The National Archaeological Museum in Naples (half day)
The eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 buried the town of Pompeii, a flourishing commercial centre with 20,000 inhabitants, under a deep mantle of pebbles, mud and ash. In the 17th century some of its remains were discovered by chance, and in 1754 the first systematic excavations were begun here and at Herculaneum.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, excavations were conducted that brought to light most of the ancient city dwellings. Many of the objects discovered in these excavations are conserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
Paestum (full day)
Greek colonists from Sybaris founded this city in the sixth century BC, calling it Poseidonia. The Lucanians, an indigenous Italic people, took it in the fourth century BC.
They ruled until 273 BC, when the city was captured by the Romans. Deserted after its sack by Muslim raiders in AD871, the site's remains were discovered in the 18th century. It is rightly known for its three Doric temples and its city walls of travertine blocks.
Entrance to the museum is also included. The museum contains important funerary paintings found in numerous tombs, the most famous of these being the Tomb of the Diver.
Phlegraean Fields (full day)
To the west of Naples lie the Phlegraean Fields, an area in which history, myth and mystery blend in a fickle landscape dominated by volcanic activity which has resulted in numerous fumaroles and craters of steaming mud.
Here also is an unparalleled concentration of Roman villas. The town of Pozzuoli is one of the most fascinating. It was an important port in Roman times and excavations in the Rione Terra are revealing the intact subterranean preserved remains of this city.
Close to the town lies the Solfatara, a crater of boiling lava and steaming mud from which geysers of pressurised water erupt at temperatures reaching 160ºC.
The grandiose Roman ruins of Baia, both on land and under the sea, are redolent of ancient splendour and of a licentious lifestyle that provoked the wrath of Seneca.
The 15th-century Aragonese castle serves as a background to the Phlegraean Fields Archaeological Museum. Here are to be seen the extensive finds from Baia, Miseno
These include the Shrine of Augustals from Miseno, the Nymphaeum of Punta Epitaffio (a reconstructed banqueting hall coated in marble and decorated with fabulous statuary) and a number of statues from the excavations at Pozzuoli.
Pompeii (full day)
The Roman town of Pompeii was in an area already familiar with large earthquakes - the nearby volcano was Vesuvius. From around the year AD65 Pompeii had been experiencing a number of minor tremors. On 23 August AD79 the town was hit by a volcanic eruption.
The stark eyewitness account of Pliny the Younger together with the dramatic archaeological finds provide an historical snapshot of the sudden death of a busy, prosperous Roman city. The shock waves of that catastrophic event still reverberate almost 2000 years later.
Although originally found in 1599, it was another 150 years before the ruins of the town were unearthed. Visitors have since been fascinated by the imposing public buildings such as the forum, the temples, thermal baths, theatres and amphitheatres; by the variety of houses and shops and by the unique wall paintings, mosaics and statues.
Herculaneum and Villa Oplontis (full day)
Herculaneum was a smaller town close to the city of Pompeii; its main industry was fishing. The town was destroyed, together with Pompeii and Stabiae, by the eruption of AD79.
It was buried under nearly 18 metres of hot mud. When the mud cooled, it set nearly as hard as concrete, about 15 to 18 metres deep, which made excavation difficult but preserved many fragile items. Early excavations uncovered numerous artefacts, including paintings and furniture.
Later work has uncovered the palaestra (sports ground) and a vast central swimming pool.
Oplontis is the name given to a series of archaeological finds which stood on the outskirts of Pompeii. They include a residential villa, known as the ‘Villa of Poppea’.
It is thought to be a residence of Poppea Sabina, the Emperor Nero’s second wife, who was murdered on Nero’s orders.
The superb frescoes of this large suburban villa give a fascinating insight into the opulent lifestyle of a rich family of the Early Roman Empire.