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Pompeii is impressive under any circumstances, but it comes alive if you do some preparation before your visit.
First, read up—there are piles of good books on the subject, including these engaging, jargon-free histories: Pompeii: The Day a City Died by Robert Etienne, Pompeii: Public and Private Life by Paul Zanker, and The Lost World of Pompeii by Colin Amery. For accurate historical information woven into the pages of a thriller, pick up Pompeii: A Novel by Robert Harris.
Second, be sure to visit the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, where most of the finest art from Pompeii now resides. The museum is a remarkable treasure trove—it's a rewarding place to visit even if Pompeii isn't in your plans.
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