Virtual Tour and Travel Guide
by Ed Prifogle
Featured Link: Book a Tour To Pompeii
|The virtual tour is best viewed using
or a Cable Broadband modem
To view the Virtual Tour, download the following:
Blue Grotto-Capri-click to enlarge
Start your virtual tour of Naples by reading about its history
Then view these wonderful Virtourist photos of modern Naples, Sorrento and Capri.
Watch these panoramic views of Napoli attractions
Using this map of Naples, learn the location of its city attractions
Listen to this classical Neopoiitan music
View these Naples webcam
Read these newspaper and magazines
Listen to these Savvy Traveler audios about Naples and Pompeii
See this Naples Travelago promotional video
POMPEII AND MT VESUVIUS
Study this volcanos article by National Geographic
Check out these panoramic views of Mt.Vesuvius
Look at these Mount Vesuvius webcam views
Look at this educational Pompeii 13 minute movie
View this Pompeii Archaeological Video
Take a Pompeii vIrtual tour
See this NY Times Capri slide show and article.
Watch Italain Radio/TV movies
See this Intrepid Berkeley Traveler movie about Naples, and other Italian cities using Windows Media Player 9.0.
Learn about the Italy World Heritage Sites
Read these 30 visitors reviews about their experience in Naples
Check the current weather
(Fodors Naples Description)
Naples is extraordinary, and it is the Neapolitans who make it so. Is it a sense of doom from living in the shadow of Vesuvius that makes many Neapolitans so volatile, perhaps so seemingly blind to everything but the pain or pleasure of the moment? Poverty and overcrowding are the more likely causes. But whatever the reason, Naples remains the most vibrant city in Italy -- a steaming, bubbling, reverberating minestrone in which each block is a village, every street the setting for a Punch-and-Judy show, and everything seems to be a backdrop for an opera not yet composed. It is said that northern Italians vacation here to remind themselves of the time when Italy was molto italiano -- really Italian.
The area surrounding Naples has a Greco-Roman history that makes the city look like the new kid on the block. The Greeks set out to Hellenize Italy's boot in the 6th and 7th centuries BC by settling here at Cumae. Later, the Romans used the area as one giant playground. Both groups left ruins for modern-day explorers to peruse. The area west of Naples is the Campi Flegrei -- the fields of fire -- alternatively condemned by the ancient Greeks as the entrance to Hades and immortalized as the Elysian Fields, a paradise for the righteous dead. Italy's two major seismic faults intersect here, and the whole area floats freely on a mass of molten lava very close to the surface.
To the east of Naples around the bay lie Pompeii and Herculaneum (Ercolano), the most completely preserved cities of classical antiquity, along with their nemesis, Il Vesuvio. Ash and mud from Vesuvius preserved these towns almost exactly as they were on the day it erupted in AD 79. The ominous, towering profile of the volcano is inseparable from the Bay of Naples area, and the ferocious power it can unleash is so vivid that you may be overwhelmed by the urge to explore the crater itself.
Where to Go and What To Do
Tomb of a civilization, petrified memorial to Vesuvius's eruption on the morn of August 23, AD 79, the Scavi di Pompei is probably the most famous system of excavations anywhere. It's certainly the most accessible and one of the largest. Today Pompeii is choked with both the dust of 25 centuries and more than 2 million visitors every year; only by escaping the hordes and lingering along its silent streets can you truly fall under the site's spell. Come in the late afternoon when the site is nearly deserted and you will understand that the true pleasure of Pompeii is not in the seeing but in the feeling.
