Famous for its archaeological park, Pompeii has very ancient origins. The famous eruption of Vesuvius on 24 August 79 AD caused the destruction of Pompeii and a very large area around the the Vesuvius volcano. The city was buried by a thick layer of ash and lapilli. Evidence of that calamity has been handed down to us through the archaeological excavations of Pompeii whose remains, buried by the eruption, have been preserved almost intact to this day. The excavations have brought to light a large quantity of highly valuable finds. Already from the end of the 16th century archaeological finds from the ancient city of Pompeii were found. In 1748, during the reign of Charles III of Spain, the first excavation campaigns began in a systematic way with a work that continues today.
To date, the Pompeii excavations represent the third most visited state museum site in Italy, surpassed only by the Pantheon and the Colosseum with the Roman Forum. In addition, the archaeological park of Pompeii has become part of the UNESCO heritage, together with the excavations of Herculaneum and Oplonti.
Rich in monuments and squares, the city attracts millions of tourists every year also for the presence of the Santuario della Beata Vergine del Santo Rosario (Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary), a Basilica that collects thousands of ex-votos and that enjoys a particular veneration by Catholics throughout the world.
The Roman Forum
Entering the archaeological excavations from via Marina, you immediately had the opportunity to see the ancient center of Pompeii. The Forum of Pompeii was the economic, political and religious center of the city. In the center stands the Temple of Apollo, one of the oldest religious buildings in the city. The statues of the deities that were found in the surroundings of the Temple of Apollo have been transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Naples.
The Amphitheater which is located at the end of Via dell’Abbondanza, in the archaeological excavations of Pompeii, and it is the oldest stone construction of its kind that has ever been discovered. Its construction, in fact, dates back to 80 BC. and had a capacity of 20,000 spectators. A peculiarity of the Amphitheater found in the excavations of Pompeii is that the structure had no underground under the arena floor, as instead have the same buildings of the imperial age. The arena was accessed through a gallery. In the upper part, the large holes used to support the coverage of the arena are visible, in order to protect spectators from both hot sun, wind and rain. In this way the shows could take place at any time of the year, without having to worry about the seasons. The amphitheater were divided into three orders, and one of these was undoubtedly reserved for women.
The Sanctuary of Pompeii
The construction of the Sanctuary of Pompeii began on May 8, 1876 thanks to donations from all over the world. Over the centuries it was necessary to expand the Sanctuary because the original structure could no longer contain the large number of faithful who came to venerate the painting of the Virgin. Today the Basilica has three naves: the two minor ones have three altars on each side, and join behind the apse, where there are four semicircular chapels. The central nave culminates in a 57 meters high dome.
A few steps from the cathedral stands the bell tower, imposing in its 5 floors. From its top, with a single glance you can admire Vesuvius, the excavations and the entire Gulf of Naples.
On May 8 and the first Sunday of October, the days when the Supplication to Our Lady of Pompeii takes place, pilgrims come from all over the world to attend this important prayer, also broadcast on radio and TV.
Pompeii is only 13 km from the town of Lettere and can be easily reached in about half an hour by car.