicts god Apollo and a Nymph, and the other of Diana and the hunter Actaeon who was turned into a stag by the goddess because he had seen her naked while she was bathing.

Because of the limited space, the peristylium at the back is highly irregular. It has only two columns instead of four, and a fresco depicting a mountain landscape where an ancient hunt for wild beasts is in progress for which the house is named.

7 Basilica

basilica courts

Built between 120 BC and 78 BC, the Basilica, located in the southwest corner of the Forum, was the most sumptuous building of the Forum, and housed Pompeii’s law courts as well as used to carry out business and for the administration of justice.

basilica courts

6 Daedalus Statue

male statue

Overlooking the current town of Pompeii below, with the Pompeii ruins to his back, a colossal statue of Daedalus stands sentry over the area. The artwork was created by the late Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj. In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a skillful architect, craftsman, and artist, and was seen as a symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and power. I saw the statue at the end of my guided tour, and I found it to be a very inspirational and apropos finish to visiting Pompeii.

5 Temple of Isis

temple of isis

The Temple of Isis stands pretty well preserved with only the roof having caved in. The shrine was completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 62 AD by an ex-slave who made a fortune.

temple of isis

4 Temple of Jupiter

visiting pompeii

Built in 150 BC, the Temple of Jupiter sits at the northern end of the Forum, a large open space once used as a marketplace. Also known as the Capitolium, it was a place of worship for Jupiter, the Roman ruler of the Gods and protector of Rome.

The inside of the temple housed the main room of the temple, which held the statues of Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno, and only priests were permitted to enter.

3 Teatro Grande

teatro grande

Like most Greek theaters, Teatro Grande (large theatre) was built in the shape of a horseshoe on the slope of a hill and held about 5,000 people. Constructed in the second century BC, performances hosted here were mostly Greek tragedies and comedies.

teatro grande

The cavae (audience seating area), was divided into three sections: the lowermost section, the ima, was reserved for senators, magistrates, and other noble people; the middle section, the media, sat the middle class; the top, the summa, was reserved for the plebeians.

2 Via dell’Abbondanza

via dell'Abbondanza

Stretching for 3000 feet, Via dell’Abbondanza was the ancient main street of ancient Pompeii. It was the longest street in the city and 2,000 years ago was also the liveliest.

I really enjoyed strolling down this fascinating street, imagining what it would have been like to live in its heyday. The elevated stepping stones allowed people to cross the street without stepping into the waste that washed down the thoroughfare.

1 Forum


Just like the Roman Forum, the Forum of Pompeii was used as the center of activity, politics, culture, and commerce. Any significant religious or commercial events would occur here. Built between the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. with a stunning view of Mt. Vesuvius on the horizon, this pedestrian-only town square was the beating heart of the city.

visiting pompeii

The Forum is where you’ll find the city’s major temples, courts, and bathhouses. Just close your eyes and try to imagine the hustle and bustle of daily life that transpired here daily during the height of Pompeii’s glory.

More Pompeii Ruins

Having spent only a couple of hours in Pompeii, we didn’t get to see everything the ancient city has to offer. Some other sites to check out are:

  • The Amphitheater
  • Temple Of Apollo
  • Stabian Baths
  • Lupanar Brothel
  • The Palaestra
  • Villa of the Mysteries
  • Villa Dei Misteri
  • House Of Vettii
  • House Of The Tragic Poet
  • House Of The Faun
  • House of Sallustio

Visiting Pompeii is a must-do when in Naples or Rome.

Most photos by Kary Kern.

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visiting pompeii

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and the southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the new few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.


  1. Comment by Suzanne Fluhr

    Suzanne Fluhr Reply June 28, 2023 at 4:06 pm

    We visited Pompei in 2018 and I wish we had also had time to visit Herculaneum, a nearby town also buried by the eruption. From what I’ve read, the National Archeological Musum in Naples displays many artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum. So much to see. So little time.
    P.S. Was that a mini selfie stick you were holding in one photo?

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply June 29, 2023 at 8:32 am

      I wish we’d had time to visit Herculaneum as well. Yes, that was a mini selfie stick which is also quite useful as a stabilizer or just to get a phone over peoples’ heads without extending. We have graduated on to bigger and better technological equipment though….stay tuned!

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