Pompeii  is in Campania, Italy, not far from Naples. Its major attraction is the ruined ancient Roman city of the same name, which was engulfed by Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A typical street in Pompeii
Romans took control of Pompeii around 200 BC. On August 24, 79 AD, Vesuvius erupted, burying the nearby town of Pompeii in ash and soot, killing around 3,000 people, the rest of the population of 20,000 people having already fled, and preserving the city in its state from that fateful day. Pompeii is an excavation (It: scavi) site and outdoor museum of the ancient Roman settlement. This site is considered to be one of the few sites where an ancient city has been preserved in detail - everything from jars and tables to paintings and people was frozen in time, yielding, together with neighbouring Herculaneum which suffered the same fate, an unprecedented opportunity to see how the people lived two thousand years ago.
One-day tickets are €11 per adult; €5,50 for EU citizens between 18 - 24 and school teachers; EU citizens below 18 or above 65 get in for free (valid proving age document needed). A five-site pass costs €20. This includes Herculaneum and is valid for 3 days. As entrance to Herculaneum is also €11 buying this ticket saves you €2 even if you do not visit any of the other sites. The "Campania ArteCard" , which costs €30 offers free admission to numerous sites in the region if you are planning to be in Campania for several days. The site is open daily from 8:30 to 19:30 (November to March from 8:30 to 17:00) and the last ticket is sold 90 minutes before closing. It is closed on 1st January, 1st May, and 25th December. Telephone: 081-857-5347.
Audioguides are available either at the train station InfoPoint or at the official entrance for €6,50, €10 for two, ID is required. They are not available at the secondary Eastern entrance by the Ampitheatre - which is the entrance nearest the modern day town centre if you are walking. Unofficial audio guides are on offer at one of the market stalls near this entrance. Take note that audioguide maps are not the same and the official audioguide comes with more audio points of interest. It's a good idea to check out both options before deciding. Pompeii may take several hours to explore so make sure to ask about the audioguide battery life before your purchase. Tour guides also cluster near the entrance and offer their services. It's a good idea to talk to one for a couple of minutes before deciding, to make sure you can understand their accent when they speak English. You can join a tour group with the train station InfoPoint for €12 (not including entrance fee) or €10 at the official entrance.
For transport in the area see Campania
On the Circumvesuviana Napoli-Sorrento line it takes 30 to 40 minutes to get to Pompeii from either Naples or Sorrento. Click on the station where you want to get the train in this timetable . It should cost €1,80 to €3,20. Get off at "Pompei Scavi". At the station, you can leave your bags for €1,50 (collect by 7:00PM in summer, 6:00PM October to February), or leave them for free at the ruins (pick up by 7:20PM). The entrance to Pompeii is about 50m away from the station and there's a Tourist Information office further down the street. If you get off at "Pompei Sanctuario," instead of "Pompei Scavi," the walk through town is not very far; it's tiring but worthwhile.
- Cheapest way to get here from Rome - take the special (2h21m) train from Termini (each way is 10.50 Euros) or the regular (1h10m) train (each way is 22 Euros, 29 for first class) to Naples, then go down the escalator to the Circumvesuviana and buy a ticket to Pompei Scavi (1.80 Euro).
- From Salerno you can take the local train service to Pompei. There is a lot of confusion about where the train stops and how long the walk is from the station. There is only one suitable station on the train line (it is different from the other train services mentioned above) and it is called "Pompei". A ticket from Salerno costs €2.10 one way and the journey either takes 25 minutes (fast service) or 45 minutes (slow service). The Pompei train station is quite a long way from the main entrance to the historic site, but is only a ten minute walk from the Piazza Anfiteatro entrance. Taxi drivers at the train station will offer to take you to the entrance for around €10.
SITA runs buses from Naples. The cost is the same as the train.
If you are on a cruise, you can set up an excursion to explore the ruins (bus transfer) and tickets and tour will be included. From the cruise boat a hydrofoil travels around the Bay of Naples to Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii (from Naples). A bus-shuttle will take you to the ruins.
