Nearby stands the Forum, which once served as the heart of Roman daily life. Here, residents could hear public speeches, attend criminal trials and learn the results of elections. Two thousand years later, many of the buildings and monuments have crumbled, but millions of tourists pile in to see it and imagine what life was like there centuries ago.
And Rome isn’t the only Italian city where these kinds of architectural artifacts still stand. Lonely Planet calls the ruins of the town of Pompeii “one of the world’s most engrossing archaeological experiences.” That’s because the entire cityscape was preserved by the same volcanic ash that destroyed it in 79 A.D.
Pompeii remained hidden under ash and earth until 1594, when an architect named Domenico Fontana attempted to dig a canal. Instead, he found the town’s ruins. Amazingly, excavators eventually discovered the molds of Pompeii’s former residents. They had been buried by volcanic ash, between 13 and 20 feet of the stuff, creating forms of their figures that remained even after their bodies decayed.