Herculaneum: welcome to the “posh” Pompeii
Herculaneum and Pompeii share the sad fate of have been destroyed by the eruption of the Mount Vesuvius volcano.
But the two cities didn’t share the same kind of eruption: Pompeii was submerged by the lava flow; Herculaneum was hit by a terrible heatwave (500 °C / 932 °F: enough to kill people on the spot just for the terrible temperature), ashes and toxic gases.
The stratification of the ashes left Herculaneum’s building well preserved, and from the quality of the buildings it is understood that Herculaneum was a city richer than Pompeii.
Excavations in Herculaneum started in 1738 and they went on in different stages until the XX Century: many buildings are still to be unburied and investigated, while many archeological finds are now in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. Excavations in 1981 and in the ’90s found hundreds of skeletons of people who couldn’t escape the heat of the eruption.
The most important, and currently visitable, buildings are the House of Argus – one of the most elegant manors – and the Villa of the Papyri, named after the scrolls in papyrus paper found in the XVIII Century excavations.
Herculaneum had also an important complex of Thermae – the public Roman baths – sort of spa with all the contemporary comforts, and the important college of the Augustales, the priests of the imperial cult.
After Herculaneum: back to north or going on south?
After visiting the “posh” Pompeii you can go back to Naples, or otherwise to go further, reaching Pompeii (less than 20 kilometers) or the beautiful Costiera Amalfitana (Amalfi coast), the coastline between Naples and Salerno, in front of the Capri island: back in Naples you can reach Capri as well by ferry.