Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius are two famous landmarks that are on everybody’s bucket list. The famous ancient city of Pompeii was buried under volcanic ash and rocks when the fiery Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.
If you are wondering, yes, Mount Vesuvius is still active and I am so impressed by the courage of people who are still living in that area. The volcano might as well erupt anytime. Still, more than 1940 years passed and this place is now one of the most visited places in Italy, bringing more than 2.5 million tourists every year.
How To Get There
The archeological site of Pompeii is located in the modern city of Pompei. Around the ancient city, a brand new city was built with schools, churches, restaurants and plenty of houses, where people live a normal life with their families.
The city is about 25 km / 15 miles southeast Naples and the best way to get there is by taking a train from Napoli Centrale (Napoli Garibaldi).
From Napoli Centrale to Pompei Scavi
You should look for the Circumvesuviana station, which is downstairs. It is a separate station than Trenitalia, so the moment you enter the station, look for the stairs that will take you at the lower floor or basement. There, follow the Circumvesuviana signs and you will reach the station.
I don’t think they take cards, so it is best to have cash for this. The ticket for Pompei Scavi is about 3.5 euros. This line is also the one that goes to Amalfi Coast up to Sorrento, but different trains though.
Embark on your journey and don’t get too cozy because in about 35 minutes you will reach Pompei and you should get off at Pompei Scavi/Villa dei Misteri stop. From there, you can walk for about 2-3 minutes and you will reach the main entrance of the ancient city of Pompeii.
The Ancient City of Pompeii
Imagine a prosperous ancient world, always sunny, with crowded streets and lively markets. Imagine a world less stressful where people would enjoy lunch in their gardens. Sailors would stop by and have parties in the city. The richest men would showcase their gladiators in the amphitheater and people would be entertained. Imagine a world where thermal baths were a daily routine and even the poor people or the slaves could use them. A world of pleasure and simplicity.
And in this world, where the sun always shines bright, on August 24th 79 AD, at noon, when some people were enjoying their lunch in the quiet gardens and other were taking a nap, a huge mushroom cloud of ash is propelled into the sky…
The Day of The Eruption
Complete panic and darkness. Ashes, rocks and pumice start falling from the sky at such a speed. People start screaming and running, trying to hide, covering their heads with pillows and other objects found in their homes. More stones fall. A shower of stones traps the citizens of Pompeii.
These stones are 7.6 cm / 3 inches in diameter and they fall at such a speed that they become deadly weapons. For the next 12 hours, these continue to fall over the city. Showers of volcanic ash and stones keep burring the city, so most of the people are forced to run away in terror.
More than 10, 000 – 15,000 people have left Pompeii that day, but 2,000 remained, hoping that everything will stop and they can recover their homes and their life. They hid in their cellars and spent the entire night in terror.
The Morning After
The eruption lasted for 18 hours. But all the remaining people were still alive on the morning of August 25th. It was then, when a cloud of toxic gas was released, suffocating instantly everyone. A storm of heated rocks and thick ash followed, destroying roofs and buildings, burying the people who were already dead. Millions of tons of volcanic ash and stones buried the city. Then, complete silence…
Pompeii seems frozen in time. It was so well kept buried by the volcano ashes, that it is like a real 3D painting of what the city was like 2,000 years ago. A snapshot of life! You can see its wealth reflected in the houses of the nobles that had beautiful paintings on the walls, exquisite architecture and amazing gardens.
The stone streets show how well prepared they were for floods or rains. They had some very tall big stones that linked the sidewalks so you could easily cross the street without getting wet.
The size of it is also impressive. The circumference of the walls has about 3 km / 2 miles and about 66 hectares. From the large amphitheater where gladiators would fight to the luxurious villas and houses, there are a couple of attractions to not miss inside the ruins of Pompeii:
- The Amphitheater
- The Forum
- The Forum Baths
- The Villa of The Mystery
- The Brothel
- The Stabian Baths
- House of The Faun
- House of The Small Fountain
- House of Venus in The Shell
- House of Sallustio
- Garden of The Fugitives
- Great Palestra
How Long Do You Need To Visit Pompeii & Vesuvius
You can spend about 3 – 4 hours here to see all the attractions and spend some time in the gardens or around the Forum. There is plenty of time to take pictures and see everything. However, if you really want to get more out of the energy of this place, I would recommend to spend more time. Save about 2-3 hours for Mount Vesuvius in the same day.