Disabled travelers should aim for the entrance at the Piazza Anfiteatro, where an itinerary has been designed to meet the needs of visitors with reduced mobility (and of parents with strollers, too!). Beware of the main entrance at Porte Marina, for it has plenty of stairs.
This is a walking site only. There are a few bicycles for rent, but the surfaces make them rather impractical. Note that walking the old Roman stone roads can be quite exhausting, especially in the heat of summer with loads of fellow tourists about. Everyone will be walking on cobblestones and uneven ground. The temperature is between 32 and 35c in the summer. Make sure to take plenty of water and watch your step as the old roads have grooves in them where the carts ran. It is advisable to wear good footwear, sunscreen and hats. There is a lot to look at and it could take all day to see everything.
On buying your ticket you should receive a map of the site and a booklet listing the main attractions. However, these can be sometimes out of print or you may find that the only booklet available is in Italian. A map of the site is essential if you want to see a lot in as short a time as possible. Even with a map visiting Pompeii is a bit like a trip to a maze. Many of the roads, apparently open according to the map, turn out to be blocked off for excavations or repairs, or, as happened in 2010, because a building collapsed. You might think you are heading for the exit but then have to turn around and retrace your steps to find another route.
Someone who did not escape the eruption
Another victim of the eruption
- The amphitheatre. This is in the most easterly corner of the excavated area, near the Sarno Gate entrance. It was completed in 80BC, measures 135 x 104 metres and could hold about 20,000 people. It is the earliest surviving permanent amphitheatre in Italy and one of the best preserved anywhere. It was used for gladiator battles, other sports and spectacles involving wild animals.
- The Great Palaestra (Gymnasium). This occupies a large area opposite the Amphitheatre. The central area was used for sporting activities and there was a pool in the middle. On three sides are lengthy internal porticos or colonnades.
- House of the Vettii. This is believed to have been the home of two brothers who were freed slaves and became very affluent. It contains many frescoes. In the vestibule there is a striking fresco of a well-endowed Priapus, God of Fertility and among the frescos in other parts of the building are illustrations of couples making love, of cupids and of mythological characters.
- House of the Faun. This is named after a statue of a dancing faun found on the site. It is considered to be an excellent example of the fusion of Italian and Greek architectural styles, and occupies an entire block.
- Forum. This was the center of public life, although it is now to the southwest of the excavated area. It was surrounded by many of the important governmment, religious and business buildings.
- Temple of Apollo. This is to the north of the Basilica on the western side of the Forum. It has the oldest remains discovered, with some, including Etruscan items, dating back to 575BC, although the layout we see now was later than that.
- Theatre. Theatre built in the hollow of a hill for acoustic advantage; it seated 5,000
- Via dei Sepolcri (street of tombs) A long street with worn ruts from carts.
- Lupanar An ancient brothel with pornographic frescoes over the entrance to each room, presumably indicating the services on offer. Even allowing for the smaller size of ancient Romans the beds seem rather small.
- House of the Ancient Hunt. Attractive, open-style house with many frescoes of hunting scenes.
- The Basilica This is to the west of the Forum. It was the most important public building of the city where both justice was administered and trade was carried on.
- Forum Granary Artifacts like amphorae (storage jars) and plaster casts of people who did not escape the eruption are stored in this building, which was designed to be the public market but may not have been finished before the eruption.
- Baths. There are several baths to be inspected. The Forum Baths are just north of the forum and close to the restaurant. They are well-preserved and roofed. Be careful not to miss them as the entranceway is a long passage with no indication of the delights inside. The Central Baths occupy a much larger area but are less well-preserved. Close to these are the Stabian baths which have some interesting decorations and give a good idea of how baths used to function in Roman times.
- House of the Tragic Poet. This small atrium house is best known for the mosaic at the entrance depicting a chained dog, with the words Cave Canem or "Beware of the Dog".
Other things to look for when walking around are:
- The Ground surface You will see in the ground there are small tiles called cat's eyes. The moon’s light or candle light reflects off these tiles and gave light, so people could see where they were walking at night.
