They come in droves, busloads of tourists shepherded down through modern streets, shops and stalls, past souvenir stands and hordes of local guides offering insight and spectacle. From all across the world they come to the Italian region of Campania, to walk the cobbles of ancient streets, peer at frescoes, marvel at sculptures, and visit the remnants of historic villas, bath-houses, and even brothels. In 2003, it was estimated these international visitors contributed some $35 million dollars to the Italian economy. A feature of the Grand Tour, an educational rite of passage for wealthy travelers from the mid-1600s to the mid-1800s, Pompeii has long been a popular destination for tourists; in 2008, an estimated 2.5 million tourists visited it.
The type of tourists also changed over time. In AD 79, the year Vesuvius erupted, Pompeii was actually the equivalent of a resort town for wealthy Romans. Over 1500 years later, it was only the wealthy elite who could afford to travel, trekking through Italy to examine culture, art, and the roots of Western civilization. They sought exposure to the relics of classical antiquity while deepening language skills, broadening aristocratic connections, commissioning paintings, and generally mingling with the higher social classes of the Continent. In more contemporary times, increases in the technology of transportation allowed the movement of people from multiple social classes, scales of wealth and cultural backgrounds. The style of traveler has altered, but the attractions of Pompeii have not.