Almost two thousand years ago, in 79 AD, 20 thousand residents of the city of Pompeii got up in the morning and went about their daily lives. No thought crossed their minds about the terrifying volcano that they live next to. The 24th of August was the day that forever changed their lives and the history of the region. The volcano Vesuvius erupted and caused enormous destruction to the city, which was buried meters under the boiling lava. For hundreds of years the story was forgotten and hidden in the depths of the earth. Until 1748. In this year Rocque Joauin discovered the buried city, in a series of archaeological excavations conducted in the area. This is after additional excavations in the area, during the construction of a palace for the King of Naples, discovered another burial site and aroused the suspicion of the Italians that something big once happened in the area. Fortunately and miraculously, due to the lack of air and moisture, the finds buried under the ground were amazingly preserved.
Pompeii was an important port city in the days of the ancient Roman Empire, which at that time controlled all the countries of the Mediterranean. With the natural disaster that struck the area, the city was wiped out, as were all its inhabitants and the story of their lives. Today the ancient city of Pompeii is a wonder of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site has become one of Italy’s leading tourist destinations. About 2 million people visit it every year. By visiting the remains of the ancient city, you can get a glimpse of the people who lived there, the culture, history and life The vibrancy of the city in all its shades. This is a very fascinating and experiential tour, suitable for all ages.
How to prepare for a visit to Pompeii?
- It is recommended to come with comfortable shoes, preferably flat shoes. There is a lot of walking on tours and the ground on the site’s streets is very rocky and rough. If you are traveling with toddlers, it is not recommended to bring a stroller, as it will be almost impossible to drag it.
- The sun is sometimes very strong in the place and the tour is long and usually held during the hottest hours of the day. Before you arrive at the site, be sure to stock up on a bottle of water (you are allowed to bring it in), a hat, sunscreen, etc.
- Inside the site there is a restaurant where you can dine during the day. But, there are also lovely areas where you can have a picnic. This is a full day trip, so you should bring at least some snacks with you.
- It should be taken into account that the site management does not allow entry with large bags. If you arrive with bags larger than 30×30 cm, you will have to leave them in the luggage storage at the entrance.
How should you travel there?
There are several ways you can visit Pompeii. If you want professional and comprehensive guidance on the site, you can hire the services of a local guide by prior arrangement or when entering the site. A tour with a qualified guide, who has an official badge of the local tourism authority, will cost you from 100 euros. Such a tour usually lasts 3-4 hours and includes specific focal points on the site. After that you can move around freely. Recommended travel companies that organize such tours are:
- Walks of Italy – a big advantage of the company is that the guides are expert archaeologists and the groups are limited.
- Pompeii & Amalfi day trip from Rome – a company that takes out day tours from Rome, including transportation. The tour takes about 13 hours (including travel) and also includes stops at points of interest along the way.
Another option is to rent an audio guide, recorded explanatory segments that you will listen to with headphones while wandering around the site (it’s a good idea to have them in advance). This is an option that will of course cost you much less (€6-10). Keep in mind that the training is not available in Hebrew, but only in English, French, German and Italian.
The most economical option is your independent tour of the site. It can be accompanied by means that will make it easier for you, such as an informational app on the site (these exist in all languages) that you download to your mobile device, or the instruction book Pompeii’s Little Red Book, which will be sold to you at the booth at the entrance to the site.
By purchasing an entrance ticket to the site, you will receive a map of the area and a small pocket guide to the place. The centers within the site are all numbered and divided by subject. This way you can navigate your way through the ruins and plan your route. If you have an internet package abroad, you can also navigate inside the complex with the help of the apps.
It is recommended to purchase an entrance ticket to the site in advance, and thus save the long line to buy tickets at the entrance. This can be done on the Pompeii website.
General lines for a recommended route in Pompeii
The site has four different entrances, you should enter and start the tour from the Porta Marina entrance. From there you can’t miss the Forum – a kind of large and impressive square that served as the political, religious and commercial center of the old city. From there, cross to the other side of the site, you will see many impressive buildings along the way, such as squares, temples, residences, bakeries, shops, statues and more. A little after Via dell’Abbondanza, you can see the Pompeii amphitheater. This is the oldest amphitheater in the world! Similar to Rome’s Colosseum, gladiators used to hold bloody battles there against fearsome wild animals, with an enthusiastic audience of tens of thousands of residents. From the amphitheater you can go back, towards the gate from which you entered. On your way you will pass through the Necropolis. There you will see many graves and beautiful gardens, it is a particularly quiet and peaceful area. On the way you will probably also pass by Villa dei Misteri, the place where they used to produce wine, from a typical grape variety of the place, in those days. Today there is a unique project that produces bottles of local boutique wine, which is sold to visitors at an auction. Unfortunately, it is not possible to hold a tasting of the wines, but it is still a special attraction of its kind.
A daily entrance ticket to the site costs 11 euros. Note that they do not accept credit cards at the entrance, remember to bring enough cash with you. Every first Sunday of the month entrance to the site is free, but accordingly the place becomes much more massive.
You can buy a combined entrance ticket that includes entrance to the site in addition to several other archaeological sites in the same style: Herculaneum, Oplontis, Stabia and the Antiquarium of Boscoreale. The ticket costs about 20 euros and is valid for 3 days.
In the months of November to March – 8:30-17:00. Last entry is allowed until 3:30 p.m.
In the months of April to October – 8:30-19:30. Last entry is allowed until 18:00. This is the peak season of tourism in the area, you should arrive early and start the tour already in the morning, to avoid large crowds.
The site is closed to visitors on national holidays, on January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.
How do you get to Pompeii?
The ancient city of Pompeii is a stopping point for many means of transportation, from any major city in Italy. It is an hour and a half drive from Rome, half an hour from Naples, 45 minutes from Sorrento and 4 and a half hours from Florence (not including traffic).
Train is the fastest means of transportation. From Rome there are fast trains (Frecciarossa or Italo) that leave from the central station in the city, with which the journey takes about an hour. From the central station of Naples there is a Circumvesuviana train, which takes about half an hour. The same train also comes from Sorrento to Pompeii. It should be taken into account that the trains are sometimes quite crowded and you will have to stand.
SITA buses also depart from the train station in Sorrento and the Piazza Esedra station in Naples, which will allow you to travel with an observation of a spectacular view on the way, which will take about 40 minutes.
It is recommended to have travel tickets in advance and to be updated with more details on the websites of the transport companies.