Italy Day 3: Pompeii

Not quite the same
Not exactly like this — Shout-out to anyone that has been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg!

Going into our Italy vacation, we weren’t 100% sure if we would end up doing the Pompeii trip.  We didn’t want to cut our time in Rome short, you could spend a whole week in Rome and still not see EVERYTHING.  BUT this is something we were really interested in seeing and it came really highly recommended from friends.  Funnily enough, seeing the Coloseum the day before really tipped us in the direction of making the excursion.  We realized that there is something really special about seeing the ruins up close and that is where we wanted to focus our time/attention.  When you have limited time and unlimited things to do/see, it’s always a good idea to focus your energies on the kinds of activities that you enjoy.

There are a LOT of excursion options available from Rome to Pompeii including trains, shuttle buses, etc.  We chose to do it on our own via train, mostly because it was the cheapest, but we also wanted to get there right when it opened and operate on our own schedule.  We had also heard from friends that it was straightforward to get there. Our goal was to be back in Rome (Trastvere specifically) in time for dinner.

Pompeii is located approx 35km (21 miles) from Naples.  In order to get there via train, you take a train from Rome (we left from Termini station) to Naples.  In Naples, you have to switch stations.  You will need to go underground to find the Circumvesuviana (commuter train).  It’s a bit of a walk and sort of hard to find, so allow yourself some time here.  You aren’t able to reserve Circumvesuviana tickets in advance, and they come every 30 minutes.  You are looking for the train headed to “Sorrento” as the final destination, and you will get off at the “Pompei-Villa dei Misteri” stop.  The entrance to Pompeii is right across from the final train station and super easy to find.

You have a couple of different options for tours:

  • You could obviously walk around and read signs for free, but I wouldn’t recommend this.  I don’t think there were enough or very elaborate signs for this to work, you wouldn’t get as much out of the trip.
  • There is also the audio option.  You can get an audio tour from their offices for 5 euros per person (this is what we did).  Their app comes with a map and numbered spots to go to listen to certain tracks, but I still found it a tad confusing and there were one or two spots that we never did find.  The map did offer 4 different courses you could take based on how much time you wanted to spend there which was cool.
  • Or you could download a Rick Steves audio tour (this is what I wish we did).  I just really prefer Rick’s style and think his audio tours are so well-organized.  If you listen to them through his “Audio Europe” app, they also come with a map that is easier to navigate.  I also like the auditory directions on getting from place to place rather than having to figure it out on your own by looking at a map (I realize that reading a map is a basic skill that many others have mastered, so maybe this doesn’t matter as much to you).  Also, this option is free!  But I’m a complete Rick Steve’s fangirl, so if you aren’t as crazy about him take this with a grain of salt.
  • The most expensive (and probably most informative) option is to do either a group or private tour with an in-person guide.  They are several companies that do this, or you can get a guide at the entrance.  We didn’t do this, so I don’t have a lot of insight but we saw lots of groups and it seems like a popular option.

We left Rome at roughly 8 am for the ~2 hour ride to Naples and got to Pompeii at 11. We planned to spend about 4 hours there.  You could definitely do more, but we felt like that would give us a solid overview without feeling rushed.

OK, enough talky-talk, let’s see some pictures!

City of Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background
City of Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background
Main Square (first thing you see from the entrance)
Main Square (first thing you see from the entrance).  Lots of religious centers and administrative buildings here.
Streets with sidewalks. The roads were used by chariots
Streets with sidewalks. The roads were used by chariots
Ridges in the roads from the chariots
Ridges in the roads from the chariots

DSC00679

The walls of most houses were covered with paintings called
The walls of most houses were covered with paintings called “frescoes”. This scene depicts a deer hunt.
Intricate ceiling art
Intricate ceiling art in the bath house.  The bath houses were among the most elaborately decorated structures.
Courtyard of a merchant's home
Courtyard of a merchant’s home.  Most of the art (including this one) in Pompeii are replicas.  The real deals are at the Archaeological Museum of Naples.  We skipped the museum because we would rather see the replicas in their “natural” environment and didn’t want to spend time seeing the (sorta/kinda) same things twice.
Someone is a little toooo excited to go into the brothel
Someone is a little toooo excited to go into the brothel.  This picture makes it seem like it was really crowded but it wasn’t.  We just happened to get behind a tour group for this one.  We were able to visit a lot of the buildings/sites without crowds, in a lot of cases it was just us.
Comfy
Comfy
Their theater. The marble seats were for the rich nobles.
Their theater, mostly for plays and music performances.  The marble seats were for the rich nobles.
Because everything was covered and preserved by the ash, they were able to inject XX with plaster as they were excavating to capture the exact position and expressions of the Pompeiians.
Because everything was covered and preserved by the ash, they were able to inject voids with plaster as they were excavating to capture the exact position and expressions of the Pompeiians.
The Pompeiian coloseum. Slightly smaller than its Roman counterpart.
The Pompeiian coloseum. Slightly smaller than its Roman counterpart.

Overall it was a great excursion, but there are two things I would do differently:

1. The audio guide mentioned above

2. Bring plenty of snacks and water. There aren’t a lot of food options close by and we ended up eating the overpriced cafe food. I would have much preferred to buy some meats/cheeses or something the night before and had them with us.

Doing it on our own via train cost about 90 euros per person, round trip.  The cheapest excursions I could find from Rome were around ~150 euros (there is a large range), though those typically include a guided tour, which we didn’t do.
After our day at Pompeii, we headed back to Rome around 3:30 pm.

We walked back to our hotel and got ready for dinner.  We were really tired but excited to head back to Trastvere (BURRATA DREAMS).  I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant where we ended up, but here are some pics of our food anyway!  Nick got carbonara and I had a lemon/parmesan pasta dish that was really good.  I also had my first taste of tiramisu.  Tiramisu isn’t a traditional Roman food. It technically comes from Treviso, Italy (closer to Venice), but it’s one of my absolute favorite desserts and I couldn’t hold back.  No ragrets!

More Carbonara!
My lemon and Parmesan pasta
Tiramisu in a hipstery little jar. And our jug of house wine 👍.  And my wine teeth.

We partially walked, and then, realizing how dead our feet were, took a cab the rest of the way to our hotel and tried to get to bed early, because the next day we had an early train to Florence and were embarking on the major adventure of ~driving a car!~. If you’ve ever seen Italian drivers you know how terrifying this was.

Murray screaming
This was us
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