Oplontis and beyond, a destination infused in history

2 February 2024
Written by
Teresa Cremona

Read our pocket guide

The name Oplontis is only found in the medieval copy of an ancient map depicting the existing roads in Italy during the Roman Empire. In that map, the toponym Oplontis indicates some structures located between Pompeii and Herculaneum. Among the Vesuvian archaeological sites buried following the dramatic eruption in 79 AD, Oplontis is probably the one that provides the most significant monumental evidence of a peripheral urban center under the administrative jurisdiction of the nearby Pompeii (approximately 3 km away). The Roman-era buildings, identified during the Bourbon period, include the luxurious residential complex known as the Villa of Poppea, a UNESCO-listed property (currently the only accessible monument) still not entirely unearthed. Originally built in the 1st century BC, it was expanded in the early imperial era. The villa, adorned with exceptional artistic testimonies, consists of 100 rooms, featuring reception halls, porticoes, a 17m by 62m swimming pool, private baths, kitchens, and quarters for slaves and freedmen. The gardens of the villa boast plants that have sprouted from seeds discovered during excavation work. The villa’s ownership, possibly belonging to the second wife of Emperor Nero, Poppea Sabina, is suggested by an inscription on an amphora mentioning Sucundus, a slave or freedman of Poppea Sabina. At the time of the eruption, the building was likely mostly uninhabited due to restoration work. In contrast, the Villa Rustica attributed to L. Crassius Tertius (not open to the public), an agricultural estate cultivating vegetables, olives, and vines, revealed numerous bodies of victims, along with a considerable quantity of gold and silver coins and finely crafted jewellery.

What to See

The Museo Archeologico di Stabia Libero D’Orsi opened in 2020 at the Bourbon Quisisana Palace in Castellammare di Stabia, in the Quisisana fraction of the municipality. An extraordinary journey to discover frescoes, stuccoes, sculptures, terracottas, tableware, bronze, and iron objects, prestigious artefacts from the Stabian territory, some never before exhibited in Italy. WEBSITE

What to do

Visit the Secret Cabinet at the MANN Archaeological Museum of Naples. The collection displays around 250 erotic-themed artefacts from the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In the past, the collection has been censored multiple times, separated from the rest of the exhibited works, and even bricked up. Finally opened to the public in 2000, with a complete rearrangement illustrating various aspects of sexuality in the ancient world. WEBSITE

Where to Eat

Savour avant-garde cuisine at the 2-Michelin-star restaurant Piazzetta Milu. The tasting menu is constantly evolving (you cannot order à la carte), offering an emotional and playful journey that celebrates the Mediterranean, its raw materials, and the intertwined cultures within it. An intelligent and creative proposal by Chef Maicol Izzo. WEBSITE

Where to Sleep

With only six rooms, Laqua by the Sea in Meta di Sorrento, created by Antonino Cannavacciulo and his wife Cinzia, surprises, amazes, and captivates. Immersed in blue with a 180° view of the Gulf of Sorrento, the panorama is “aerial” – boundless sea on the horizon, the characteristic high cliff on the left, curving into a large bay, with the beach club and harbour below. WEBSITE

Stay up to date. Sign up to our newsletter