Ercolano rests on top of the ruins of one of the oldest cities known to man. It’s rich history and proximity to Mt. Vesuvius makes it one of our favorite sights to visit for travelers coming to Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
Ercolano is sometimes referred to as “Little Pompeii”. While the archeological site is indeed much smaller, it also easier to include into a busy day exploring the area. Even just an hour or two spent here will bring ancient Roman history to life. From our perspective, if you have to choose between the two, we recommend taking the road less traveled and visit Ercolano.
From Riches to Ruins
Primitively, the town that provided the foundation for modern day Ercolano was called Herculaneum. After it was resettled it was given the name Resina, however in 1969 it was changed to its current title of Ercolano to reflect it’s long-standing history atop the ruins of Herculaneum. Legends say this town was founded by Hercules himself and was once a beautiful, thriving city with elegant villas and impressive architecture. When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., Herculaneum, similar to Pompeii, was overcome by volcanic material and eventually mudslides that completely overtook the area and buried these cities for centuries until it was excavated in the 1700’s. Since then, many incredible preserved artifacts, homes and buildings have been uncovered from this site and in 1997 was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Incredible, Ancient Landmarks
Whether you are visiting Ercolano to take in the ruins of civilizations preserved in time or to take in the other features this city has to offer, this city has so many incredible sights to see. Notably, the archaeological sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii are on the top of many traveler’s must see lists, and rightfully so. These ruins are truly like traveling back in time and seeing firsthand the craftsmanship and detail of a society that was entirely decimated. When exploring the ruins of Herculaneum, don’t miss the Hall of Augustals, the elegant Thermal Baths or the House of the Wooden Partition, which as been amazingly preserved. Similarly, venture over to Mt. Vesuvius National Park and see the massive crater that lies where the destructive volcano once stood. This National Park is one of the smallest in the world, however it is one of the most well known thanks to it’s history.
Basilica, Tavern + Markets
If you’re looking to take in what the city of Ercolano itself has to offer, there are many options to choose from. From the street market of Pugliano and taverns to the Basilica of Santa Maria a Pugliano, there is much to be seen and experienced. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. Flip flops of sandals should be avoided. Similarly, a visit to the MAV, a virtual archaeological museum, provides an in-depth look at the life of the citizens of Herculaneum and their rise and fall.
All in all, a visit to Ercolano and the ruins of Herculaneum will give you a unique look into a civilization preserved in time and the amazing archaeological artifacts that withstood the destruction of a powerful volcanic eruption.
Inside Europe Travel Tip
Best time to visit is right when Ercolano opens at 8:30 am; especially in the hot summer months. Alternatively, we recommend to visit later in the day, but make sure to check for last-entry times as they vary by season. You can already purchase tickets in advance, too — via the website. As of right now, the official website is only in Italian, but your google browser can help with the translation. Or, check out the website for Campania Arte Card, especially if you have more time to explore.
Last, but not least, we recommend hiring a local guide to ensure you get the most out of the experience. For our travelers, iNSIDE EUROPE handles all those logistics so that you can make the most of your time exploring.