I spent Sunday May 10th at Pompeii. Getting there was pretty easy, I just took the Circumvesuviana train from Naples Central Station, it has a separate entrance and ticket than the other trains, but there are plenty of clear signs. It’s even named after going around Vesuvius so should be easy to remember. You take the train towards Sorrento and get off at Pompei-Scavi and from there you aren’t far at all to the entrance.
I arrived at the train station at 8:45am, got on the next train which was at 9:11am. It’s normally about a 25-30 minute ride, our train stopped so took a bit longer. But I arrived and there were no lines, so I bought my ticket and went right inside, I was inside at 10am.
I really enjoyed my time at Pompeii. I ended up spending the entire day there and leaving at 5pm. I brought water and some energy bars, so that was my lunch. I brought two water bottles since it was a hot day, but there were actually plenty of places to get potable water, so I just kept refilling one of them. There’s not a lot of shade, so do go prepared for a long day out in the sun.
I spent the first part of my time (a bit under 2 hours) going through a free guided audio tour, I downloaded the Pompeii section from the Rick Steves iPhone app (thanks for the recommendation, Val). It only covered a small part of the beginning, but I enjoyed the insight it provided, and then liked that it was shorter as I went off exploring by myself afterwards.
Do note if you’re using any kind of non-live guide, that there seem to always be lots of areas closed, so you may not be able to follow the indicated path.
In general, Pompeii felt a bit like a massive museum. It was very cool but the experience felt a bit more curated than just exploring ruins. Also, much of the ‘art’ on display is actually replicas, where the originals have been removed and are in the excellent Archaeological Museum in Naples. It’s understandable, especially given all the people that come to Pompeii, but does feel like it changes the experience slightly to me. But given the centuries that everything was buried from the eruption of Vesuvius (and thus less ransacking could happen) there are some really amazing sights to see here, and some really cool rooms, buildings, and houses.
I often hear people talk about comparing it to Ostia Antica where I went the week prior. I think Pompeii ultimately ends up being the more fascinating with more intact rooms which are really amazing to see. However I’d say that I had more fun at Ostia, as there it really feels like you’re exploring a ruin and that you’re able to go off the beaten path a bit and do some exploring. Plus the old mosaics there are all still the originals (as far as I know). If you can only do one, you probably want Pompeii for the historical relevance. But if you like exploring and want to feel more like Indiana Jones, go to Ostia Antica. I think going to both makes the experience at each richer as you can see how massive ruins sites can vary. But you can’t go wrong either way.
I did feel like I had to do a lot of back-tracking when walking around Pompeii, given all the various roads and paths that were closed. But as you get further away from the main square you do find some cool stuff, and less crowds.
Ultimately it was a great day, after I thought I went everywhere, I checked the free book I got upon entry and noticed a few places I had missed, so found them on the map and went by them on the way back. Lots of very cool stuff to see, glad I gave myself the day to do it. Plenty of people could be happy at Pompeii in 3-4 hours, but I’d strongly recommend going at the start of the day, that way you have the flexibility to stay as long as you’d like.
Here are a number of pictures from the day, with captions where relevant.