Everyone has heard of Pompeii, in fact it gets millions of visitors a year. There’s another site that’s part of the same UNESCO listing, closer to Naples in fact. Oddly Pompeii gets the crowds while Herculaneum, or Ercolano in Italian, is delightfully crush-free. Both towns suffered the same fate in the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius but somehow only one of them is mobbed on a daily basis. Everyone locally we spoke to said “oh Pompeii’s not so good, Ercolano is where it’s at” and the reasoning seemed pretty sound. Herculaneum was a rich town, Pompeii was poor. By comparison the houses and artefacts of Herculaneum are considerably more grand. Admittedly there are very few bodies to be found in Herculaneum, unlike Pompeii due to the different effects of the volcano’s eruption.
Pompeii was buried under 4 metres of ash whereas Herculaneum was buried under 20 metres of mud, ash and other pyroclastic material (lava flows to you and me) meaning that wooden objects such as roof tops, building beams, beds, doors, and even food were preserved, in marked contrast to Pompeii.
In short, if you’re in Naples and want to see a town that was obliterated by the eruption of Vesuvius, avoid the crowds and head to Herculaneum. It’s quicker to get there too.