A Virtual Tour of Pompeii

presented by The Rock Doctor

Click here for background Pink Floyd music , in honor of the DVD release of the 2003 director's cut of Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii (1972 ).

In the Spring of 2006, I was priviledged to take a personal excursion to Italy that included my pilgramage to Pompeii, an archeological excavation of an ancient Roman town laid waste by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.  The Pompeii site  is much larger than I had ever imagined, measuring about 0.75 kilometers x 1.25 kilometers, as this Google Earth link shows:

Google Earth view of Pompeii

If you don't have Google Earth....GET IT!!!  However some computers and/or web connections are too slow to handle Google Earth, so at the bottom of the page, I provide the satellite / airphoto views I'm discussing.  The ancient city wall  outlines an oval shaped city.   Both the maps below and the images show that about 1/3 of the site has yet to be unearthed, and there were archeologists working when I was there!  It might be hard to identify the city among the modern city of Pompeii.  It helps if you:

zoom on the Pompeii Stadium on the city's eastern end using Google Earth

The tourist map of Pompeii at the first resolution below gives you the overall layout of Pompeii.  The same map is then shown at a higher resolution in order to find the numbered items on the map that correspond to my photos. 

Tourist map of Pompeii

Now, before getting on the ground with the photography, remember this whole town was buried in volcanic ash by a pyroclastic flow (nuee ardente) from the Plinian (as described by Pliny the Younger) eruption of  Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.  Mt. Vesuvius is north-northwest of the Pompeii.  It looms in the background as you look down Via Stabiana, or from the main town square, or when looking back from the overlook of the Necropoli in the city's southeast corner.   So...

Here's a  Google Earth view of  the Mount Vesuivius area, centered on the Bay of Naples directly south of Mount Vesuvius, and directly west of Pompeii, with Naples to the northwest, Sorrento (where Mrs. Conclusion of Monty Python fame goes for a fortnight after burying her cat) on a peninsula to the southwest, and Pompeii to the south-southeast of Mt. Vesuvius.

My kids love to zoom onto Mt. Vesuvius' crater.  Then again, so do I.  The view from the Summit of Mt. Vesuvius is breathtaking.  Once there, your view is to the north.  Use the "rotate right" button on the right side to spin about the summit counter-clockwise to the northwest where you can see Naples and the Bay of Naples.  Keep spinning and you see the open Mediterranean Sea to the west.  Keep spinning and you see the mountains behind Sorrento to the southwest.  Stop when you reach the view to the south-southeast.  This is the direction the blast went that buried Pompeii.  While facing this way, it's kinda neat to imagine that you are a piece of volcanic ash, and see how you would blast to Pompeii by clicking on this link to Pompeii (same as above) and letting Google Earth fly you there.  Click here to come back to the summit view facing north (or continue rotating until facing north).  Once facing north again, use Google Earth's tilt-up button to look down the north slope of Mt. Vesuvius into the valley with a ridge on the opposite side.  The south-facing slope (facing toward you) of the ridge on the opposite side of the valley is the wall of a caldera, a fault-bounded, down-dropped basin that is the remains of a collapsed volcano or magma chamber.  The north-facing slope of the ridge opposite the ridge crest (facing away from you) is the remaining part of the flank of Mt. Somma, a much larger volcano that predated the relatively modern Mt. Vesuvius.  Mt. Vesuvius is a stratovolcano that sits in a caldera, the remains of the much larger Mt. Somma stratovolcano that began collapsing with the Pomici di Base eruption 18,300 years ago.  For details of the geology and eruptive history of Mt. Somma / Mt. Vesuvius, visit the official website of the Vesuvius Observatory.   While peering into the caldera valley, you can see  the remains of a  flow  (pyroclastic?, lava?, lahar?) that ran down the side of Mt. Vesuvius and was then diverted to the west by the caldera wall.  The caldera wall may afford Naples some degree of protection from future pyroclastic flows coming down the slopes of  Mt. Vesuvius, diverting them to Portici, Herculaneum (Ercolano), and Torre del Greco down the coast.  However, the whole region is heavily populated.

Click here to get an aerial view of the diverted flow inside the caldera.  Also notice the road leading to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius.  The road leads to the Vesuvius Observatory south of the crater rim , this view toward the south (toward Pompeii).  Tilting down a little from the aerial lava flow view,  this view from the northwest (aerially from Naples) shows the complete caldera structure.  Various profiles of this structure can be found in my Naples to Pompeii train ride photos.

My Photographs and Movies of Pompeii

First, how about getting there.  You probably will find Pompeii's official site very helpful for directions, as well as information on the site and its history in general:


I landed in Rome on an art history excursion heading north, so I stole a day and went south to Naples and on to Pompeii.  I traveled from Rome to Naples by Itali I then caught the Naples metro train system to Pompeii, which runs along the coast from Naples northwest of Mt. Vesuvius to Pompeii southeast of Mt. Vesuvius.   As a result, you get great profile views of  Mt. Vesuvius as you go.

The Naples to Pompeii train ride views of Mt. Vesuvius.

The first view out the train window shows the profile as seen from Naples to the northwest.  If you take the last Google Earth view of the complete caldera structure and flatten it, you see this same profile in Google Earth.  The train went from Naples in the northwest along the coast west, southwest, and south of Mt. Vesuvius.  Similarily, compare the successive train window views to these Google Earth views:

Vesuvius profile from west
Vesuvius profile from southwest (flatten this one with tilt)
Vesuvius profile from south

Mt. Vesuvius stands alone in the southern profiles, obscuring the caldera wall of Mt. Somma.
A view from the southeast shows the caldera wall on the northeast side of the mountain.  This is similar to ...

the profile view of Mt. Vesuvius from Pompeii

The Pompeii tourist map below is the same as above, but shown at a higher resolution.  These two resolutions will help you navigate Pompeii and find the numbered items for the remainder of the photos I have to present:


Pompeii map zoomed