Pompeii is probably one of the first places that comes to mind when you think of places in Italy. Everyone has heard the story of the ancient city that was destroyed by the volcano. So when I was planning a trip from Rome to Positano in the summer of 2018, I realized the train schedules would allow me to spend a few hours in Pompeii. I figured, why not? I’ll stop by, check out the city, and I’ll check out Mount Vesuvius too!
This was a completely impromptu stop on my trip. So, naturally, there were a few things about Pompeii that took me by surprise, and resulted in me feeling like I’d wasted the opportunity to visit Pompeii. I’m here to tell you the things I wish I’d known before visiting Pompeii.
Pompeii is NOT at the foot of Vesuvius.
Was it just me, or did everything we ever learned in elementary school lead us to believe Pompeii was built right next to Mount Vesuvius? I even recall thinking how silly it was to build a town that close to a volcano… Well, Pompeii is actually about 6 miles from Mount Vesuvius…or a 50 minute bus ride. I know, right? I saw signs for how long the bus ride was as soon as I left the train station and was already realizing I definitely should have planned more.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to visit Mount Vesuvius as I only had a few short hours before my next train. However, apparently the buses take you most of the way up Mount Vesuvius (to an elevation of around 1,000 meters) and you just walk the last 200 meters to the summit! I recommend planning at least a full day here if you want to see both Pompeii and Vesuvius.
Pompeii is WAY bigger than you think.
Like I said, I thought I could tackle Pompeii in just a few hours. For some reason I thought the town was much smaller, and thought most of it was completely gone or destroyed. Wrong again, Pompeii is around 163 acres, enclosed behind about 2 miles of city walls. You’ll definitely need at least half a day to fully explore the city. From 1 April until 31 October, Pompeii is open from 9 AM until 7:30 PM during the week and opens at 8:30 AM on weekends. The rest of the year, Pompeii closes at 5:30 PM
Take a Tour.
This has gotta be my biggest regret about my visit to Pompeii, aside from not allotting myself anywhere near enough time to explore. It was honestly super frustrating, wandering through Pompeii, soaking it all in…but most of the time having absolutely no idea what I was looking at. I felt awful for not being able to fully appreciate Pompeii and all it had to offer. This is what made me feel like I wasted my trip to Pompeii the most. I squandered the opportunity to learn and understand as much as possible about Pompeii. Don’t make the same mistake I did! When planning your trip to Pompeii, research tours and choose the best option to suit your needs.
Or, Download an Audio Guide Before You Go.
You will want a guide to get the full experience of Pompeii. I usually count on audio guides, which, at most places, you can get at the entrance for 5 to 10 euro. There are no audio guides for Pompeii! A quick google search led me to apps with guides but, unfortunately, cell service wasn’t the best, and I couldn’t download the app. So, don’t be like me! The “Discover Pompeii” app is free and can be used offline so as long as you download it before you go, you’ll be all set! It has over 6 hours of audio guides and a map to guide you through the city. If you don’t want to pay for a tour, or would rather explore on your own, make sure you download this app while planning your trip. It’s available on Google Play and in the Apple Store.
Pompeii will probably be crowded.
This one should really go without saying. And I definitely should have realized beforehand that, of course, a tourist attraction would have crowds of tourists. I was already frustrated (mostly due to my lack of planning for my trip to Pompeii) and the throngs of tourists most definitely didn’t help. It’ll be difficult to get certain pictures without a bunch of people in them, so just be aware of this while planning, and during your trip to Pompeii.
Overall, I don’t regret my trip to Pompeii AT ALL. It was an incredible, awe-inspiring experience. What I do regret is not properly planning for my stop in Pompeii. I definitely hope to return one day and make the absolute most of it the second time around. If you are planning a trip to Pompeii, I hope you can learn from my mistake in order to fully enjoy your time in this incredible UNESCO world heritage site and archaeological wonder. I’ll finish this post off with some more photos I took from my trip to Pompeii.
Also, if you’re taking a trip to Pompeii from Rome, be sure to check out my list of off the beaten path things to do in Rome before you leave the eternal city!
I love this!!! This brings me right back to our trip to Italy exactly 3 years ago (crying!!!). Pompeii was awesome, and I laughed because I also ~assumed~ it was at the foot of Vesuvius. It’s a HUGE place and I’m glad we had a guide to show us around because I wouldn’t have known what we were looking at, but it’s an enthralling place to visit regardless. I hope you’re able to go back and get to Vesuvius – hiking it was amazing!!!
