Any visit to Naples and the surrounding area would not be complete without spending some time in Pompeii. This immensely popular attraction has massive historical importance and is just as fascinating as the guidebooks and tourist tales make it sound.
However, it’s not always straightforward to plan a visit like this, especially if you have never been to this part of Italy before. So, we’ve put together some handy hints and tips in the form of some dos and don’ts that will help you get the most out of your trip.
Do Use The Circumvesuviana Train
There are many different options when visiting Pompeii from Naples, including taxis, public buses and private tours that tend to charge quite a bit for the privilege of a ‘door-to-door’ service. However, after initially feeling apprehensive about using it, we found the local Circumvesuviana train to be ideal.
We had read stories about the timetable being unreliable, the carriages being cramped with few seats, and pickpocketing being a major issue, but we didn’t experience any of this. It’s a very basic train as it’s used by Neapolitans to go about their daily business (rather than swathes of tourists exploring the area), but as long as you use your common sense, you’ll be fine. It’s very inexpensive and, when you arrive in Pompeii, you’ll be just metres from the entrance.
A few things to remember though:
- There are two Circumvesuviana stations in Naples – be sure to get on at Porta Nolana (where the service starts) and then it will be much easier to get a seat
- Keep your eyes on the information screens as platform announcements can be hard to understand. Look out for trains travelling to Sorrento, these will stop at Pompeii
- There are two stations in Pompeii, so be sure you get off at Pompei Scavi - Villa dei Misteri
- Just like in the UK, there are slow and fast trains. Check the timetable and catch an express service that doesn’t stop at all of the smaller stations
Do Arrive Early
The best chance you have of avoiding the queue (and getting the most from your day) is to arrive early. Even before the gates have opened, queues will start to form and if you arrive after 10am you may well find yourself waiting quite a while to get in. If you do find long lines when you arrive, try one of the other entrances that are not usually as popular as the main gate.
Tickets are available to buy online but prices are usually inflated. Some are part of a tour from Naples or Rome, whilst others simply offer you the chance to ‘skip the line’. If you’re travelling during peak season (June-August), it may be worth purchasing these in advance, but outside of this period, you should be fine if you arrive early enough.
Opening times are:
April - October 8.30 - 19.30 (from 18.00 exit only)
November - March 8.30 - 17.30 (from 15.30 exit only)
Don’t Expect To See Everything
Pompeii is such a vast site that, unless you dedicate your entire day to it, you’re unlikely to see everything. Covering an area of around 170 acres, there are many different parts to explore, each offering its own unique insight into how the town would have operated. The best thing to do is pinpoint the parts that you definitely want to see and then go to those first. That way, if you do run out of time, you won’t be disappointed that you missed something.
There are certain routes already marked out on the map that you’re given at the gate. These offer an idea of what’s doable within a certain timescale and also show just how difficult it is to see everything. The main points of interest include the forum, baths, amphitheatre and the Temple of Apollo.
Do Opt For An Audio Guide
Obviously, you can still enjoy your time at Pompeii without renting an audio guide, but your experience will be greatly enhanced if you do. The various villas, temples, streets and arenas are all fascinating to look at but the guide can offer so much more information that you otherwise wouldn’t have learnt.
Without our audio guide, we wouldn’t have known what the various rooms in the baths were used for, we wouldn’t have understood what the inscriptions on the tombs meant and we wouldn’t have realised that some of the villas housed businesses such as bakeries. Audio guides are currently €8 for adults.
Don’t Forget Sun Cream
You’re probably already aware, but Pompeii is an open-air attraction that offers very little shade. Going inside the various ruins can provide a moment or two of respite, but otherwise, you’re at the sun’s mercy for most of the day. With this being the case, be sure to bring plenty of sun cream and stay hydrated throughout the day. There are fountains around the site where you can fill up your bottle and a café/restaurant for extra refreshment.
Do Prepare Yourself For Some Sobering Sights
One of the most striking aspects of the archaeological park is that you can see casts made of some of the people that sadly perished when towering Mount Vesuvius erupted. Dotted around Pompeii, some show extraordinary detail in their features and it’s not always easy to learn their stories. One of the hardest cast displays to view consists of a mother with two children, a horrifying sight that only scratches the surface in terms of telling the story of that fateful day.
Just to be clear, the casts are not actually the bodies of those that perished, nor are they made from their remains. They are actually created by filling cavities found under the surface with plaster to produce a 3D model that represents the body shape of whoever died there. This makes it no easier to deal with, though, as they clearly show the last moments of a person’s life.
If you would like to visit Pompeii on a trip to Italy, we can help you plan a Naples city break. Alternatively, we can put together a relaxing stay on the beautiful island of Ischia, located just across the Bay of Naples. For a tailor-made quote, call our team on 0800 988 3369 or click here to submit your enquiry through the website.