In many ways, Pompeii in the first century AD was very progressive: It had indoor running water, a thriving marketplace, an amphitheatre for entertainment…
And on 23 August, 79 AD, the 20,000 residents of the city went about their lives in pretty much the same way they had for generations.
Then around noon on the following day, Mount Vesuvius, seven kilometres to the south, blew its top. The surrounding area shook with a huge earthquake, the mountain's top split open, and a monstrous cloud was blown up to 30 kilometres above Vesuvius.
The inhabitants of Pompeii were plunged into a frightening darkness and then showered with ash, stones, and pumice.
The mountain remained active for about 20 hours more. In Pompeii, rocks piled up rapidly in the streets, in open spaces and on rooftops. Within five hours, the roofs began to collapse under the weight, killing many of those who had remained indoors.
Survivors fled from upper storey windows – the only exits still passable.
During the night, the second phase of the eruption began. A series of super-hot surges raced down the sides of the volcano at over 100 kilometres per hour. They tore through Pompeii, collapsing the upper floors of buildings and covering everything to a depth of about three metres.
Many people were unable to escape and were killed by noxious gases, intense heat and volcanic debris. Within a day the city fell silent and then vanished.
Pompeii remained largely undisturbed until 1748, when excavators began to discover that much of what the city looked like in 79 AD had been preserved by the ash that had fallen - providing a treasury of information about life in the ancient Roman Empire.
More recently, the discovery of complete buildings along with some of the treasures they contained has revealed even more about the times – especially how the wealthiest citizens lived: from their every-day items and activities, to the beautiful works of art they surrounded themselves with.
Among the most impressive residences found beneath the volcanic ash in Pompeii is the home of Julius Polybius - identified from an inscription on the wall.
This house was relatively large, covering about 700 square meters. It has two entranceways, leading to two separate front hall areas and two distinct parts of the house.
Now it has come to life again, thanks to a long and elaborate process of virtual restoration using award-winning three-dimensional techniques.
In this exceptional exhibition built around the home of Julius Polybius, visitors enter the palatial residence exactly as it was just minutes before the explosion of the volcano and discover the many rooms in full detail, including the exact position of everyday objects.
They then experience its destruction and later its rediscovery. Rare historical images show the residence at those moments, and special presentations reveal what still remains of the house and what has been virtually reconstructed.
• The Exhibition also features a display of genuine and recreated artefacts from Pompeii. The time and the home are brought to life using photographs and artefacts, videos and unique, full-colour digital interactive reconstructions.
Specially selected music and sound and lighting effects complement the exhibits, to create a completely authentic experience and bring the exhibition stunningly to life.