On a hot and sunny August afternoon, my husband and I visited the ruins of Pompeii. I was shocked at the sheer size of this now deserted town. We walked around the ruins for 3 hours and still did not see all of the city. Make sure you wear comfy shoes, bring bottled water, and wear plenty of sunscreen.
A little history lesson (hopefully not too boring): This city began to grow in the 6th century B.C. under Etruscan influence, in a fertile region in southern Italy between the sea and natural hill. In 80 B.C., Pompeii tried to resist a Roman invasion, but failed. Rome declared it's authority and made Pompeii her colony. Under the Roman power, the city began to urbanize. The people of Pompeii were highly sophisticated, intelligent, and many were wealthy. The city's landscape was highly organized; street names were engraved in marble on the buildings and are still visible today. They built aqueducts to provide fresh water for drinking and bathing. They also owned businesses such as wool manufacturing from shearing to bleaching and coloring. The city also contained farmers markets, restaurants, temples, courthouses, bathhouses, a surgeon, and an amphitheater. People lived a life of opulence and excess. Currently, Pompeii's buildings display exposed brick, which in itself is beautiful, but prior to Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD, artisans decorated the buildings with marble carvings, mosaics and frescoes.
It is utterly amazing to see this preserved city. I touched grooves in the stone streets where chariot wheels rode by and saw plaster casts of bodies who were trying to flee the volcano's wrath. I peered down on the oldest existing amphitheatre and wondered what it would have been like to be one of the 20,000 people watching a gruesome gladiator fight. Walking away from the amphitheatre Mike and I were able to get a reprieve from the sun and sit under the strategically planted trees in the well manicured park. If you get a chance to visit, I would recommend brushing up on it's history because it can be overwhelming once you are there. (Unfortunately I didn't think about that until after the fact. I did buy a small 5 inch book about Pompeii, only 150 pages, in the train station of Naples & read it on the high-speed train ride to Florence.) Once in Pompeii, we used the headset tour, but they do offer guided group tours as well. Enjoy discovering history!