These are great tips. I am definitely guilty of not always spending enough time in each place as well. Tours are sometimes the best thing you can do when you are short on time. Thanks for sharing, I will remember these tips if I ever make it to Pompeii!
Very useful tips that i am sure i will come back to some day. I hadn’t thought of any of this at all, except maybe that it was far from the volcano because i saw it in a movie featuring Kit Harrington. (Spoiler alert, everybody dies 😭) .
I love this post as you show that not every trip is well planned and helping others not to do same mistakes. I think what you wanted to visit was actually Herculaneum, much smaller and close to the Vesuvius. Absolutely agree about the tour, it was the best thing ever, especially if you have little time but I didn’t know about the app, will defo check it out! Also, if you wish less people around, go to few main locations an hour/two before closing. Sunset and ruins and almost empty space just for yourself. Perfect! 😀
Thanks for the advice! Will definitely keep this in mind next time!
Great tips! I have not been able to visit Pompeii yet so I would love to go back to Italy and see all of this area. I just love all the history and will make sure to do a tour for sure 🙂
Wow I had no idea how big the city was or that it wasn’t right next to the volcano!! Great things to note. I would love to visit it someday!
It’s one of the funny things about travel, the more we do it, the more learn from our previous trips. I’m sure it was a great experience getting to visit Pompeii and now you know what you would do differently on your next visit!
Great post! I would love to visit Pompeii, we almost did last year but had to cut it from our Rome trip due to time
Ostia Antica is a great substitute for Pompeii and is only about 40 minutes to an hour from Rome!
Aaaaw, what a bummer your visit didn’t go as smooth as anticipated, but still great you got to visit though! I went to Pompeii late nineties/early noughties when online resources were scarce but seem to remember that the travel there wasn’t that difficult. I do remember thinking of ‘doing’ Pompeii in the morning and then visit the museum in Napels in the afternoon. But just like you I was blown away by its sheer size! We spent a full day there still hadn’t seen everything. It was also incredibly hot. Since it was quite a while ago, it wasn’t too busy thankfully. I do remember some research team were doing some excavations on-site still which was incredible to think after so many years. Your post brings back many great memories, thanks for that 🙂 And if I ever go back, I think I’d go on a tour then, good tip!
This is so helpful! I was sad that I didn’t visit Pompeii when I was in Naples, but after reading your tips, I don’t think I would have been able to do it justice. So I’ll plan for a whole day in Pompeii the next time I’m in the area!
Great post about Pompeii. Haven’t been to it yet, but it’s on my list when I travel in Italy next year. Thanks for the wonderful advice!
It is too bad that you didn’t arrange a walking tour of Pompeii. When I visit a historic destination, that is the first thing that I do. This way you can learn a bit of the history and learn about some off the beaten path things to see and do.
I’m definitely going to start doing walking tours when I go anywhere!
I didn’t realize Pompeii was that big, or that it was far from Vesuvius – I would’ve been in the same boat as you! I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as you could despite the hiccups.
Haha I also thought Pompeii was right there near Mt Vesuvius. Live and learn. I haven’t had the chance to visit this site on the Italian leg of my group tour through Europe (many moons ago). Very bummed out this wasn’t one of our stops. I’ll be sure to plan ahead next time. Thanks for the advice!
What a perspective! We might have wasted our short stop too!
If you enjoyed it then it wasn’t a waste!
I was suprised the first time I went to Pompeii how big it was too! You can easily spend 4 hours wandering around. I enjoyed it more the second time when I went in the springtime… way less people than summertime.
I’ll definitely try to go sometime other than the summer next time!
Aww but I’m glad you still made the most out of your short trip to Pompeii! And hopefully you can explore more places once you get back. Thank you for sharing this! I wish I can visit there someday soon! 🙂
I hope you get to go! And I definitely want to go back 🙂
This blog is so topical, I’m going to Pompeii next week. Definitely downloading the app. Thank you!
Glad I could help, Rebecca! I hope you enjoy your trip!
Agree completely about booking a tour. We went to Positano a few years ago and our taxi driver from the airport suggested going to Pompeii on route. He phoned ahead and organised a private guide, who was excellent. It was not expensive and we learned so much. Thank you Mr Taxi Driver!
I definitely want to go back and book a tour!