Pompeii is friggin' awesome.
Yep, I said it, and I defy anyone out there to argue otherwise.
It's a fascinating ancient city that was virtually frozen in time after the sudden and unexpected eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Every year millions of tourists flock to these ghostly ruins, and it's not hard to see why. If ever you find yourself near Naples or the Amalfi Coast, a day trip to the archaeological site of Pompeii is a must.
However, organizing a day trip to Pompeii can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming, so to get you started I've created a list of essential information to aid you in the planning process (no no, put your money away...just pay me in cheese and we'll call it even).
How to Get There
The easiest way to access Pompeii is via the Circumvesuviana train which runs between Naples and Sorrento. Alight at the Pompeii Scavi, Villa del Misteri train station which is located right next to the main entrance to the ruins. The journey takes about 40 minutes from Naples and 30 minutes from Sorrento.
Take note: Make sure you validate your ticket before you board the train in order to avoid a fine, and keep an eye on your belongings as pickpockets often operate on this train line.
If you're not on par with Madonna, chances are you'll have to buy a ticket in order to access the site (though please feel free to try yelling "Don't you know who I am?!" at the top of your lungs first). Tickets can be purchased on the day of your visit, though the lines can be quite long, especially in the mornings. To save time, buy in advance online and then wave your ticket around triumphantly as you moonwalk past all the people stuck waiting in line.
Money-saving tip: Admission is free the first Sunday of every month. *Insert virtual high-five here*
It's quite common for people to stop off in Pompeii on their way to/ from the Amalfi Coast, but the last thing you want to do is lug your heavy bags around in the sweltering heat (unless of course you once dreamt of being a human pack mule). Luckily, you can check your bags for free at the site! The main luggage room is located in the building just to the right of the main entrance gates, or for a few euros you can also store your bags at the Pompeii Scavi train station.
How to Navigate the Site
Pompeii is surprisingly big and there's a lot to see, so it's wise to have a game plan in place before you go. Complimentary maps of the site are available at the ticket office and audio guides can be rented for a small fee. However, my personal recommendation would be to do a guided tour, which generally lasts two hours and costs about 15 euros per person on top of the admission price. This is a great way to learn about the history of Pompeii and see things you otherwise might have missed (for one, they can explain why there's a cobblestone in the road shaped like a man's nether-regions). To snag a guide, just hang out near the main ticket office and you'll soon see them roaming about. If there are several guides available for you to choose from, consider asking them to breakdance fight in a bid to win your business.*
*In retrospect, this is probably not the best idea.
Where to Eat
There are several food stands and small cafes just outside the Pompeii Scavi train station where you can buy provisions before entering the site. Once inside the ruins, there is a small food court where you can get the basics such as a slice of pizza and a drink. Alcohol is also available for those of you looking to party it up Pompeii-style.
What to Bring
Going to Pompeii in the summer without sunscreen is like going to a Cher concert without a feather boa. Don't be that person.
If you're going in the summer months, a bottle of water is a must. Pompeii can get very hot and hydration is key to, y'know, not dying. There are various water fountains around the site where you can refill as needed.
Pompeii is quite large and the streets are made of uneven cobblestones, so unless you're Lady Gaga, try to avoid wearing heels (dresses made of steak may also prove impractical yet delicious).
A Hat/ Umbrella/ Sunglasses
There's very little shade in Pompeii and the sun can be pretty intense, so be sure to bring along the appropriate supplies. No one wants to be the person vomiting from heat stroke at the end of the day. Unless, you know, you're into that kind of thing...
And what's the one thing you shouldn't miss on your visit?
Make sure you see the casts of the victims of the eruption.
Yes, it's a little morbid, but it's also completely fascinating. As fine ash from the eruption proceeded to bury the city of Pompeii, it also encased the bodies of the victims and hardened to form a shell which captured and preserved the victims' final postures at the moment of death. As the flesh, internal organs and clothing gradually decomposed, a void was left inside the ash casing. Archaeologists later discovered that if they filled this void with plaster, the shapes of the bodies could be preserved. The result is both horrifying and mesmerizing.
If I've left anything out on this list, feel free to leave a comment below and I'll do my best to answer any questions you might have!