To get the most out of Pompeii, rent an audio guide (EUR6 for one, EUR9 for two; you'll need to leave an I.D. card) and opt for one of the three itineraries (2 hours, 4 hours, or 6 hours). If hiring a guide, make sure the guide is registered for an English tour and standing inside the gate; agree beforehand on the length of the tour and the price, and prepare yourself for soundbites of substandard English mixed with dollops of hearsay. For refreshments, the only restaurant inside the site is both overpriced and busy, so it makes sense to bring along water and snacks. If you come so equipped, there are some shady, underused picnic tables outside the Porta di Nola, to the northeast of the site. The archaeological site of Pompeii has its own stop (Pompei-Villa dei Misteri) on the Circumvesuviana line to Sorrento, close to the main entrance at the Porta Marina, which is the best place from which to start a tour. If, like many potential visitors every year, you get the wrong train from Naples (stopping at the other station "Pompei"), all is not lost. There's another entrance to the excavations at the far end of the site, just a seven-minute walk to the Amphitheater. Two buildings within Pompeii -- Terme Suburbane (daily, 10-2) and Casa del Menandro (weekends, 2-4) -- are open for restricted viewing on a first-come, first-served basis. Ask for a free coupon when you purchase your ticket and you will be assigned a visiting time. For information on reaching the other sites nearby (Boscoreale, Oplontis, and Stabiae), ask about transport and access at the helpful information kiosk at Porta Marina. If you intend to visit both Pompeii and Herculaneum within the space of three days, then you should buy the biglietto cumulativo pass, which also includes the above three sites. Here are some of the highlights Pompeii has to offer:
Enter the city through Porta Marina, so called because it was on the seaward side prior to the eruption in AD 79 (the sea would have been accessible from here via a narrow canal). Beyond the Porta Marina and past the Temple of Venus is the Basilica, the law court and the stock exchange of the town. These oblong buildings ending in a semicircular projection (apse) were the model for early Christian churches, which had a nave (central aisle) and two side aisles separated by rows of columns.
The Basilica opens onto the Foro (Forum), with which it shares some elements of its design: a large rectangular area with a colonnade surmounted by a loggia, running along three sides. This served as the political, commercial, and religious center of city life, with the main temples, law courts, and commercial and government buildings grouped around it.
At the far (northern) end of the Forum is the Tempio di Giove (Temple of Jupiter), sacred to the Capitoline triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, with the brewing cone of Vesuvius behind. Little more than the base of this 2nd-century BC temple has been preserved.
On the eastern side of the Forum, fronted by an elegant three-column portico, is the Macellum, the covered meat and fish market dating to Augustan times. Like the ancient Greek agora in Athens, the Forum was a busy shopping area, complete with public officials to apply proper standards of weights and measures.
The Casa del Poeta Tragico (House of the Tragic Poet), opposite the Forum Baths, is a typical middle-class house from the last days of Pompeii. The house owes its name and fame to a mosaic found in the tablinum representing a choregos, or theatrical sponsor, along with, on the walls of the atrium and peristyle, a superb series of pictures, now in the Museo Archeologico in Naples, of mythological subjects like the Sacrifice of Iphigenia.
The Thermopolium Caupona was one of about 90 shops selling hot food and drinks. The structure of this one is fairly typical of those found in Pompeii: easy access from the street, a counter in masonry with built-in dolia (earthenware storage jars) sunk into it, and rudimentary back rooms so that customers could sit and consume on the premises.
The renowned Casa del Fauno (House of the Faun) gets its name from the small bronze statue in the middle of its spacious impluvium. This is both one of the earliest and the most sumptuous private dwellings in Pompeii. The front part of the house is arranged around two atria, behind which is the peristyle with a portico of 28 Ionic columns. On its discovery in 1830, particular attention was focused on the fine mosaic, done in tiny tesserae depicting the Battle of Issus fought between Alexander the Great and the Persian emperor Darius III in 330 BC.
One of the most evocative roads in Pompeii, the Via dei Sepolcri, leads out from the Porta Ercolano and is lined with tombs -- a favorite spot for painters and photographers of the early 20th century. This road leads to the world-famous Villa dei Misteri (Villa of the Mysteries), lying 200 meters (660 ft) outside Pompeii's walls and therefore in theory not part of the ancient town. It contains what some consider the greatest surviving group of paintings from the ancient world, telling the story of a young bride, Ariadne, being initiated into the mysteries of the cult of Dionysus. Bacchus, to give Dionysus his Latin name, was the god of wine, fertility, theater, and other forms of racier entertainment. So he was naturally popular in a town so devoted to the pleasures of the flesh.
