We spent a day trip traveling from Rome to Naples to explore the ancient ruins of Pompeii. There is a fast train from Rome to Naples, so the travel time was only a couple of hours there and back. Starting at the Naples Archeological Museum is an ideal orientation to the story of Pompeii and the lifestyle over 2,000 years ago. The museum displays frescos, mosaics and artifacts saved from the massive excavation of the city, including the famous Alexander Mosaic.
The city itself has four entrances, so the sheer scope is a surprise to first timers. Stone walls and streets greeted us upon entry, and soon enough we were peering into homes that are so well intact, it's hard to imagine they are over 2,000 years old! We crossed over large stone crosswalks that Romans built to stay above the street level to avoid treading on animal droppings from horses and carriages. We saw temples and bath houses, urns and plaster casts, and pipes for plumbing water. The advancements of this ancient civilization were right before our very eyes. Our daughter, who had just completed the 6th grade curriculum for ancient civilizations, was amazed by the experience.
My favorite room was the Villa of Mysteries, the ancient Roman Villa with colorful, well preserved murals that hints at a cryptic and magical story. Rick Steves has a great audio tour of Pompeii to help you figure it out!