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Amid the expatriate-infused langour of the Amalfi Coast's major areas--Sorrento, Capri, Positano, and Ravello--it's easy to do nothing more than sunbathe, eat, drink, stare at the beautiful coastline, and careen about on a Vespa (although it is advisable not to do that in that order). It can be easy to forget or overlook the amazing archaeological ruins that exist in the area, places that will enrich your experience and make you gape at the mere fact that these splendid buildings and mosaics have survived for thousands of years.
It goes without saying, but let's say it anyway: Pompeii is the most significant, most famous, and most fascinating archaeological site in modern times. Even if you're not an archaeology or history buff, it is an absolute must see: It is a city frozen in time since 79 A.D. Even cooler are the tours of Pompeii at Night, where this abandoned town seems downright spooky.
Frequently overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, Pompeii, Herculaneum suffered the same fate on that disastrous day in 79 A.D. The advantage of this site over Pompeii is that it is smaller--its grid layout also makes easier to navigate--and less overwhelming than Pompeii. Doing Herculaneum in a day seems more feasible.
If you're craving a change of pace and would like to see some Greek ruins instead of Roman ones, Paestum is the place to go--there are three awesome Greek temples definitely worth a look. (And there is also a Roman forum, ampitheatre, and some impressive city walls). As with Pompeii, there are evening tours offered, which can provide a break from tourist crowds.
This little-known town is primed to become the next big tourist site. Only three miles from Pompeii, Stabiae was a summer resort town for the wealthiest of Romans, but sadly suffered the same fate as Pompeii when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. The town has three incredible villas worth seeing: The Villa del Petraro, the Villa Carmiano, and the Villa San Marco.
Again, another small town and archaeological site that has been effortlessly overshadowed by Pompeii. The site of Oplontis is famed for its beautiful and impressive wall paintings. Confusingly, the Villa Oplontis is also sometimes known as Villa di Poppea (who was Nero's second wife).
A hotel sits (which, unfortunately, is also named Villa Romana) just a stone's throw from Minori's biggest and best known archaeological site. Its free admission and off-the-beaten-path location make it a perfect stop on a day trip through this eastern part of the coast.