I visited Pompeii in the middle of Europe's deadly heat wave, and I couldn't believe how many tourists braved the sweltering temperatures

Tom Murray / Business InsiderTourists in Pompeii shelter in the shade.
  • Much of Europe is on red alert as temperatures are soaring beyond 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) this week.
  • I’m in southern Italy this week, which is generally considered to be one of the hottest places in Europe anyway.
  • On Thursday, I took a three-hour walking tour of Pompeii in 100-degree heat.
  • While the ancient city was fascinating to explore, it was hard to focus on anything other than finding the next bit of shade.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In case you missed it, Europe is really, really hot right now.

Temperatures in parts of the continent have breached 40 degrees Celsius (or 104 Fahrenheit) this week as a wave of hot air from the Sahara covers the continent.


Read more:
The heat wave in Europe is so intense that the weather map of France looks like a screaming heat skull of death

I have the good fortune of being in the south of Italy, generally considered to be one of the hottest places in Europe anyway, during this heatwave.

To add to my enjoyment of the sweltering temperatures, I made the sage decision to take a three-hour walking tour of the ancient city of Pompeii, near Naples on Thursday.

Naples is among sixteen cities in Italy to be put on red alert this week as temperatures are predicted to hit 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit) in some areas.

In Rome, the Civil Protection Department was handing out water near tourist hotspots like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

Two people in Italy have already died from heatstroke, The Local reported on Thursday. Both the casualties were elderly men – one reportedly homeless and found dead in a park in Milan, and another found in the countryside in Le Marche after going for a walk.

Many Italians will remember the European heat wave of 2003, which killed 18,000 people in Italy alone, according to The Local.

Nevertheless, in the interest of journalism, I decided to brave the trip to Italy’s second most visited historical site (after the Colosseum) – but I have no idea what anyone else was doing there.

Not only was I not alone wandering around the exposed ruins of the ancient civilisation, but Pompeii was absolutely packed.

This was the view at the entrance…

Tourists in PompeiiTom Murray / Business Insider

… and this photo was taken in Pompeii’s forum (the main square).

Pompeii tourists heat waveTom Murray / Business Insider

Our guide told us that during peak season, Pompeii regularly welcomes more than 10,000 tourists per day, and the heat hadn’t seemed to deter anyone.

The thing about ancient ruins, especially those destroyed by one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in European history, is that there are very few tall structures to provide any shade.

At noon, when the sun was directly overhead, any shady spots became very sparse indeed, and many tourists huddled around one small wall or monument for relief.

Tourists in Pompeii during heatwaveTom Murray / Business Insider

The prudent tourists also carried umbrellas around with them.

Tourists with umbrellas in PompeiiTom Murray / Business Insider

But the heat didn’t stop some travellers from posing for the perfect snap.

Tourists in PompeiiTom Murray / Business InsiderInstagram knows no temperature.

At 2 p.m., my BBC weather app told me that the temperature in Pompeii was 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) but that the humidity and lack of wind meant that it felt more like 39 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit).

Every inch of my body was producing sweat – even the backs of my hands, which I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before.

Mercifully, there were some water fountains in the ruins where tourists splashed water on their faces and queued to refill their depleted water supplies.

Water in PompeiiTom Murray / Business Insider

Thoroughly interesting though our guide was, everyone was wilted, sunburnt, and dripping with sweat by the end of the tour.

The government in France has urged people to spend time in cool places like supermarkets and cinemas, and though this might not seem like the best use of your holiday time, I certainly would have opted for an indoor or pool-based activity if I was on vacation.

If I return to the ancient ruins of Pompeii, I’ll be doing so in the cool confines of winter.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.