It’s pretty safe to say that Pompeii is the most fascinating attraction in Italy. It might even be safe to say it’s one of the most fascinating attractions in the entire world.
Situated about 30 minutes away from Naples in the Campania region of southern Italy, Pompeii is an archaeological site where the remains of a once-thriving city were uncovered. This ancient city was prosperous in its heyday but it all came crashing down when the nearby Mount Vesuvius volcano erupted in 79 A. D. and left the city buried in almost 20 feet of volcanic ash.
For nearly 2000 years, the city remained undiscovered. The layers of ash helped to preserve it and when it was unearthed, it was preserved so well that it was as if time just stopped at the moment of the eruption and captured the city and its people in their final moments. Intact buildings showcasing the incredible architecture of the time, graffiti on the walls and even the castes of residents frozen in their final movements are just some of the incredible things you’ll see as you explore this amazing site.
Today, Pompeii, Italy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an important discovery providing a glimpse into a Roman civilization of that time. Discoveries are still being made at the site so there’s more yet to be discovered! Curious to find out more about this incredible site? Continue reading. I will be sharing the most impressive landmarks, and plenty of practical information to plan your visit.
Make sure to read my post The Best Places To Visit In Italy.
The History Of Pompeii, Italy
While most people think of the history of Pompeii from the moment a destructive volcanic eruption left it buried in ash to be discovered many years later, its history goes back much further! The city that was recently unearthed is actually a city that was built over another city that existed under Greek rule as far back as 450 B. C. Previous settlements in the area go back even further to the 8th century B. C.
The Oscans, from a central region of Italy, originally established several villages on the site and thrived there until the arrival of the Greeks followed by the Etruscans and the Samnite people.
Under Roman rule, Pompeii prospered and became a much-desired place to live for affluent Romans. A series of events befell the city, including riots in 59 A. D. and a major earthquake in 62 A. D. By 79 A. D., the city had bounced back and was home to about 20,000 people.
It is thought that most residents were able to escape the worse of the volcanic eruption that buried the city but, based on archaeological finds, over a thousand people had stayed behind and perished in the disaster.
Pompeii lay buried and forgotten for centuries until it was rediscovered in 1592. More discoveries were made in the 1600s, 1800s and in recent times.
Top Sights In Pompeii, Italy
The Antiquarium is the on-site museum that houses a collection of artifacts that were uncovered in the area. These particular artifacts are too delicate to leave on display where they were found. This is the best place to start your visit because it’s here where you’ll also learn about some of the history. While most of the artifacts are from more recent times, some date back to before the Roman period. This is also where you’ll see the famous plaster casts of human remains. The grim figures depict residents in their final moments as they tried to escape.
The Stabian Baths
The Stabian Baths are large, well-preserved baths featuring a swimming pool, separate bathing areas for men and women, stoves that were used to heat the water, changing rooms and a gym that gladiators used for training.
The Amphitheater, which was built around 80 B. C., takes up a huge area of Pompeii. It seated 12,000 people who came to watch gladiator fights and chariot racing.
House of the Vettii
Two middle-class brothers lived in the House of the Vettii which is one of the most fascinating private residences in Pompeii. Despite their class, the home was quite elegant with beautiful frescoes and marble fixtures. Amazingly, cooking utensils are still intact and in place.
House of the Faun
The House of the Faun was an elaborate and beautiful palace that was built in the 2nd century B. C. The many well-preserved artworks that were discovered at this site gave insight into what it was used for and who used it and they tell a story of extreme opulence over and above any of the other homes in the area.
The forum is the main square at Pompeii and this section of the site includes a hall where food was sold and many shrines, temples and other important buildings such as the town council building.
Practical Information For Visiting Pompeii, Italy
Pompeii entrance fee and opening hours
Pompeii is open every day of the week, all year round, but the hours differ from high to low season. During high season (April to October), the site opens at 9:00 am and closes at 7:00 pm with last entry at 5:30 pm. During the low season from November to March, the site is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm with last entry at 3:30 pm.
Admission to Pompeii is €16 and tickets can be bought either online in advance on Ticketone. The site is in Italian only. If you want a refundable ticket, you will have to pay an extra €1.50 fee.
You can also purchase your tickets at the ticket office upon arrival, though given how popular the site is, this is really not recommended. Tickets can also be purchased at the self-service kiosks at Piazza Esedra and Piazza Anfiteatro.
For a completely hassle free experience, you can also get your tickets to Pompeii on third party booking sites such as Tiqets or GetYourGuide. They are slightly more expensive but fully refundable and you can count with a great costumer service in your language of choice. For more information, click here or here.
Make sure to also read my post How To Get Pompeii Tickets.
Is a guide needed to explore Pompeii?
