A visit to the archaeological site of Herculaneum neatly counterbalances the hustle of its larger neighbor, Pompeii. Although close to the heart of busy Ercolano—indeed, in places right under the town—the ancient site seems worlds apart. Like Pompeii, Herculaneum was buried by Vesuvius's eruption in AD 79. Unlike Pompeii, it was submerged in a mass of volcanic mud that sealed and preserved wood and other organic materials including food (at Pompeii, most organic matter rotted away over time). Several villas have inlaid marble floors that evoke the same admiration as the mosaics in Naples's Museo Archeologico. Elsewhere it's possible to gauge how the less privileged lived: more remains of the upper stories than in Pompeii, so you can view the original stairs to the cramped, poorly lighted rooms that gave onto the central courtyard. There's also more of a sense of a small, living community than Pompeii conveys, but because only about the 20% of the town has been excavated, don't expect to find a forum and other public buildings like those offered by Pompeii.
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