When you think of cities covered by Vesuvius eruption back a couple of thousands of years ago almost everybody you ask will say it is Pompeii. But it wasn’t just Pompeii which was covered by the eruption – another town called Herculaneum was also covered by ashes in the days following the eruption. The city is a bit smaller than Pompeii but it is also a very interesting place to go and visit. And thanks to the fame of Pompeii the crowds will head down there and you will be able to explore the old town up here in relative peace and quiet.
The old city of Herculaneum is easily visited from Naples where you can take the local train to the Ercolano Scavi station and just walk the short distance to the ancient town or you can just drive in and park at a nearby parking lot. The old town of Herculaneum was a smaller town compared to the large regional center of Pompeii so the town of Herculaneum doesn’t have the same monumental buildings like the big theater and amphitheater. The people of Herculaneum had to go to nearby Pompeii to have the leisure of a larger city.
The old town of Herculaneum was covered by less ash than Pompeii which has made the excavation easier than the same work in Pompeii. But even today part of the ancient town of Herculaneum is buried under the ground since the modern day city of Ercolano is located partly on top of the ancient remains and you don’t really want to tell hundreds of people they have to vacate their home so you can do excavations of the ancient town.
When you walk through the old town of Herculaneum you can go inside many of the different old villas and enjoy the remains of the old houses. There are some which are actually stunning with some amazing frescoes still intact till this day. Walking around and popping inside the different old villas of the city is a real pleasure.
When you have finished the walk through the old villas you should go down a little bit to a somewhat disturbing sight. Down below at what used to be the water front of old Herculaneum is the bodies of some of the people who didn’t make it out of the city in time and perished in the poisonous gasses coming down from the volcano. The bodies are not down at the water since the coastline actually moved out quite a bit in the aftermath of the eruption of the volcano.
There isn’t a huge distance between Herculaneum and Pompeii so you can go and visit both places in a day either by car or by the local train which will connect the two places. You will need a at least a couple of hours at both locations if you want to explore them properly and the local train is pretty slow – so you should aim at an early start if you want to do both in a day. I would recommend going for both places – but if pressed I would probably prefer Herculaneum – I just like the fact it is less crowded by tourist and the old town is wonderful to go around and explore.