Whether you’ll need a guide to explore Pompeii or not depends on how much you want to see, how long you’d like to spend at the site and how much history you’d like to learn about. In short, you don’t need a guide to explore the site. Upon entry, you’re provided with a map so you can explore it on your own. This works perfectly if you just want to see it and aren’t interested in the history. Exploring on your own gives you the freedom to move around at your own pace and see what you want to see. The site is well-marked with signs – though there is no description panels at the various landmarks.
That being said, I am completely in favor of taking a guided tour of Pompeii – the site is massive, it’s easy to miss significant places when you don’t know where to go. Besides, what’s the point of visiting if you don’t want to learn about its history?
Hiring a guide means you’ll have less planning, but the biggest advantage is the wealth of information that your guide has about the history. Knowing the names and personal stories of some of the people who lived in Pompeii really brings the site to life! While you won’t be able to spend a lot of time at each site and the guide will only take you to the most important ones, there’s time after the tour to explore on your own. One of these tours usually lasts about two hours.
For the best guided tour of Pompeii, click here.
For more guided tours of Pompeii, click here.
How to explore Pompeii
Besides exploring the site on your own and taking a guided tour, there’s another way to explore Pompeii that combines self-exploration with elements of a guided tour. When you purchase your ticket, you can also purchase a separate audio guide for an extra €8. In fact, there’s even an app called Discover Pompeii that you can download on your smartphone.
As you explore the ruins, you’ll see symbols indicating that there’s a segment in the audio relating to a particular site. The best way to explore the site when you’re on your own is to start at one end and make your way to the other so you don’t miss anything. Give yourself at least two hours to see the most significant landmarks but more if you want to learn about the history and get a feel for what life was like in Pompeii.
How to get to Pompeii from Naples
Pompeii is one of the most popular day trips from Naples and getting to the ruins from the city is extremely easy.
Before you head out to the site, remember that there are three entrances to the site – one at Porta Marina, one at Piazza Anfiteatro, one at Piazza Esedra. The Piazza Esedra gate is the most difficult to reach from Naples and thus also the less crowded with tourists.
Here’s how to get from Naples to Pompeii.
Make sure to also read my post The Best Day Trips From Naples.
Taking the train from Naples is the fastest and cheapest way to get to Pompeii. The Circumvesuviana Train and the Metropolitan Train depart Naples multiple times a day and the trip takes about 40 minutes. The trains are direct but the only drawback is sometimes they tend to be crowded.
You don’t need to purchase a ticket in advance, just head to the Napoli Centrale Station and purchase one on site for the next available train. The Circumvesuviana train stops closer to Pompeii, at Pompei Scavi station. That’s where the Porta Marina gate to the site is located. Metropolitano Train stops about a ten-minute walk away.
The first trip of the day is at around 6:00 am while the last one is at around 9:00 pm and you’ll pay €2.80 one way.
By guided tour
Joining a guided tour is a great way to explore Pompeii. With a guided tour, someone else does all the planning and you get to relax and enjoy. The guides that lead these tours are very knowledgeable and provide you with information that you’d otherwise not hear while exploring on your own. A great tour to take is one that stops at other nearby sites, such as Mount Vesuvius and Herculaneum – this is particularly good if you are short on time. Some tours last a few hours while others are for a full day.
For a guided tour of Pompeii that includes transportation from Naples, click here.
Are you traveling from Rome? For information on day trips from Rome to Pompeii, including a drive along the Amalfi Coast, click here.
Another way to get to Pompeii from Naples is by taxi or private transfer. The best thing about this is someone else does all the driving while you relax. It’s also possible to make stops along the way if you wish. You’ll avoid crowded buses and trains – though you don’t necessarily get there quicker – but you’ll pay a lot more for these added conveniences. In fact, you’ll pay around €30.
The best thing about driving yourself to Pompeii is the freedom that comes with being able to stop and go at your own pace. You won’t have to wait for buses or trains and there’s no schedule to abide by.
However, be warned that driving in this part of Italy is hectic. We Italians drive fast and you’ll see a lot of cutting lanes and illegal passing all done without regard to other drivers and the use of turning signals! The roads are in good condition but traffic can get very congested especially on weekends and any day during peak season.
If you choose to drive from Naples to Pompeii, there’s one major route to take. Start at Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi and get on the A3. Follow the A3 for about eight minutes before getting on the SS 18 Tirrena Inferiore / Sr18 and take the Pompeii exit and drive for another 14 minutes. Turn onto Via Antonio Morese and drive for another five minutes before reaching your destination.
To check the prices of car rental in Naples click here.
Check out my post A Guide To Renting A Car In Naples.
Taking the bus from Naples to Pompeii is the cheapest option and it only takes about 35 to 40 minutes to get there. The downfall is the lack of freedom to stop at places along the way and the fact you’ll have to deal with crowds during peak season.