The Casa degli Amorini Dorati (House of the Gilded Cupids) is an elegant, well-preserved home with original marble decorations in the garden. The house may well have belonged to the Poppaei family, better known for their family connections with Nero, who married the notorious Poppaea the second time around. Its pictorial decorations express elegant and refined theatrical tastes dating to Nero's time (AD 54-AD 69). The house is named after the cupids engraved in gold leaf that adorn one of the cubicula (bedrooms). Stroll around the peristyle in the garden, which would have been adorned with sculptures, marble tables, and a pool.
On the walls of the well-preserved lupanare (brothel) are scenes of erotic pastimes in which clients could engage. Several of the rooms were on the upper floor, served by an independent staircase, suggesting separate facilities for customers who wanted to keep a lower profile. At ground level, small painted panels above the entrances illustrated the specialty offered by each meretrix (courtesan).
The Terme Stabiane (Stabian Baths) were heated by underground furnaces whose warmth circulated among the stone pillars supporting the floor, rose through flues in the walls, and escaped through chimneys. The water temperature could be set for cold, lukewarm, or hot. Bathers took a lukewarm bath to prepare themselves for the hot room. A tepid bath came next and then a plunge into cold water to tone up the skin. A vigorous massage with oil might be followed by rest, reading, horseplay, or conversation. The Stabian Baths are the most complete in Pompeii and among the oldest baths from Roman times. This was the basic pattern used for the grand imperial baths of antiquity, such as the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, although the latter were built to a massive scale. Like the Forum Baths, these had a palaestra, or porticoed area (note the fine stucco work on the palaestra walls), where athletes could train, play a sphaeristerium (ball game), and then remove dirt and oils from their bodies with a strigil before cooling off in the frigidarium. Most of the Stabian Baths complex is roped off, and access is currently limited to the men's entrance hall, apodyterium (changing room), and palaestra from the entrance on Via dell'Abbondanza. To compensate, there are two cases with plaster casts of bodies in their original agony throes, found nearby during excavations in the 19th century. It was Giuseppe Fiorelli, appointed Professor of Archaeology after Italy's unification in 1860, who invented the ingenious method of pumping liquid plaster into cavities left by the decayed bodies within the hardened deposits of volcanic ash and pumice.
|Where to Go and What
Not far from the Stabian Baths was the theater area on the southern side of town. The Teatro Grande (large theater), originally dating from the 2nd century BC but subsequently restored, had a seating capacity of about 5,000. It was designed to fit into the natural slope of the hill, so that spectacles would be performed against a backdrop of the Mons Lactarius (Lattari Mountains). Little remains of the original cavea (seating area) except for some of the lower tiers, some of the media cavea halfway up, and the framework of the summa cavea (top gallery). Behind the theater lie the gladiators' barracks, though this porticoed area is thought to have also served as a space for the audience to unwind between plays. Of course, with the advent of racier entertainment down in the Amphitheater, this large theater lost much of its pull.
Adjacent to the Teatro Grande is the Odeum, also called Teatrum Tectum (Covered Theater). Built between 80 BC and 75 BC and with a seating capacity of 1,000, the Odeum is a gem of theatrical architecture and was far less heavily restored in antiquity than its predecessor next door. The semicircular cavea was truncated and transformed into an almost square-shape design to facilitate the building of a roof. With theatrical performances often held on hot summer days, ancient Pompeians would have welcomed the shade provided.
The Orto dei Fuggiaschi (Garden of the Fugitives), close to the Nocera gate, contains the lifelike casts of a group of victims overwhelmed by the AD 79 eruption and left in situ. Huddled together close to the wall at the bottom of the garden, the group was overwhelmed a day after the initial eruption not by the rain of lapilli and ash but by the first surge -- a dense cloud of vapor, ash, and other solids that swept down the slopes of the volcano like a boiling avalanche at 40-50 mi per hour.
