Introduction to Visit to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Mount Vesuvius, by Mouse
To get to Herculaneum and Pompeii (locator and click on Vesuvio) from Rome, you first travel 142 miles southeast to Naples. Herculaneum is only 6.5 miles southeast of Naples, and Pompeii is 14 miles southeast of Herculaneum. If you climb up to the nearby Mt. Vesuvius volcano crater you can see all of Naples and its bay. And, if you know where to look, and if it is a clear day, you are sure to see both Pompeii and Herculaneum. The crater is at the point of a pretty small triangle, with Herculaneum just southwest of it and Pompeii a little farther southwest. You can see the layout in this satellite image taken from the Google Earth web site. The Bay of Naples is the dark area in the lower left corner. Naples spreads out of the image above and left of Herculaneum.
Both Herculaneum and Pompeii were buried by volcanic ash and mud by an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on the 24th and 25th of August, 79 AD. Pompeii was largely burned by the hot ash, while Herculaneum was covered in mud. Consequently, Herculaneum is better preserved. The top floors of Pompeii's houses were destroyed by the fires, but Herculaneum's top floors were not. And the mud preserved more things inside the buildings in Herculaneum, for example, the sliding doors and hemp rope you can see in the third page of  photos of Herculaneum pages.
We stayed in a campground just across the street from an entrance to the ruins of Pompeii.  We took a train to visit Herculaneum.  When we arrived at the train station in Herculaneum, there were white vans in front with guides offering to take us to the Mt. Vesuvius crater for a fee.  We don't remember exactly how much, but it was affordable.  We exchanged glances and said, "Let's do it!"  Others who got off the train also had the same reaction, and off we went.
The promise of taking us to the crater was a bit exaggerated.  In fact, the vans took us past vast areas of lava and large cinder blocks, to an area beyond which cars could not go.  This area had the ticket office and a gift shop, and it turned out to be way below the crater. Looking up you could see at least two switchback trails leading upwards.  We could not know that there were several other and much longer switchbacks going up beyond the ones we could see. A map that was off to the side, above where the tickets were on sale, shows the climb, from 1010 meters at the ticket office to 1170 meters at the crater--about 500 vertical feet stretched over what seemed like a path at least a mile long. (We include a photo of that map.) It took the two of us forever, with many stops to rest along the way--standing up, no benches--but we made it.  Finally we looked down into the vast, blackened crater at the summit, took photos, and started down again. (We include a photo of us at the summit, just to prove we made it.) The truth be told, we did not see much of interest in the crater itself.  The views from there of Naples Bay were of considerably more interest.   If this volcano erupts again with the force of the 79 AD eruption, more than a million people will be in great danger of losing their lives.  Take a look at that Google satellite image, and one of the photos of the vista from the summit, and we think that you will agree with this assessment.
Take a look at the photos of the climb and the crater, read our letter, and then go on to Pompeii, and Herculaneum.
Satellite Image
Pompeii Slideshow
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Google Map
Intrepid Traveler
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Photos of Climb to Vesuvious crater   Satellite image   Letter  
Pompeii Slideshow Herculaneum  Slideshow
Herculaneum Slideshow