Ercolano, a historic town in the centre of the Gulf of Naples, a favourite destination for tourists worldwide, stretches from the sea to the top of Vesuvius, the much-feared, still active volcano.
Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD
Struck by the earthquake in 62 A.D. and buried by the eruption of 79 AD, together with Pompeii and Stabiae, Ercolano is home to a precious archaeological park, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The origin of its name is linked to an ancient legend, according to which the city was founded by the hero Hercules in 1243 B.C. and was later dominated by the Greeks, the Samnites and the Romans.
Under the Romans, Ercolano became a rich residential centre of the Roman patriciate, who built comfortable dwellings and grand villas to spend their holidays there, thanks to the area’s beauty, the favourable geographic position and the healthy climate. However, the famous eruption of 79 A.D. wiped it out almost entirely, burying it under mud, ash and lapilli. Fortunately, the layer of lava allowed the ancient houses, theatres and temples to be preserved in excellent condition and organic materials, such as wooden furniture, papyrus and textiles, to be found almost intact.
On the ruins of the ancient city, Resina was later built, a toponym it retained until 1969 when it was again Ercolano. You will experience extreme emotion walking through the narrow streets of this city. Suddenly, you will plunge into a magical and mysterious atmosphere and return to the Roman era’s ancient splendour.
Archaeological Park of Herculaneum
Indeed, in the city centre, you will come across the Archaeological Excavations of the ancient buried city, where you can see the ancient domus, splendid monuments, private dwellings, public buildings, temples and sumptuous baths. Many recovered finds have been transported to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. At the same time, in 2008, the Museo Archeologico Virtuale (MAV) was opened, reconstructing Herculaneum before and during the eruption of Vesuvius.
Walking among the ancient ruins, you shouldn’t miss a stop at the Villa of the Papyri, built overhanging the sea and owned by the ancient Pisoni family, so called because of the approximately 1,000 papyri found in the library. This villa, which was only partially discovered, had frescoed rooms. You will have a unique chance to admire original mosaics and, in their current state, 58 bronze and 29 marble statues.
Also notable are the Central Baths, which date back to the second half of the 1st century B.C. They are divided into two sections: a men’s and a women’s section, each with three thermal areas: the frigidarium (cold water), the calidarium (hot water) and the tepidarium, where there is a magnificent black and white mosaic depicting a triton among dolphins.
Ercolano, guardian of a glorious past and unparalleled treasures
Here, numerous skeletons of people who died due to the volcanic eruption were unearthed, wearing gold jewellery and accessories. Among the ancient Domus worthy of a visit is the House of the Deer, so called because of the presence of two statues of deer attacked by dogs, and the House of Neptune and Amphitrite, owned by a wealthy merchant who had adorned it with glass paste mosaics. Finally, the Fornici harbour warehouses were also used as shelters for boats on the beach.
Not only classicism, indeed, moving just a few metres further on, one crosses other historical eras, such as the Vesuvian Villas of the Miglio d’Oro of the Bourbon period, with well-kept gardens, built in the 18th century by the most renowned architects of the time, including Villa Campolieto, designed by architect Luigi Vanvitelli. Also of interest is the approdo della Favorita, part of the monumental complex of the Villa Reale della Favorita to which it was the access from the sea.
A unique oasis of natural, scenic and scientific interest
For ecologists and environmentalists, you can also dive into the calming nature of the Vesuvius National Park, visit the Vesuvius Observatory Museum (the oldest volcanological observatory in the world), and climb the Gran Cono del Vesuvio to explore the crater.
Handicrafts, food and wine and much more…
Regarding craftsmanship, the town is famous for its coral, lava stone and filigree work. At the same time, in terms of food and wine, exquisite is the “Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio DOP red and yellow tomato“, eaten fresh or in the typical hanging form named “al piennolo” or as a preserve in glass, and again, the renowned Vesuvian apricot and among the grape varieties, important is the world-famous Lacryma Christi.
According to legend, “God, recognising a patch of sky removed by Lucifer in the Gulf of Naples, wept, and where the divine tears fell, the grapevine of Lacryma Christi arose“.
Don’t forget shopping in the main streets of the centre, but especially at the Pugliano Market, also known as the Resina Market, where you can get great deals, especially on vintage clothing. In fact, over the years, many of Cinecittà’s costume designers have purchased numerous stage outfits here. An episode of the series Diario di un Cronista by Sergio Zavoli, entitled La tratta degli stracci (which literally means The Rag Trade) is dedicated to this popular market.
Cenando Sotto un Cielo Diverso 2023
In this amazing area, the 15th edition of Cenando Sotto un Cielo Diverso (namely Dining under a different sky), conceived by Alfonsina Longobardi, psychologist, sommelier and food & beverage expert, will be held on 4 July 2023 at Villa Tony in the Zeno Complex, the proceeds of which will be partly used to purchase an aquarium to be placed at the Paediatric Diabetology Department of the Luigi Vanvitelli University Hospital in Naples, and partially to build a play and educational centre for schizophrenic patients.
Promoting the event is the association Tra Cielo e Mare, together with several volunteers who have collaborated over the years in the realisation of the initiative, such as the Cooperativa Sociale SIRIO and 14 pupils from the Istituto Raffaele Viviani of Castellammare di Stabia, who will be cooking side by side with the star chefs.
“This edition of Cenando sotto un Cielo Diverso will be ‘viveressence’, an ode to wellbeing and beauty expressed through a dish, a glass of wine, a perfume, through colours, through a dress – says Alfonsina Longobardi. Furthermore, among the chefs, beautiful girls will be wearing dresses from the Bargy boutique”.
Some of the best-known faces from the world of entertainment have teamed up for the charity event. Actors, cabaret artists, writers, singers and influencers will take the stage at the event, introduced by its historic presenter, Ida Piccolo. Names include: Anna Capasso, Ciro Torlo, Diletta Acanfora, Enzo Fichetti, Francesco Albanese, Gaia Zucchi, Gianluca Zeffiro, Giuseppe Moscarella, Ludo Brusco, Luis Navarro, Massimiliano Cimino, Michele Selillo, Peppe Laurato, Rebus Man, Rico Femiano, Rosa Miranda and Stefano De Clemente. Instead, 150 chefs, pastry chefs, pizza makers, bakers and producers will delight the many patrons of the initiative in Ercolano.