I tried to fool husband into thinking these were communal toilets. They are not. Apparently it’s like a modern day cafeteria, where food is scooped out of the receptacles.
While Pompeii is undoubtedly on a much grander scale, Herculaneum (located in the town of Ercolano) was preserved extraordinarily well a level beneath the current town. Stunning mosaics remain in place. Herculaneum is particularly famous for the Villa dei Papiri, which unfortunately is closed to visitors (maybe will open in future?). A skeleton of a horse was unearthed in this Villa, and many mosaics and murals remain intact. There is interesting information and artifacts from this villa in the archaeological museum.
There are a few things particularly worth mentioning that can be found at Herculaneum, including a wooden clothing press (with the original wood preserved), windows complete with the iron grills, and original wooden beams in a few of the structures. Some of the baths are incredibly well preserved. What Pompeii has in expansiveness, Herculaneum has in detail. Also found at Herculaneum were multi-story buildings. We spent four or so hours in Herculaneum, walking from villa to villa, reading about the structures, mosaics, statues, and baths.
Again, grab the free site guide book and matching map. Unless you are super interested in specific things, it provides plenty of detail without being overwhelming. You can always look up things that you are interested in later in another book or online, rather than when walking around the site.
While now some distance from the sea, Herculaneum used to be on seafront. At the bottom of the site there are boathouses…a row of arched rooms where boats were stored. A resort town for wealthy Romans, my understanding is that the lack of bodies discovered at Herculaneum could indicate that most were able to leave when Vesuvius started to erupt, possibly by boat. But for those that remained, many retreated to the boathouses as pumice rained down from Vesuvius. Many skeletons were unearthed in these boathouses, as they were killed instantly by the vapor of the pyrosclastic surge.
I’ve been asked if there are people within the site to help you with directions or questions, and I’d generally say…no. We did see a few security guards, but there are not “docents” or the like roaming around. We generally prefer to explore on our own and read to answer our questions, but if you like to walk and have things explained to you—particularly if you have a specific interest—I’d definitely recommend getting a tour guide. They do know the hidden gems; there were a few we overheard that were incredibly engaging and knowledgeable.
Excavation continues at Herculaneum, and it appears that a lot remains unearthed. I wondered how much of the site is actually below the current town of Ercolano. We stopped to eat on the way out of the site in Ercolano, and while certainly not the best food we had, the caprese salad was good and the panini hit the spot.