We're doing the Best of Venice, Florence, & Rome in 10 Days in May, 2008. We are staying in Rome another 2 days. Which ruins are the best to see -- we can only do one? Are there any affordable tour companies we should use, or should we go on our own by train? OR, should we just go to Ostia Antica?
Both are doable as a long day trip from Rome (meaning one or the other) I's about two hours by train to Naples and then maybe half an hour more to Herculaneum or 45 minutes to Pompeii. And then you have to return. If you decide to allocate a day to see the ruins, I'd see Pompeii.
If you take the eurostar train from Rome to Naples, you will be in Naples in one hour approx. (main train stations both ways). From Naples, you can take the regional train (www.vesuviana.it) line to Sorrento and get off in Pompeii or Herculaneum. Herculaneum is much closer form Naples and Pompeii is an extra 15 min. so 30 min to Herculamenum by train from Naples, plus 15 to Pompeii. If you have never seen any of those, they are both outstanding, I would arrange a guided tour to both from Naples.Pompeii is the most famous one, but Herculaneum is outstanding. Let me know if I can help you in any other way. Best Regards,
I have been to Ostia Antica, Pompeii, and Herculaneum. They are all fantastic. Herculaneum is much, much smaller than the other two, and you could probably see it on the same day trip as Pompeii. If you go to Pompeii, hire Gaetano Manfredi as your guide, his contact information in in Rick's book.
Also, if you go to Pompeii, I recommend that you order or rent the Discovery Channel dvd on Pompeii, it is not very expensive. A good fictional account of the eruption is Robert Harris's Pompeii.
We went to Birmingham this weekend to see the Pompeii exhibit there. I don't know where else in North America it will be exhibited, but if it is anywhere near where you live it is fascinating and well worth traveling to see, especially if you are planning a trip to Pompeii. We have never been to the museum in Naples so it was our first time to see the artifacts recovered from Pompeii.
We did Herculaneum instead of Pompeii when we were there in 2003. We really enjoyed it and found that it was not overwhelming as I've heard Pompeii can be. It can easily be done in 3 hours. I suggest combining it the same day with the Archaeological Museum in Naples. (Train to Naples - see the Museum. Train to Herculaneum, then back.)
As one website puts it:
The size of Herculaneum is considerably smaller than Pompeii, once housing a population just one-fifth of its neighbouring city. But as an urban archaeological park, Herculaneum houses superior examples of ancient Roman architecture and artwork hidden under a nondescript, suburban block.
Herculaneum's remaining structures are also in a much better condition due to the volcanic mud that engulfed the city, as opposed to the volcanic ash that covered Pompeii.
And yet the tourist buses drive past the modest front gates of Herculaneum heading for Pompeii.
Or save it for your next trip and just enjoy Ostia this time.
FWIW, I just used Google Earth to compare the size of these three sites: Herculaneum, Ostia Antica and Pompeii.
Herculaneum is by far the tiniest of the three, being about 0.2 miles by 0.15 miles (or 167 yard by 235 yards), so it's the rough equivalent of three football fields (if I'm doing my math right).
Ostia is larger at 1/4 mile by 3/4 mile.
Pompeii is two times bigger than that, at 1/2 mile by 3/4 mile.
The two main advantages of Ostia (if you're in Rome) are its proximity to Rome (duh) and the fact that it's nowhere near as crowded with tourists as Pompeii, from what I've heard. One of my classmates in my Italian class said that they had the whole place almost to themselves when they were there. It was peaceful and relaxing and very beautiful.