Whether you’re a history-buff or not, there is nothing more impressive (or humbling) than seeing some of ancient Italy’s finest ruins and historical sites. Here are our top five to visit next time you’re enjoying Italy.
Pompeii & Herculaneum
Both worth visiting because of how immaculately they’ve been conserved, these towns show what remains after both fell victim to the volcanic eruption of the infamous Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Both are incredibly well preserved and with a bit of imagination offer incredible insight into the lives of its residents—not only are the buildings and streets unchanged as far as modern developments go, but the volcanic casts of some (unlucky) residents are visible too. If you have to choose between one, we’d recommend Herculaneum. Pompeii is the more popular (and obvious) choice, but Herculaneum is less-crowded when it comes to tours and features ruins that are better preserved than those of Pompeii. Herculaneum was the more extravagant of the two cities and as a result you can see how much bigger the houses were (and imagine what it must have been like to be one of the “Rich and Famous” back then). However, Pompeii is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site, so if you can… try and squeeze in both.
Necropoli della Banditaccia, Cerveteri
Another UNESCO World Heritage site, Necropoli della Banditaccia is a sight to behold. More than two kilometres long, this structure features monumental tombs that are partly cut into the rock and partly built over. These tombs existed purely for the wealthy and were intended to show that “even after death” they could still enjoy luxury; as a result tombs were found filled with precious metals, expensive tableware, illustrated vases, bronzes, imported material items and of course weapons and jewellry (to name just a few of the artifacts). As if that’s not crazy enough, the interior of many of the tombs mimicked the actual interior of many of the houses that the deceased had occupied while they were alive.
The Colosseum, Rome
What would a list of “Ancient Sites” be without the Colosseum? Just because it might seem “done before”, doesn’t mean you shouldn't do it. This is one of the most epic historical sites in the world and has proven to be the inspiration for many a myth, legend, tv show and movie! Imagine more than fifty thousand Roman spectators filling the stadium to watch anything from gladiator show-downs to mock sea battles. The structure’s ability to host so many people speaks to the integrity of its design and Roman architecture. All these years later and The Colosseum is still recognised as the largest amphitheatre in the world.
Villa Adriana, Tivoli
Originally built for the extravagant Emperor Hadrian, the Villa Adriana spanned an area of over 200 acres. Intended only as a summer retreat (imagine the Emperor’s permanent quarters), this Villa is a reflection of what the “Original Elite” resembled in 118 AD. Home to swimming pools, sculptures, gardens and even a theatre, there was nothing “low-key” or humble about this estate. Some buildings have been reconstructed and all the important landmarks are labelled. Despite falling into ruin in the sixteenth century, historians and archaeologists recognised the importance of this site and have gone through great lengths to restore it and give travellers a glimpse into yet another wealthy Roman from the past.
Ostia Antica, Ostia
Ideal for at least a half day of touring, this is another brilliant example of the daily life of our Roman ancestors. Well-preserved but not as busy as other ancient towns, you can roam the walkways and find yourself transported to the fourth century (that’s right… BC). Originally built as a military stronghold, the town would go on to become a flourishing city (only to be flooded centuries later). The site was excavated in the 1930s and revealed the town you can now saunter through today (detailed mosaics and structurally sound architecture and all). A visit to Ostia Antica is nothing short of mind-blowing given that you will suddenly have to confront not only how long people have been around for, but also how long we’ve been advancing for!
There you have it, five ancient sites to tickle even the least History-orientated traveller amongst us. If you’d like to find yourself roaming Ancient Rome, get in touch with one of our Travel Experts today and get started on bringing together the journey of a lifetime.