The Anfiteatro (Amphitheater) was the ultimate in entertainment for local Pompeians and offered a gamut of experiences, but essentially this was for gladiators rather than wild animals. By Roman standards, Pompeii's Amphitheater was quite small (seating capacity: 20,000). Built in about 80 BC, it was oval and divided into three seating areas, like a theater. There were two main entrances -- at the north and south ends -- and a narrow passage on the west, called the Porta Libitinensis, through which the dead were most probably dragged out. A wall painting found in a house near the theater (now in the Naples Museum) depicts the riot in the Amphitheater in AD 59 when several citizens from the nearby town of Nucera were killed. After Nucerian appeals to Nero, shows in the Amphitheater were suspended for 10 years.
Just behind the Amphitheater is the second entrance to Pompeii (at Villa dei Misteri there is only an exit), with the main town square and its 19th-century basilica a short walk to the east. By the Amphitheater is a poorly signposted Percorso Extramurario (Outside the Walls Promenade), a walkway that links the Amphitheater, three of the old city gates, and the Porta Ercolano Necropolis at the northern and eastern sides of the site (within the site fence); the route takes about 30-40 minutes in all. www.pompeiisites.org. COST: EUR10 Pompeii only or the 3-day "biglietto cumulativo" pass for EUR18 covering 5 sites (Pompeii, Herculaneum, Boscoreale, Oplontis, and Stabiae). Nov.-Mar., daily 8:30-5, ticket office closes at 3:30; Apr.-Oct., daily 8:30-7:30, ticket office closes at 6.
Togas, the required Roman attire, were washed at Fullonica Stephani. The cloth was dunked into a tub full of water and chalk, then stomped upon like so many grapes. Once clean, the material was stretched across a wicker cage and exposed to sulfur fumes. The fuller (cleaner) carded it with a long brush, then placed it under a press. The harder the pressing, the whiter and brighter it became. When excavated in 1911, the entrance to the fuller's premises was still shuttered and locked. Behind was a body clutching a bagful of sesterces. Could these have been the last takings of the fullonica? Or had a passerby, carrying his worldly wealth, stopped inside and sought refuge behind the door from the hail of lapilli outside?
Many paintings and mosaics were executed at the Casa del Menandro (House of Menander), a patrician's villa. This impressive residence also had a small complex of private baths, just next to the kitchen to the right of the peristyle. The siting of the baths next to the kitchen quarters was common practice in many of the larger villas, enabling heat from cooking to be exploited for warming the calidarium. The Casa del Menandro is open only on weekends from 2 to 4.
Some of the oldest structures in Pompeii are to be found in the Foro Triangolare (Triangular Forum), west of the theater complex. In the middle of the Forum are the remains -- just a few column capitals in Doric style -- of a temple dating as far back as the 6th century BC, originally dedicated to Hercules, the founder of the city.
The main street running most of the way from the Forum to the Amphitheater was the bustling Via dell'Abbondanza (the name was made up by archaeologists). Shops were by no means restricted to the Forum area, and many were located along this thoroughfare. Shops can easily be distinguished from private houses by their much broader fronts (6-10 ft wide) with wooden shutters for nighttime security. Private houses had narrower -- almost poky -- entrances, thereby reducing exposure at street level to an absolute minimum.
(Worldroom Fast Facts)
Naples International Airport (Capodichino), Naples, Airport code:NAP, The airport is situated 7km (4 miles) northeast of Naples city centre and has good airport facilities. Buses and taxis operate to the city centre. .
Italy, along with Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, forms part of the border-free travel zone subject to the Schengen Agreement. EU passport holders can come and go as they please. Citizens of the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand are among those who may enter Italy as tourists without a visa and stay up to 90 days
euro (EUR); Italian lira (ITL)
Single European currency (Euro): The Euro is now the official currency of 12 EU member states (including Italy). The first Euro coins and notes were introduced in January 2002; the Italian Lira was still in circulation until 28 February 2002, when it was completely replaced by the Euro. Euro (€) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of €2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. The currency of Italy is the Italian Lira (Lit). The Lira comes in coins of Lit1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20; and banknotes of Lit1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, Lit50,000, 100,000.