- Bars and Bakeries You will walk past where their bars and bakeries once existed. The bars had counters with three to four holes in them. They have water or other beverages available in the holes. The bakeries’ ovens look similar to the old brick stone oven. The House of the Baker has a garden area with millstones of lava used for grinding the wheat.
- Street There are tracks for the carriages in the street for a smoother ride. There are also stone blocks in the street for pedestrians to step onto to cross the street. The sidewalks are higher than the modern sidewalk because the streets had water and waste flowing through them. The stone blocks in the street were also as high as the sidewalk, so people did not walk in the waste and water. The stone blocks were also used for what we now call speed bumps. When the carriages were going through the city, they were going fast. To avoid people from getting splashed by the water and waste they had stone blocks in the street. This would make the driver slow down when they were speeding, so they could get through the blocks.
Outside of the city walls:
- Villa dei Misteri (Villa of the Mysteries) A house with curious frescoes, perhaps of women being initiated into the Cult of Dionysus. Contains one of the finest fresco cycles in Italy, as well as humorous ancient graffiti.
In the modern town of Pompei:
- There is a Sanctuary (church) which is a place of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics. For others, it is not a must-see, but should you arrive or leave via the Pompei Santuario station on the Circumvesuviana, rather than Pompei Scavi, you may find it worth at least a brief look inside at this place of veneration of the Virgin Mary.
- Plan your visit beforehand on Google Maps or Google Earth, or re-live it afterwards. Streetview coverage exists for part of the city and there are 3D models of many of the buildings. Bing Maps also provides fairly detailed oblique views of the city.
- Buy a guidebook. Get the official guide (pompeii: guide to the site, published by Electa Napoli) from the site bookshop next to the ticket office. Lots of guides and maps are available but this one neatly combines the two.
- Visit also the National Museum in Naples where most of the best preserved mosaics and found items from Pompeii are kept.
- Visit also the sister site Herculaneum, which is only one Circumvesuviana stop apart and suffered a similar fate to Pompeii. Though it is a smaller site it was covered by a pyroclastic surge (instead of the ash and lapilli that covered Pompeii). This allowed some second storeys to survive.
- Have a look at random villas, as sometimes even small side rooms have amazing frescoes (wall paintings).
- Don't miss the "Garden of the Fugitives" at the south-east side where plaster casts of several victims (sadly, including children) are on display where they originally fell The plants in this garden have been reconstructed to match ancient growth, based on the study of plaster casts of plant roots.
- Walk outside the City Gates to the Villa of the Mysteries, one of the greatest houses to come down to us from the ancient world. Even on a very hot day, it is worth the walk.
- Ask one of the Archaeologists working on one of the many sites "Hasn't it all been dug?" (there is still 1/3 of the site unexcavated... and there is always more under the floor!)
- Put a big memory card in your camera. There are many hundreds of photo opportunities in this site.
- Tour - [PompeiIn] - [email protected] +39 3284134719 offers several itineraries at the ancient Pompeii lasting from 1 hour to 6 hours. The guides are locals, are licensed and are graduated in archaeology; they are able to provide kids and disabled friendly tours, and with their vast knowledge of ancient history and society are capable of making the ancient Pompeii come to life. The highlights of the city are covered, such as the Forum, the Baths, the Brothel, the Bakeries, the House of The Faun and the House of the Tragic Poet, the Amphitheatre, the Theaters, the Villa of Mysteries, the Cemeteries and the City Fortifications.
An ATM is located in the ticket office area near the Pompei Scavi train station, there is no ATM inside the site and credit cards are not accepted, so make sure to bring enough cash for your needs.
- Interesting plastic "past & present" books sold for €12 by vendors. Deal with them for an even better price
- Buy a tour guide book for €5, so you can read more about the interesting city history, building and artifacts. There is so much to learn from the Romans and to see how they lived.
- Cameos. These are a local speciality and tour buses frequently stop at a factory.
- On the way from the station to the official entrance loads of shops try to sell stuff for very expensive prices but the food is not outstanding. Drinks, especially the freshly pressed orange and lemon juices, however, are fantastic especially in the heat, though slightly pricey (€ 3.00 for a glass)
- You can get a very good panino (filled bread roll) from some of the stands. The one at the end near the Porta Marina has fantastic ones.
