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Aussiemaid Jan 27th, 2012 04:43 PM

Herculaneum or Pompeii?
We have been to Pompeii twice and needless to say were amazed. We will now be travelling to that area with a friend who has not been to Italy before. We would like to see Herculaneum, the Amalfi Coast and Positano, but don't want to short change our friend. Are Pompeii and Herculaneum similar? We are active seniors arriving on a cruise ship, and would like to book a private tour. We know each of these areas deserve at least a couple of days - or weeks-, but want to make the most of our limited time. Would love some advice. Thanks in advance.

CUFFLNX Jan 27th, 2012 06:19 PM

The cause and effect are completely different for the two cities. P got covered with hot ash and most everything burned; H got covered with hot mud and a lot simply got scorched. There is much more quality wise to see at H and doable in an hour or two while P deserves a day but there is a lot of repetition. Although P has the trappings of a large city while h is mostly residential, at least what has been uncovered.

Sooo, having seen P go to H!

And, if you have not been to Positano on the Amalfi coast, do not miss it.

kja Jan 27th, 2012 07:19 PM

> Are Pompeii and Herculaneum similar?

Perhaps to those who have no other experience of Roman ruins.

But as CUFFLNX notes, they were ruined by different causes, and so the outcome is different. For example, because Pompeii was covered by hot ash and burned, there is almost nothing of wood left there, but some woodwork in Herculaneum survived, and that means that structural details that were supported by wood - such as upper stories that extended further into the street than the ground-level portion - remain in H., but not in P. (at least from what I read and saw).

And I believe they were different before Vesuvius erupted: H. was a "resort" or at least a place inhabited by rather wealthy people. P. was more of a working class city - or at least, much of it was.

P. is much more extensive and has (I thought) a wider array of different types of ruins (baths and arenas and temples and homes and, of course, the stunning Villa dei Misteri). Smaller H. held a few different kinds of sites, but not as many. I might have been better able to appreciate the distinctions among Roman villas at H., but that could also be because I saw it 2nd. And even though I'm sure one could spend days at both, I think most people feel ready to move on from H. after a few hours, but are more likely to spend a full day at P.

I think many more people know about P. than H., so you might want to make sure your friend has some good information about both. I can imagine that your decision might be different if s/he says "I now know I hope someday to visit both P. and H." than if s/he says "I now hope to visit H. someday, but I still have a life-long dream to see P."

I'm sure you've also considered the possibility of going separate ways for that one day's shore excursion.

Hope that helps!

Kristina Jan 27th, 2012 09:21 PM

They are very different. I've been to both (Pompeii twice too), most recently Herculaneum in October. I really enjoyed Herculaneum because it is smaller and more accessible than Pompeii which can really be overwhelming. There were far fewer tourists there.
If it's important to your friend to tick a box to say they've been to Pompeii, then you should go. It's incredible any way you look at it. But if your friend won't mind, go to Herculaneum since it will be new for all of you.
I recently wrote about Herculaneum on my blog, with lots of photos. Maybe it will help you decide:

A_Brit_In_Ischia Jan 28th, 2012 05:59 AM

Have a look and decide for yourself...

Pompei, which you know...

... and Herculaneum:

There's a great little newsreel clip of excavation and restoration work in progress, from the 1930s, here:

(He doesn't say "Messina" but "Resina" - the former name of modern Ercolano!)


basingstoke2 Jan 28th, 2012 06:30 AM

The OP reminds me of the time some 13 years ago when I took the train with my son out to see Pompeii on Christmas day. Naive me, it was closed. Disappointed, we walked back to the train station where we lucked into the ticket seller who had a good command of English. He told us that because of the holiday, there would not be a train back to Naples for quite some time but offered to drive us back to Naples when he finished his shift in about 20 minutes. On the way back he said that locals preferred visiting Herculaneum and that it was an easy trip from Naples on public bus. He pointed out where to get the bus on the way to the hotel. Following his advice we went to H the next day. We have since visited P as well and I can see why locals prefer H. Both make for interesting trips but for us, P is, well, ruins. H is intimate and like a ghost town - walking around the mostly well preserved building we could get a better feeling of how life was then than we did at P.

Either way though, you can't go wrong. If you go to P, beware of tour guides who hang around the parking area, quote a low price and then charge more, e.g., "no, I didn't say 16Euro, I said 60. There is a lot of that going on and I know several people who have been burned.

kja Jan 28th, 2012 10:51 PM

Great info - Thanks, basingstoke2!

Aussiemaid Jan 29th, 2012 09:49 AM

Thank you all for taking time to respond with so much interesting, knowledgeable and helpful advice. How did people figure this out before computers?

PalenQ Jan 29th, 2012 11:16 AM

Having been to both twice I have to say that Ercolo is no Pompeii - in no no way so evocative and romantic in its own way - I remember some excavations in a pit - but still interesting but much smaller and not as remarkable IMO.

Michael Jan 29th, 2012 11:50 AM

The two sites are on the same train line. Go to Herculaneum while your friend continues on to Pompeii. Or take a morning tour up Vesuvius and then visit Herculaneum. Meet the friend back at your base for the evening meal.

PalenQ Jan 30th, 2012 11:30 AM

Indeed I enjoyed the ascent of Mt Vesuvius more than either Ercolo or Pompeii, though I loved them as well.

basingstoke2 Jan 30th, 2012 11:40 AM

I agree with Pal that the climb up Mt Vesuvius is special. It is on a path that of course gets steep at times. There is often a person renting walking sticks at the bottom- a good investment of a euro or to IMO

PalenQ Jan 30th, 2012 11:44 AM

The only problem I had was I had old worn-out running shoes on that were about shredded to bits by the sliding volcanic rocks going up! Two steps forward, one sliding back - have good footwear. I actually could peer over the edge and see volcanic activity - not sure that is possible now.

zeppole Jan 30th, 2012 12:36 PM

Can't your friends read up on both places and let you know how they feel? You should be able to present the offer to them in a way that doesn't tip the scales. Reassure them this is their day.

I would want to see the layout of a real Roman city, with the forum, the stadium, etc. Pompeii is a classic layout. The suburb of Ercolanum is fascinating for its everyday details, but for that I prefer Ostia Antica. Any chance you are going to Rome as well?

But I honestly feel this should be their call. If they say they don't care, then go where you want to go.

adelheid Jul 3rd, 2013 11:41 AM

bookmarking for future reference, going there soon. :)

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