Your Guide to Some Damn Useful Travel Hacks in Pompeii, Italy (aka Common Travel Mistakes in Pompeii to Avoid)
Here at Girl with the Passport, we like to make all the travel mistakes in Pompeii, Italy so you don’t have to. But no need to thank me because when I spend a day in Pompeii, I’m like Mt. Vesuvius and naturally become a natural disaster of epic proportions (punning at life over here). And while I could pretend that I am some martyr who tirelessly sacrifices herself on the altar of the travel Gods, on your behalf, that would be a total lie. If I could travel like a winner of the Amazing Race, and effortlessly speak 12 languages while navigating myself out of the innermost depths of the Amazon, with only a compass to guide me, I totally would.
But nope, that’s not my style. I am a loud, awkward, American who can barely speak English and attracts an endless array of travel debacles like it’s her job. Actually, being a total travel disaster kind of is my job since it makes for great posts and an assortment of stories that are absolutely hilarious, especially after the fact when I am safe in my bed with a pint of ice cream, sweatpants, and only Netflix to soothe my aching ego. Ahh, the good life. Totally living the dream on my air mattress in New York City.
However, you haven’t tuned into this post to hear about my relatively boring existence in New York City in which I eat, sleep, work and repeat until I go on my next trip. On second thought, sleep is a luxury and something I do for fun. Yikes, I really am a Golden Girl. Okay, this post seems to be going downhill fast so let’s skip to the part where I tell you how truly awesome I am and give you life-changing advice about how to travel in Pompeii and explore all the amazingly beautiful attractions in Pompeii. Ehh, life-changing is a bit over the top. Mildly useful? That works. I’ll set the bar low so that you’re more inclined to be impressed by this post.
***BORING POMPEII RUINS INFORMATION THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW***
Hours: From the November 1 – March 31, the Pompeii Excavations are open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (park opens at 8:30 am on Saturday and Sunday) with the last admission at 3:30 pm.
From April 1 – October 1, the Pompeii Excavations are open from 9:00 am – 7:30 pm (park opens at 8:30 am on Saturday and Sunday) with the last admission at 4:00 pm.
Ticket Prices: (official ticket offices are only inside the Park so any seller outside the main entrances is not affiliated with the Pompeii Archaeological Park) A single, one day ticket for Pompeii is € 13.00 and a reduced price ticket is €7.50 (Check the website for combination tickets to some or all of the archeological sites in the area).
***Entrance into Pompeii is FREE on the first Sunday of Every month***
1. Travel from Rome to Pompeii on a Day Trip
Generally speaking, I try to keep it as real as possible otherwise, how could you trust anything I say? Exactly, glad we agree. That’s why when I decided to travel to Italy for the first time, I needed a but load of travel advice. I know, kind of duh but I feel like sometimes people think that I’m some mystical travel guru that intuitively knows what to do and where to go.
Well, Yoda I am not. That’s why I am so insanely glad that I asked for help because, in the midst of my ever-present travel lunacy, I decided that it would be a great idea to visit Pompeii as a day trip from Rome. Yeah, that would have been a disaster of epic proportions since that would be way too much travel in one day.
See, if you’re coming from Rome, to get to the artifacts in Pompeii, you need to book a train ticket on one of the fast trains to Naples for about €44 one way. This trip takes about an hour and ten minutes each way, so you already have to travel at least two hours in one day. Then from Naples, you can hop on the Napoli-Sorrento Circumvesuviana line to the Pompeii Scavi station, a trip that takes about thirty minutes and costs between €1.80 and €3.20.
Yeah, this means that round trip, you will have to travel for at least three hours and twenty minutes in total, and you haven’t even set foot in Pompeii yet. Plus, the pizza is awesome in Naples and so it’s totally worth it to spend at least a night in this charming Italian mecca of food. Okay, there is way more to do in Naples than eating pizza but sadly, I think with my stomach and not with my brain so forgive my slightly weird obsession with pizza. Did I mention I’m the least graceful person on the planet and totally get sauce and grease and cheese all over myself while I hoover it up? Yup, I’m Iggy Iggs level fancy.
So moral, of the story? Spend a night or two in Naples and make a day trip to Pompeii from Naples because no one wants to spend their entire day on a train. Besides, Pompeii is hella huge so after frolicking through boulder ridden streets all day, like a billy goat, I doubt you’ll want to embark on an almost two-hour train journey.
***Okay so in typical Girl with the Passport fashion, whoops, I made a mistake and took the long train to Pompeii. Don’t ask me how I do these things but I took metro line 2 to the last station, San Giovanni Barra, got off, freaked out because I had no idea what train would take me to Pompeii (trenitalia station) since there was a serious lack of signage. I then proceeded to look sad, pathetic (insert puppy eyes here), and totally lost while trying not to hyperventilate and eventually found the platform for my connecting train.
Added bonus of this route, and I’m being totally sarcastic, is that this station isn’t anywhere near the main entrance. Therefore, you might want to walk the ten minutes to the Piazza Anfiteatro entrance instead (From the station walk 150 meters straight until you see the church. Turn right, keeping the church on your right-hand side, into the Via Roma and walk up this street for 600 meters to the entrance). It’s not a bad walk but leave it to me to do everything ass backward and ended up in the boonies, at the entrance that offers no audioguides and runs out of maps. Yeah, I totally had to freeball it when I was in Pompeii.
