Pompeii Travel GuideIntroduction
The archeological site and ancient city of Pompeii is famous all over the world as the city that fell after having been destroyed by ash fall and pyroplastic flows that came after the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. As modern archeologists have discovered in their excavations, much of the city has been preserved, seemingly frozen in time, by these same circumstances. To this day, visitors to the site are able to view the remains of ancient Roman buildings, homes, and markets. Its most famous and poignant draw, however, would be the remains of the citizens who dwelled there whose final tragic moments were caught and preserved in solidified ash and plaster.
Pompeii is one of the five cities that were similarly affected by the Vesuvius eruption, including Herculaneum, Stabiae, Oplontis, and Monte Bursaccio. However, among these sites, Pompeii is the largest and most popular. Once a flourishing and prosperous city, a visit to Pompeii offers a good glimpse on what the day to day life of ancient Romans living there could have been like.
At the moment, parts of the city still remains to be uncovered, and archeologists continue the delicate and arduous task of excavating and unearthing more and more artifacts. In the meantime, preservation and restoration work is also being performed on uncovered areas.
What to See
The earliest and best-preserved permanent amphitheater in Italy, this large structure used to hold up to 20,000 spectators at any given time. It was the site of many events such as sports competitions and gladiator battles, and other similar spectacles that the ancient Romans enjoyed.
The heart of every ancient Roman town, the Forum was where everyone gathered and mingled. It was also many important government offices were located, along with major religious and commercial structures of the time.
This was the most important administrative building of the city during its heyday, and was a center for trading activities. It also served as the local court of justice where many important decisions and arbitrations were made.
This building was actually an ancient Roman brothel. Though an interesting location that showcases good examples of ancient artwork, be aware that this may not be a good place to stop at when traveling with the kids. This is mostly because being what it is, the walls are adorned with frescoes that depict pornographic scenes.
A gymnasium, the Palaestra is a huge area that is located near the amphitheater. It was mostly used for sporting events.
The Temple of Apollo
This temple that was dedicated to the god Apollo is important due to the fact that it contains artifacts that were discovered to have been even older than the believed age of the city of Pompeii itself. Some of these items were dated back to the Etruscan era, which was around 575 BC.
Other spots to check out
- Via dei Sepolcri
- House of the Ancient Hunt
- House of the Faun
- Ancient baths
- House of the Tragic Poet
- Various ancient stores and establishments such as bakeries and bars
Note: Remember that the site of Pompeii is HUGE and there are many, many sights to see. When visiting this location, be sure to also check out random villas or buildings that are open to the public, because these also tend to have amazing artwork on its walls. It also offers a more intimate look into the daily lives of the citizens of ancient Pompeii.
Tips and Advice
- If you’re not arriving with a group in your own shuttle, Pompeii is easily accessible via bus or commuter train from Naples, Sorrento, or Salerno. From the station, it is then a short walk to the main entrance to the ruins.
- There are baggage counters available both at the station and at the tourist office at the site.
- Be sure to grab brochures and maps at the tourist office before diving into Pompeii itself. Here, you can also choose to hire a guide, if you don’t already have one, or purchase unofficial audio guides from one of the vendors nearby.
- Bring cash for your entrance ticket, as the ticket office doesn’t always accept credit cards.
- Wear comfortable shoes, as Pompeii is a walking-only location, and the site is huge. Expect to stay around three hours or more when visiting this location, so dress accordingly, and travel light.
- There is little shade at Pompeii, so be sure to wear sunscreen, and maybe bring an umbrella or a hat to avoid heat stroke. Also, bring a drink bottle with you, and if you get thirsty, there are several drinking fountains in the area where you can get a refill of water.
- There is an air-conditioned café at the center of the site, in case you need to take a break and have a meal. Prices are a little higher here, and the food is average, but it makes a good place to rest and catch your breath. You can also just bring your own food, if you wish (just remember to dispose of your trash properly afterwards!).
- Keep in mind that the paths and roads within the site are mostly made of ancient cobblestone, which means that it can be rough and uneven. Coupled with the vastness of Pompeii, and the lack of shade, we cannot stress enough the importance of wearing your comfiest shoes and clothes. The quality of the roads may also pose an issue for persons with disabilities, and people with weaker constitutions, so make the proper preparations when planning your visit. This is also a factor to keep in mind when traveling with children as they may tire easily.
- Those with mobility issues or parents with very small children should head to the Piazza Anfiteatro entrance of the site. The entrance is easier to reach, and the tourist office here normally has special itineraries for PWDs.