MasterCard, Diners Club and Visa are widely accepted, as well as Eurocheque cards. Check with your credit or debit card company for merchant acceptability and other facilities that may be available.
A service charge is usually added in restaurants, but it is customary to leave 10%. Taxis round up their fare so a tip is not necessary.
International country code: 39
Telephone Area code: 081
220 volts AC, 50Hz.
Tap water is generally safe to drink. Bottled water is available. The inscription ‘Acqua Non Potabile’ means water is not drinkable. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are considered safe to eat.
Leishmaniasis (cutaneous and visceral), sandfly fever, West Nile virus and typhus, though rare, may occur along the Mediterranean coast. Echinococcosis and brucellosis also occur, although rarely. Rabies is present.
GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 between end March-end September)
Offices: Monday to Friday 8:30a.m. to 12:30p.m. and 3:30p.m. to 7:30p.m. Some Italian firms have two-hour lunch break and finish later, at 6:30 to 7p.m.
Banks: Monday to Friday 8:30a.m. to 1:30p.m. and from 3p.m. to 4:30p.m.
Government: Monday to Friday 8:30a.m. to 1:30p.m. and from 2:30p.m. to 3:30p.m
Retail: Monday to Friday 10a.m. to 6p.m., slightly shorter hours over the weekend.
Jan 1 2003 New Year’s Day.
Jan 6 Epiphany.
Apr 21 Easter Monday.
Apr 25 Liberation Day.
May 1 Labour Day.
Jun 2 Anniversary of the Republic.
Aug 15 Assumption.
Nov 1 All Saints’ Day.
Nov 2 World War I Victory Anniversary Day.
Dec 8 Immaculate Conception.
Dec 25 Christmas Day.
Dec 26 St Stephen’s Day.
The average temperatures are between 25° C (77° F) and 31° C (88° F) in the summer. The autumns are sometimes damp with some rainy days. In the winter the are less rainy days and the temperatures are between 4° C (40° F) and 11° C (52° F), but you should not be surprised if you will get a sunny day with 16° C (61° F) in the middle of Januar.
Italy is a major center of European fashion. Italians are chic. Even people in small towns spend a great deal of money on their wardrobes and dress well at all times.
Dress elegantly but conservatively.
Jackets and ties are required in better restaurants.
Old, torn, dirty clothing are seldom seen and not appreciated.
Men and women dress conservatively and formally for business (men: suits and ties; women: dresses or suits). Women should wear feminine clothing.
Dress casually but well. Some restaurants and hotels are likely to expect a shirt and tie to be worn. For business meetings and formal events, both men and women should wear a smart suit.
GDP Growth Rate
GDP - real growth rate:1.8%
engineering products, chemicals, transport equipment, energy products, minerals and nonferrous metals, textiles and clothing; food, beverages and tobacco
engineering products, textiles and clothing, production machinery, motor vehicles, transport equipment, chemicals; food, beverages and tobacco; minerals and nonferrous metals
Germany, France, UK, Spain, Netherlands, USA
tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear, ceramics
47.06 main telephone lines per 100 inhabitants
Naples lies at the foot of a range of low hills on the west coast of southern Italy. Naples calmly sits a few miles away from the foot of Mt. Vesuvius. Naples lies between Vesuvius and the Phlegrean Fields, and wraps itself around the Bay of Naples. Naples is 105 mi/185 km southeast of Rome.
Italy is situated in Mediterranean Europe, Italy has land frontiers with France in the north-west, Switzerland and Austria in the north and Slovenia in the north-east.
Italian (includes small clusters of German-, French-, and Slovene-Italians in the north and Albanian-Italians and Greek-Italians in the south)
Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area)
85% Roman Catholic, 5% Jewish and Protestant