The SITA bus is the one to take and it departs Naples about once or twice every hour depending on the time of year and time of day. You can catch this bus at the Nuova Marina in Naples but first, you’ll need to purchase a ticket at the SITA office nearby. Bus tickets cost €2.80. You’ll have to get off the bus at the Pompeii Scavi Bus Stop which is only a short walk from the entrance to the site.
When to visit Pompeii, Italy
The best time of year to visit Pompeii is between November and March. This is the off-season which means there’ll be fewer people around and fewer crowds mean you won’t face line-ups or delays getting into the site. The weather is also cooler in the off-season. If you don’t mind crowds and hot weather, summer is also a great time to visit.
The best time of day to arrive at Pompeii is early in the morning when the site first opens. There are fewer crowds at this time and arriving early allows you to take your time around the various landmarks.
What to take on a trip to Pompeii, Italy
When deciding what to take for a day at Pompeii, there are a few key items you should bring but make sure not to overpack because you’ll need to carry everything around all day! There isn’t a whole lot of shade there so it’s important to have sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Even on cool days, you’ll need to keep hydrated because of all the walking you’ll be doing so make sure to bring some water. There are taps along the way so you can refill your bottle.
Although there are places to eat nearby (more about that in a bit), you should have some light snacks in your pack if you’ll be there for a few hours.
In terms of what to wear to Pompeii, it depends on the season. In summer, dress in lightweight fabrics but consider wearing long sleeves and pants to protect you from the hot sun and wear layers during the cooler months. The grounds are dusty so don’t wear light colors or anything that can’t be washed easily.
The most important part of your wardrobe is your shoes. Make sure they’re comfortable because you’ll be doing a lot of walking!
Other useful information
Everyone visiting Pompeii has to go through airport-style security checks. You will have to scan your bag, including your cell phone and camera. To make the process smoother and quicker, avoid bringing to the site any large items.
Accessibility of Pompeii
Pompeii is accessible, however please be advised that Porta Marina, which is the main gate to the site, is not wheelchair accessible. A special itinerary called Pompeii For All is designed specifically for people with mobility issues, parents towing children in buggies and anyone who wishes to visit in a more relaxed way.
This itinerary is 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers) and starts at the Piazza Anfiteatro and ends at the Sanctuary of Venus. The road is flat and easily navigable with a wheelchair or buggy. It travels along the main roads of the city and all the most important buildings are easily accessed. The goal of this itinerary is to allow everyone access to the site with ease.
Visitors who are hearing impaired now also have access to specialized service that allows them to experience the wonders of Pompeii. There are on-site employees who are trained in sign language so the information can be shared with those who would otherwise not be able to listen to a guided tour or audio tour.
You may actually be better off joining a guided tour that is specific for wheelchair users. For more information, click here.
Are dogs allowed in Pompeii?
Yes, dogs are allowed to visit the Pompeii site with their owners as long as they are under a certain size. Big dogs – whatever that means – are not permitted (I have seen a few fairly large dogs, so I am not sure anyone will really measure them). In theory, as long as your dog can be carried when entering the buildings around Pompeii, you should have no issue getting permission to take them to the site. Just be aware that sometimes there may be stray dogs around. If you take a dog with you inside the site, you’re expected to clean up after your pet and keep them on a leash at all times.
You are not allowed to bring large backpacks or bulky items inside the site. If necessary, you can leave your stuff in the luggage storage facility, free of charge, which is available at every gage.
Toilets and other facilities
You will find toilets near the access points of Piazza Anfiteatro, Piazza Esedra and Porta Marina, near the Casina dell’Aquila, the Antiquarium, Quadriportico, and the Villa of the Mysteries.
Since you are unable to exit the site and come back in, the toilets at Anfiteatro will be most beneficial to you once you are inside the park because you’re not required to leave in order to use them. Toilets are also situated near the small theatre and the café and restaurant.
For visitors traveling with babies, there are changing stations situated in several areas. To access these stations, you’ll need to acquire keys from the site entrance to unlock the door. This is to ensure your privacy and when you’re finished, you simply return the keys to the same place at the end of your visit. Baby changing facilities are located in Via dell’Abbondanza, Via di Nola, and at the corner of Via Stabiana and Via della Fortuna.
Eating and drinking in Pompeii
Restaurants, kiosks and cafés are found by each access point – there really is something for every budget and taste and you will certainly not starve during your visit. Make sure to bring a small bottle of water inside the site to sip on it throughout the visit – this is especially important if you go during the summer months!
These other posts may be useful when planning a trip to the Naples area:
- The Best Things To Do In Naples
- Is Naples Safe?
- Where To Stay In Naples
- The Best Itinerary To See Naples In One Day