Hello from Italy!
I visited the ancient city of Pompeii, just south of Naples, a few days ago. It has been on my bucket list for years and it exceeded my expectations!
As we learned in history class at school, the city of Pompeii was buried under a blanket of volcanic ash and debris in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted. The ruins were discovered in 1748, preserved by the volcanic material. The town was frozen in time and walking through the preserved remains is an amazing experience, allowing us to imagine what life was life back then.
When you arrive at Pompeii, you can opt to do a guided tour, or walk around yourself. Guided tours can be great in some situations, but I decided to roam around at my own pace, without a guide. There is a map and an app that can help you find your way around. The first thing worth noting is that you will be here for hours! I expected the site to be smaller. I spent 3 hours here but some tours recommend up to 6 hours.
Mount Vesuvius towers in the background of the ruins of Pompeii, a reminder of the cause of the fate of the city.
The ‘basillica’ is the remains of a building where legal and business matters were discussed.
These are some of the remains of statues in the ‘Forum’ which was the main square of the city. It was the economic, religious and political hub of Pompeii and it was my favourite area in Pomeii. It’s easy to envisage the hustle and bustle of the people of Pompeii moving around the markets, courthouses and bathhouses.
The Forum is a square which leads to you to a web of cobblestoned streets. There are a range of houses to see, from small basic stone buildings to magnificent villas with lavish designs. There are brothels, temples and bathhouses, many with details such as paintings, sculptures and mosaics well preserved.
The saddest and more errie part of the tour is seeing the ‘body casts’. During the eruption some bodies were covered with a thin layer of ash which hardened to a shell. This preserved their final terrified postures before death.
The amphitheater is the oldest surviving amphitheater in the world, the second oldest being the Colosseum in Rome. These venues were used for entertainment, performances and sports. Standing in the middle of the amphitheater is a surreal experience, knowing that many sporting and entertainment celebrities from back then stood in that very place.
How to get to Pompeii:
- I recommend taking the train if you are travelling from the nearby city of Naples. The train route is strightforward as it stops at ‘Pompeii Scavi’ which is the Pompeii stop which is directly at the Pompeii ruins entrance. From Naples Central station, take the Circumvesuviana ‘Sorrento’ train. Its a slow local train and it depends how many stops it takes, it can take up to 40 minutes.
- There is another train station served by Trenitalia, which is about 20 minutes walk from the ruins. Look up the route to these stations from where you are staying.
- There are also bus route and the option of hiring a car. I wouldn’t recommend driving as drivers here are known for their creative applications of road rules! I’ve noticed many cars with dents on the bumpers, so I personally wouldn’t chance it when public transport routes are quite good.
- Most important tip is to wear comfortable shoes, as there is a lot of cobblestoned ground to cover to see the entire site.
- There are cafes on the site but its easy to exit to Pompeii town and eat there as there are plenty of restuarants. Once you are out you cannot get back in, so keep that in mind.
- Bring water bottles- there is no bag check to stop you bringing in your own things. I can only imagine if you visit in summer that you will need lots of water. Its also a very open area, so add extra suncream and hats to your list too.
- Visit off peak if you can. January was perfect, it wasn’t crowded at all and the weather was mild, sunny and crisp.
- Book online if you are going peak season, no one likes to queue! Pompeii is very popular with tourists.
So as a final note, I would recommend visiting the ruins of Pompeii if you are in southern Italy. No pictures can describe or capture fully the experience of walking through such an amazing archeological site, it really feels like travelling back in time.
If any of you have tips on the nearby site of Herculaneum, please share them in the comments section as I’m thinking of visiting there too.