Pompeii: 3 – 4 hours
Mount Vesuvius: 2 – 3 hours (including a 40 – 45 minutes climb to the top)
From April to November (when I think it’s the best time to come) opening hours for Pompeii are from 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays and on weekends from 8:30 am to 6 pm.
Mount Vesuvius closes at 5 pm! So it is best to either see Vesuvius first and then come to Pompeii or visit Pompeii in the morning, to have plenty of time to enjoy the breathtaking views from Vesuvius.
Pompeii: 11 euros
Mount Vesuvius: 10 euros (free guide included) + 2.50 – 3 euros the bus fare
You can take the bus to Vesuvius right across the Pompei Scavi station, 2-3 minutes from the ruins. Take the normal fare. I don’t recommend the buses from the agencies that give a “skip the line” pass or anything like that, because you don’t really need it.
There is something about a volcano that makes it more impressive than a mountain. It’s definitely not about the height, but about its power. I felt the same thing when I saw Mount Etna, but Vesuvius is even more fascinating due to its history.
Vesuvius is The One Not To Miss
As much as I have enjoyed Pompeii, I must say that Vesuvius is the one not to miss. If you don’t have time and you can only see one attraction, choose to climb on Vesuvius. Not only that the views are jaw-dropping, but you will get a very new and different feeling. You will understand better that we are so fragile and powerless in front of nature…
The Bus Ride
After you take the bus from the station, you will enjoy – if you are not afraid of heights and used to Italian roads, especially in the south – a 40 or 50 minutes ride to Mount Vesuvius, as far as a car can go.
The road is bumpy and narrow and get prepared for lots of honks and many maneuvers in some curbs. Kudos to the drivers, though! I am always impressed by how they manage to drive such a big bus on those roads.
After the bus leaves you, someone will come to collect the entrance fee and a free English guide starts a tour when a number of people gather, but only on the top of the volcano. You are on your own on the hike. Numerous souvenir shops are there at the bottom, so make sure to get plenty of water to have on the hike.
Hiking To The Crater
There are about 2 km / 1.2 miles to the top and a very abrupt way. Some people say it takes about 1 hour, but we climb fast so we did it in 30 – 40 minutes.
The views are breathtaking, so you will for sure stop to take pictures and videos. Totally worth it!
There is no shade and there are not any benches, so if you go in the summer, make sure to have a hat to protect you from the sun. A very important thing is to have sneakers or boots and not sandals, as I had 🙂 Because there are a lot of small stones that will get between your feet and the sandal, so a closed shoe is the best!
When you will reach the entrance, there is a shop with a small terrace, where you can drink the traditional and famous Neapolitan wine called Lacryma Christi – really good 😉
Then, you can gather with a group on English-speakers and wait for the tour to start, but I prefer seeing things on my own, so we didn’t wait and walked straight to the top, around the huge crater. You can’t visit inside the crater, for obvious reasons 🙂
The views are incredible! You feel the power of nature!
I was looking at all this beauty and thinking how in one single moment, everything can be destroyed by nature. It’s thought-provoking!
There is another small terrace there, where you can enjoy the wine while admiring the views, but make sure to be down by 5 pm and a bit, to catch the bus back to Pompeii or to Napoli, if you prefer.
Tips For Your Visit
To sum up, these two landmarks are a must-see. Beautiful and impressive, they have so much history. But beyond the spectacular views and the stories that they carry, you might experience a slight awakening of how fragile life is and how small we are in front of nature.
- 1-2 Bottles of Water
- Hiking Boots or Sneakers, very comfortable
- Hat or anything to protect you from the sun
- Snacks, although there are plenty of places where you can eat especially in Pompeii, but also on Vesuvius
- Small bag, you need to travel light
- Map for Pompeii – you can get it at the Ticket Office, otherwise you might get lost. Don’t get the audio guide, heard it’s a complete waste and you will have plenty of information in the map.
If you do want to take a guide in Pompeii, choose an official guide or book a tour in advance. Don’t get dragged in by guides outside the ruins or those who wait at the train station. Same goes for the bus tours to Vesuvius. Don’t be fooled into paying too much. You know now the prices, so don’t pay anything more!