Frozen in time and forever since 79 AD
Visiting Naples for the first time? Then chances you will be coming to Pompeii are high. This was our actual case, not only was the first time travelling to Naples (which nowadays we can count at least 5 more), but the entire trip had to be planned to include this stunning archaeological site. And to know that there are so many other Roman cities, islands such as Capri, the amazing Amalfi and Sorrentine Coasts or the impressive sites of ancient Magna Graecia at Paestum and countless more, then it is certain hard to even get tired of visiting what is to my taste, one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of Italy, Naples.
It is hard to even say something about Pompeii, where time simply stood still for 2000 years. After having visited some other ancient civilizations masterpieces such as Petra in Jordan, Athens Acropolis in Greece or Rome, the capital of the vast empire than once was; coming here was as exciting as for any of the others with the difference that this time we knew we would get to see how a Roman city really was, with all the infrastructure almost in perfect condition; palaces, temples, houses, baths, bars, shops, brothels; including original graffiti on the walls from that era; all there frozen in time after Mount Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD.
Although Pompeii was not the only city to be buried. It was certainly the most affected in the sense that the amount of super heated pyroclastics felt too abruptly destroying the roofs and upper levels of almost every house in the fraction of few second; but this did not happen at nearby Ercolano and Stabiae, hence why you get to see almost complete houses and palaces with great paintings still decorating every wall at the others but very little of that here in Pompeii even though it was the largest city in the area. Everything completely disappeared after the eruption until its rediscovery and excavation, which it is still ongoing and will last for decades to come.
How to get there
The trip from Naples to Pompeii is around 35 minutes. The best and easiest way is by taking the Circumvesuviana trains. Very frequent, running until late at night. They operate from the lower level of the main train station at Piazza Garibaldi or Porta Nolana station which is the end of the line. The route is for Sorrento stopping at Torre Anunziata for Oplontis, Ercolano Scavi for Ercolano and Pompei Scavi for Pompeii.
The site is openes from 08:30 am to 17:00 pm during winter months and extended to 19.30 pm during summer months. For the best and official information check their website here, with prices for each of the sites or combined tickets should you wish to visit more than one site. Basically 11 Euros for one site, or 20 Euros for the ticket that gives you access to 5 different sites, including Ercolano, Oplontis, Stabiae and Boscoreale.
How to visit the site
As for any Roman city, it was a very well planned orthogonal grid of streets, with both the major streets, Decumanos and Cardo, intersecting in perpendicular at the Forum, where the political and religious centre would be located.
Notice on every street, the pavement and the road have a big height between them, and at the crossings, elevated stones at the same level as the pavement. On a similar way of a zebra crossings of today, however the reason is quite different. Pompeii lacked from a proper sewer system, meaning the streets were the actual opened air sewer. Romans are well known for underground sewage network, but in the case of Pompeii, it was not built since it was not a rich nor opulent city. Quite the opposite to what was Oplontis merely few kilometres apart. Rich and wealthy with an incredible water and canalisation system.
You will get to see every building that makes a Roman city of this size and importance. Palaces, homes, baths, temples, bars, etc. Incredible courtyards with beautiful fountains full with mosaic floors. Even 2000 years old graffiti have survived to our days and you can see them today protected behind the glass panels added to the walls where they are.
Overall, even considering the large area it occupies, it is very simple and straightforward to visit if you navigate yourself making ziz-zags since all the streets form a grid. The views of the mighty Mount Vesuvius are amazing from almost any street in Pompeii.
As this is for anyone a day or half day trip from Naples or other cities nearby such as Sorrento, there is no place I could recommend you other than our already large experience in Naples, our base city every time we fly to this region. The guide contains a good bunch of hotels we’ve been and of course, a fantastic listing of every sight.