Stabiae, today contained in the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia in Italy, was an Ancient Roman town which, along with Pompeii and Herculaneum, was engulfed in lava and ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. In fact, it was during this natural disaster that Pliny the Elder was killed in Stabiae.
Despite originally being discovered in 1749, Stabiae was only completed excavated in 1950, upon which archeologists found the remains of not one but two ancient civilisations. The older of the two civilisations was that of the Oscan people, who lived there between the 7th and 3rd centuries BC. The main remains from this Italian tribe are contained in a necropolis which houses over 300 tombs.
However, the more famous ruins at Stabiae are the Roman villas which were constructed there in around 89 BC when the town became something of a Roman holiday resort. Amongst these are the 11,000 square foot Villa San Marco with its beautiful frescos and mosaics, Villa Arianna – so named for its magnificent fresco of Ariadne being saved by Dionysus – with its underground tunnel and Villa Del Pastore, which was most likely a bath house.
Stabiae is far less well-known than Pompeii, but offers visitors a great tour of authentic Roman ruins in a quieter environment. At present, only some of these villas, not entirely excavated yet, can be visited: Villa San Marco is one of the largest residential Roman villae; Villa Arianna, the most ancient; and the so-called Second Complex which is separated from Villa Arianna by a narrow lane.
Open between 9am and 5.30pm between Tuesday and Sunday, today you can wander the ancient halls of this unmissable well-preserved bustling commercial hub guided by information boards.
Getting to Stabiae
Situated on the Amalfi coast, Stabia is easily reached by car along the SS145 and SS366. Otherwise you can get the number 1 train from Sorrento or Napoli Porta Nolana