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!