- There is a café and restaurant in the excavation area, just north of the Forum. Not surprisingly, this is rather expensive and not particularly good. Nonetheless, it is an OK place to take a break and recuperate, particularly with its air conditioning. If you don't have time for a rest you can grab a €3.50 ice cream from a service window that faces the street. The restaurant has toilets, seemingly the only ones on the site.
- Remember to take enough water to drink as it gets quite hot in the dusty streets. Keep your empty bottles for refilling as there are occasional water taps around the site dispensing rather odd-smelling water that, however, seems to be drinkable.
- Lemon and Orange granita bought from outside the site are a tasty way to cool down.
- Restaurant for groups near the ruins, Via Villa dei Misteri 7, Pompeii (opposit the exit Villa dei Misteri), ☎ +390818613550, . 08.30/17.00. Large restaurant totally refurbished earlier this year (2012). Perfect for groups travelling by bus. Free parking for buses. Just for a pizza and gelato or full meal this is a place where you can rest a littlebit before continuing your trip in the region. 20.
- Tiberius Restaurant (Dine comfortably), Via Villa dei Misteri 7, Pompeii Ruins (By train Circumvesuviana Station Villa dei Misteri. Turn left and walk upwards for about 5 minutes. You'll see the Motel dei Misteri and right afterwards there is the Tiberius), ☎ +390818613550, . 09:00-00.00. Suitable for: groups travelling by bus. Free parking, free wi-fi. Tourists visiting the ruins: à la carte menu. Indoor dining rooms with airco, heating, free use of toilets, outdoor restaurant equipped with sunshades, sofas, armchairs. Garden overlooking the ruins, vineyard. Wood fired oven pizzeria, BBQ grill, wine bar, italian tapas or full menu. Traditional italian food and wines. Accessible for wheelchairs. Multilanguage speaking personnel. Vegetarians are welcome. Open every day, all year round, from Monday to Sunday for breakfast, brunch and lunch. Open for dinner from May to October from Tuesday to Sunday. Special gourmet menus for dinner. Local products taste. Ancient roman style theme parties, team buildings. Cooking class Pizza Maker lesson and Pizza workshops, Espresso coffee workshop, limoncello tasting and limoncello experience, wine tasting. as of 18 €.
- Hotel Maiuri (4 star), Via Acquasalsa, 20, . A few minutes walk from the excavations and the centre of town. Free parking. €65 - €130.
- Hotel Forum, Via Roma 99 (Very close to the easternmost entrance to the excavations.), ☎ 081 850 11 70 ([email protected], fax: 081 850 61 32), . A quiet and comfortable hotel set back from the road. Good breakfast. Free parking close to the hotel. €90 for a double or twin. Check the web site for discounts..
Mt Vesuvius is an active volcano and can erupt at any time. Scientists have devised a system to detect impending eruptions, though, so feel free to browse Pompeii's ruins without fear of falling ash and lapilli (pumice)! It's more likely that you should be trying to protect yourself from pickpockets. The site attracts a huge array of international visitors every day, and this money attracts some thieves, so keep your valuables protected, particularly near the entrances and the train station.
If you come by car, be aware not to park at the parking place near the entrance to the archaeological site. It is a tourist trap! Though there is no price displayed at the entrance of the parking, you'll be surprised when finding out that it costs €2 per hour when trying to leave, and you cannot leave unless you pay. This means that if your visit to Pompeii lasts a whole day (which a site like this certainly deserves) you may end up paying as much as €20 or more. There are much cheaper parking places just few hundred meters down the hill in the town, and if you stay at one of Pompeii's hotels they normally offer free parking at one of these.
- Go by train to Naples
- Visit the sister site of Herculaneum
- Head over to the underwater Archaeological Park of Baiae
- Take a trip to the Amalfi Coast
- Take a boat from Naples or Sorrento to the island of Capri
- Buses leave for Mt. Vesuvius from the site (8/day, every half hour 9:30-10:30 and every hour starting at 11:25, takes 1 hour)
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