Excavations of Herculaneum: the main things to see in the famous archaeological site
If you are on holiday in Naples or in a nearby location such as the Amalfi Coast, it is absolutely worth organizing a trip to the excavations of Herculaneum – a UNESCO heritage site together with the excavations of Pompeii and the villas of Oplontis – because they represent an incredible testimony of the everyday life in Roman times.
Overwhelmed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, which destroyed Pompeii itself, Herculaneum was in fact involved in a particular conservation phenomenon that allowed the buildings to be preserved well, thus providing a more precise idea of the size of the houses, of the techniques construction of the time and the life of the Romans. Despite being smaller and less monumental than Pompeii, therefore, it represents a significant historical and archaeological destination.
Read on to find out what to see in Herculaneum, the most important points of interest, the times to visit the site and how to get there.
What to see during a trip to the excavations of Herculaneum
Following the eruption of Vesuvius, Herculaneum was first reached by a burning cloud, then it was submerged by a blanket of mud and pyroclastic material up to 20 meters high which, solidifying, allowed the particular conservation of the city.
The history of the excavations begins in 1709, following a first casual discovery during the construction of a well for irrigation. The works, after an initial period of exploration for tunnels in the theater area, began in 1738, but it was only in 1927 that the operations that would have allowed to bring to light much of the area visible to the public today began.
Furthermore, in the 1980s, there was an important discovery. In fact, the skeletons of about 300 people were found: according to historians they would be inhabitants who had fled to the sea, in search of a vain salvation.
The excavations carried out so far have made it possible to bring out about a quarter of the ancient city: many buildings, including the main ones of a public and religious nature, are therefore still submerged. Most of the buildings on the site are civilian homes, to which are added the spa, the gym, the theater. On the website of the archaeological park you can find a list of those currently open to visitors, some of which can only be partially explored. Let’s find out the main ones together.
Among the areas of greatest interest are the Fornici. These are vaulted rooms that overlooked the beach and were harbor shelters and warehouses for boats. It is precisely here that in the eighties of the last century the skeletons of about 300 people were found who had sought refuge in this area, also taking jewels and coins with them: an escape that did not allow them to escape because they would have been killed by the burning cloud. exploded from the volcano.
The well-preserved remains of a boat were also found here.
Another place not to be missed is the Central Baths which, as was typical of the time, had a subdivision between the male and female section.
In the male part, to the west of the dressing room, there was the frigidarium, a room used for cold baths, while to the east there were the tepidarium (room with a warm temperature) and the calidarium (the hot room).
The women’s section featured a waiting room with masonry seats placed along the walls, which led to the changing room that led, here too, to the tepidarium and calidarium.
House of the Relief of Telephus
The name of this building is due to the fact that inside it was found a relief dedicated to the myth of Telephus, son of Hercules (who, according to legend, is the founder of the city). Built in a panoramic position and spread over several floors, it is one of the largest and most sumptuous houses.
Seat of the Augustales
For a freedman (ie a freed slave) becoming an Augustale represented a way to achieve a better social position. Their headquarters, dedicated to the cult of Emperor Augustus, stood near the Forum, the area where the political, commercial and religious life of the city took place. Inside you can admire the wonderful frescoes depicting the entrance of Hercules into Olympus and the struggle of Hercules with Acheloo.
The Samnite House
The Samnite House, dating back to the 2nd century BC, is one of the oldest domus in the city. The current appearance is the result of several changes that have taken place over time that have divided the house: initially, in fact, the latter had a garden which was then sold to the nearby Casa del Gran Portal; moreover, after the earthquake of 62 AD, the upper floor was made independent to be rented, and equipped with an independent entrance.
House of the Wooden Partition
The name is due to the discovery in the house of a sort of folding wooden door (charred following the eruption), which was used to divide the atrium from the tablinum, the owner’s study. The construction dates back to the 1st century BC.
In the entrance there are also the characteristic benches that were used to accommodate the clientes (ie the proteges of a particular family) waiting to be received.
House of the Deers
It is one of the largest houses in the city. Developed on a ground floor reserved for the owners and an upper floor for the servants, it enjoyed a splendid view of the sea. The name derives from the fact that marble statues depicting deer attacked by a pack of dogs were found in the garden.
Organize a trip to the ruins of Herculaneum: park hours and duration of the visit
The excavations of Herculaneum are open all year round, with slightly different hours depending on the period: from 8.30 to 19.30, from 5 May to 14 October 2022, and from 8.30 to 17.00 from 15 October 2022 to 15 March 2023 (the park goes left about half an hour before closing time).
The excavations are not open on Wednesdays, January 1st and December 25th. For more details on timetables and for information on ticket prices, we recommend that you consult the dedicated page of the site.
The duration of the visit is about two or three hours. To get the most out of the tour, as you have to walk, it is also recommended to dress comfortably and wear low-heeled shoes.
How to get to the excavations of Herculaneum?
To get to Herculaneum there are several solutions, as stated on the Municipality website. If you have visited Naples and want to reach the excavations for a trip around the Campania capital, you can use the Circumvesuviana, for example: the archaeological site is located 700 meters from the Circumvesuviana station of Ercolano-Scavi.
Another option is to use the car, a comfortable and safe way to see all the destinations of your interest. If you have organized a holiday in Naples, on the Amalfi Coast or in the neighboring areas it may be useful, in fact, to rent a car: in this way you will have the opportunity to explore far and wide the holiday resort and the nearby areas without stress and time constraints.
If you are interested in this option, you can rely on the convertible car rental service of Sorrento Trips, a local tour operator specializing in car, motorbike and boat rental.
With Sorrento Trips you will have the guarantee of traveling on new vehicles, equipped and equipped with all safety standards. You can also count on a 24-hour assistance service for any need.
Are the distances to be covered limited or do you love traveling on two wheels? In this case, you will have the opportunity to rent a comfortable scooter, choosing it from the many models available.
Having your own vehicle is certainly advantageous and allows you to enjoy your holiday with the utmost freedom and carefree. If the idea intrigues you and you are looking for ideas, why not discover the most beautiful routes to do by car on the Amalfi Coast and the best motorbike itineraries?