Classically educated travelers from northern Europe cherished the opportunity to visit Italy's ancient sites. Tourists flocked to Naples in order to visit the nearby Roman towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii, both destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in the first century (and rediscovered in 1709 and 1748 respectively). The sixth- and fifth-century BC Greek temples at Paestum, south of Salerno, were also rediscovered in the mid-eighteenth century. At the time the most accessible examples of ancient Greek architecture, they, too, attracted adventurous travelers.
In eighteenth-century Rome, no visitor with an interest in antiquity failed to call at the villa of Cardinal Alessandro Albani (1692–1779), who had amassed the most important collection of antique sculpture outside of the Vatican. Travelers could acquire prints—visual mementoes—depicting ancient Roman sites by artists such as Piranesi. Official excavation of the Roman Forum began in 1809 under Napoleon, and in the mid-nineteenth century, the site was documented in the new medium of photography.
European archaeologists also began exploring the ancient ruins of Greece, Egypt, and the Middle East in the nineteenth century. The excavations fired the imaginations of tourists, scholars, and artists, who were eager to learn more about the ancient civilizations that were considered the foundation of Western culture.