Actually, I had no idea at all about Pompeii. The city on the Gulf of Naples was destroyed in the great eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. completely buried under rubble and lava ash and rediscovered only in the 18th century. Pompeii is really huge and the excavations are endless. Without a plan, you don’t even know which houses and interesting places to look at first! In this article, I’ll show you which locations in Pompeii you shouldn’t skip!
Hey, I’m Tatiana, a German-Brazilian living in Berlin & the author behind The Happy Jetlagger. I’ve been writing about my travels since 2014. In addition to my job as a flight attendant, this blog is my passion project!
I have to admit archaeology is not my biggest area of interest. But I’ve been to Naples numerous times, not once of them to Pompeii, and Naples without Pompeii – that’s almost a travel faux pas. This time it should be different. Besides, we were on a big mother-daughter trip and really wanted to take everything with us.
“Your best bet is to start in the Roman Seven quadrant, then Roman Eight, and then further back are the mummies,” said the cashier at the entrance, pointing to an itty-bitty portion of the huge map of Pompeii spread out before us. It was already half past three in the afternoon, the search for a parking lot before adventurous and actually every guidebook says: You will need a day to see Pompeii. I can only confirm this now! Not only because of the size, but also because of the overwhelming impressions. We actually only saw the part with the most important excavations, but that is fascinating enough.
First of all: Pompeii really impressed me. It is hard to grasp how advanced people were living 2000 years ago. The sheer size of the city, the preserved streets and buildings, are also hard to grasp and one vacillates between disbelief and amazement when imagining Pompeii at that time.
This is where the streams of visitors will automatically lead you: The Forum is the center of the city, so to speak. Interesting are also the former granaries on one side of the forum, where today archaeological finds are kept.
The house of the tragic poet shows one of the most famous motifs from Pompeii. A filigree floor mosaic in the entrance to the house, warning of the biting dog: Cave Canem (Latin for “Beware of dog”). A similar mosaic from another house can be seen in the Archaeological Museum in Naples. The crowd foreshadows: One of the most popular sights of Pompeii.
Actually we wanted to visit the amphitheater at the other end of Pompeii, but our feet didn’t carry us that far. The area is really huge. For that, the Grand Theater is also quite impressive.
No idea why the cashier always talked about mummies. But somehow it also sounds more reverent than the expression “corpses” of Pompeii, which is also sometimes used. In fact, some inhabitants of Pompeii were surprised by the eruption of Vesuvius and were buried on the spot by volcanic ash and rocks. Contrary to popular belief, some of Pompeii’s inhabitants had already fled before the great eruption.
After a strong earthquake in 62 AD. with major damage, Pompeii was still half a construction site anyway and the volcanic eruption announced itself days before. During excavations, cavities were then found within the rock containing human remains and filled with plaster. Human outlines appeared, some of them in the middle of performing activities. The Orto dei Fugaschii (Garden of the Fugitives) contains the largest number of victims found in one place.
I did not feel like taking photos were appropriate, so there’s nothing to see here 🙂 Other than I took so many pictures around the rest of the area. Pompeii really has left a big impression on me.
Looking for more travel inspiration for Italy?
➜ Read more here
How you can even visit Pompeii in plain summer is a mystery to me. Even during our visit in the cooler month of October, the sun was particularly hot in Pompeii. The location on the hill, many open spaces and the massive stones everywhere quickly heat up the excavation. However, in bad weather and rain, I imagine the ancient roads made of cobblestones can be quite slippery. So we were very lucky with our sunny autumn day and had the best Pompeii weather. In summer, the sun is said to be merciless. The volume of visitors is also a challenge, even during off-season: we struggled to always find the right slot between two tour groups at each house.
Pompeii can be expensive: Admission alone costs €15. However, there are a number of discounts or even free admission for young adults, journalists, teachers, lecturers, students of relevant faculties. Admission is also free for children and teenagers under 18! I thought that was great.
Tip: Save yourself long queues and buy your ticket in advance! Buy your ticket for Pompeii online*
Audio guides are available separately, and given the dimensions and historical background, a great thing – if they worked. The audio guides are stored on old smartphones, which are supposed to have a battery life of four hours. One of the two lasted only half as long with minimal use. At the price of 15€ for two audio guides this was very disappointing. The audio guides for Pompeii are available only at the entrance Porta Marina. For the rest, however, I was so impressed by everything that I had no capacity left to listen to an audio guide anyway. If I had more interest, I would probably still prefer to use a tour guide.
Without a map you are almost lost in Pompeii: Here you can download the official map of the excavation site
You can already guess: sturdy shoes are required. Preferably shoes in which you do not slip much. Despite comfortable sneakers, our feet hurt in the end. The huge cobblestones are quite uncomfortable to walk on. Thicker soles with some grip are very handy! Sun protection such as hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are essential.
We finally ended up in a restaurant parking lot that takes 3.50 euros per hour. This was about a 5 minute walk from the Porta Marina entrance. However, I have not seen cheaper alternatives at a comparable distance.
You can also reach Pompeii with the Circumvesuviana train. Had we not had the rental car for our further trip along the Amalfi Coast anyway, this would probably have been the better alternative. The Circumvesuviana Naples-Sorrento stops at Porta Marina (stop: Pompei Villa dei Misteri), the Circumvesuviana-Poggiomarino stops at the entrance Piazza Anfiteatro (stop: Pompei Santuario).
From Naples you can also book complete packages, tour guide and transport included:
Pompeii is only a 40-minute drive from Naples. If you want to spend the night closer to Pompeii, e.g. because you want to get to the area at 9 a.m. or because you are on the way to Sorrento or the Amalfi Coast, a stop in the neighboring Castellammare di Stabia is a good idea. Accommodation prices are a bit lower here, and yet in this authentic little town you will find a nice beach promenade and a cable car that goes up to Monte Faito.