Postcards from Italy

A Blast in the Past: Tips for Visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum

Pompeii and Herculaneum are two of the most spectacular ancient Roman sites in the world, both buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and frozen in time for the past 2,000 years by the ash, mud, and other debris that sealed and protected the ruins from the ravages of time. Excavations began during the 18th century, and still today new marvels are routinely uncovered at both sites, including colorful frescoes, intricate mosaics, and unique architectural details or artifacts that provide a window into the ancient world.

Pompei with Vesuvius(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Whether or not you’re a Roman history buff, these two archaeological sites offer a fascinating glimpse into western history and civilization. That said, with their vast size and wealth of artistic, archaeological, and anthropological treasures, Pompeii and Herculaneum can be daunting to explore on your own. Here are some tips for visiting these two ancient cities to ensure you get the most from your time there without succumbing to the heat, crowds, labyrinthine layout, and general information overload.

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Italy’s Most Famous Coffee Houses

What most of the English-speaking world knows as a coffee house, Italians know as “il bar”. This Italian institution is a fundamental part of the daily routine, from a quick stop in the morning for the standard Italian breakfast of a “cappuccino e cornetto” and a bracing espresso - known simply as “un caffè”, or a coffee - mid-afternoon, to a leisurely pre-dinner cocktail or glass of wine with finger food, or “un aperitivo”.

Caffé Espresso miscela Florian
(Photo by Richard, enjoy my life! via Flickr)

Generally, Italian bars are rather humble affairs, varying from a tiny space with a standing bar and a few scattered tables to a sprawling hybrid pastry shop/newspaper stand/tobacco shop that also serves as a neighborhood community center. That said, there are more august historic coffee shops scattered across the country that hark back to the age when artists and intellectuals would gather to exchange ideas and inspiration. If you’re looking to linger over an espresso and cappuccino in elegant, often frescoed, rooms, here are a few of the most famous landmark cafés in Italy.

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