2. Buying Admission Tickets There
BIG MISTAKE, which sadly I made. Womp, womp, womp. But what was I thinking? Legit, everybody and their brother’s dog goes to Pompeii, so why did I NOT buy tickets in advance? Who knows. Maybe I was incapacitated by a pizza and pasta induced coma and completely lost all use of my mental faculties.
Well, don’t be a total MORON like me and buy your tickets in advance. I waited at the back entrance for well over and hour and it sucked. I literally stood there, staring at all the groups of people, trying to figure out how they all knew each other. There was this one group that looked like an impromptu UN convention and I totally thought the girl was the guy’s daughter… and then they started making out and feeding each other pizza. Eww. So yeah, save yourself the horrors of over the top PDA and buy your tickets online.
3. Failing to Dress the Part
I feel like most of the world knows that Pompeii consists of a vast array of ruins. Therefore, even if you know nothing else about this city, you still know that there are gonna be decrepit buildings everywhere that are literally thousands of years old. So then why do we think, me included, that the roads are going to be neatly lined with asphalt and practically paved in gold for our walking convenience?
Duh, the roads are ancient and have endured the ravishes of time (a volcanic eruption included) so obviously, there are gonna be cobblestones the size of boulders jutting out from many of the streets. And in actuality, this gives the village a more rustic, historic feel that adds to the authenticity of the experience. However, that also means that you should probably leave your Gucci Stilletos and crop top pantsuit at home. Is that even a thing? I am so not a fashion person and have no idea if a crop top pantsuit even exists but I feel like it should. Where is Tim Gunn when you need him?
Now in fairness, I didn’t fall so that is a good indication that the streets of Pompeii are fairly easy to walk through; so you can leave your Crocodile Hunter level hiking boots at home. But just be smart and wear some comfortable clothes and shoes that you won’t mind getting dirty. There’s nothing worse than spending the whole day freaking out about the possibility of getting dirt on your brand new outfit. You spend the whole day worrying and then suddenly look up distractedly and think, “Wait, what did I just see? And who am I and where are we? Sorry guys, I was too busy trying to keep any and all specks of dirt away from my white linen pants and totally forgot where I was for the whole trip. My bad. Oh, is that a Tide to Go stick?” Yeah, don’t be that person. Just don’t.
***Along with walking shoes and a comfortable outfit, make sure that your Pompeii survival kit consists of water, sunscreen and a hat (if it’s summer), a camera, and food (see more on this below).
4. Buying Food There
I feel like I left my brain at home when I visited Pompeii but whatever, feel free to laugh at me now. I blame my stupidity on sleep deprivation but moving on. So not surprisingly, Pompeii is not a Super Walmart that has neatly paved parking lots and a ton of different food items to choose from (Jumbo size soda and a Twinkie anyone?). Instead, Pompeii is and was an ancient city that was never designed to accommodate seventy different food stalls and a modern day cafeteria. That’s why the cafeteria there blows. Not only is it disorganized with people practically engaging in gladiatorial battles for the last croissant, but the “food” is really not that great and the lines stretch on ad infinitum since this purveyor of edible goods really is the only show in town. Translation, there’s nowhere else to eat
Therefore, be one of the cool kids who save time and money by either bringing your own food or eating before you enter Pompeii. If you’re gonna do battle on vacation, make it over something good, like the last slice of pizza or the last scoop of gelato. Don’t get a concussion over a half stale baguette that you waited in the wrong line for. Friends just don’t let friends waste calories on mediocre food.
5. Underestimating the Size of Pompeii
Pompeii is flipping huge, like way bigger than anything I ever imagined. I just kept walking and it went on and on and on and on some more until I felt like my feet were gonna fall off or like I was going to get so lost that I would eventually turn into one of the mummified residents there; a fate that is all too real when you discover a serious shortage of maps that aren’t all that accurate anyway.
Therefore, be prepared. Not only will you do a ton of walking, but it will be over some pretty uneven terrain so it may be best to leave granny and her Hover Round Scooter at home for this one. Instead, stock up on food and water and make sure you are wearing some comfy ass shoes that have a decent grip on them.
Also be prepared to get lost since the maps suck and all the streets look practically the same. Just think of it as a right of passage that actually transforms exiting Pompeii into an epic race to vacate the premises before the entire establishment closes. It’s like the Amazing Race, except that the prize for finding your way out isn’t a ton of money but avoiding a cold, unpleasant night outside with some of the more unfortunate and rather stiff, permanent residents of this infamous town.
6. Missing Out on Exhibits Near the Entrance
Because I’m a total VIP, and by VIP I mean the idiot who took the wrong train to Pompeii and went through the back entrance, ‘I entered the ruins through a gateway that was flanked by two small, odd-shaped, buildings that look rather unimpressive with their almost obscured windows. To be fair, they kind of look like they store implements of destruction that are doled out upon unsuspecting rule breakers.
But if you thought that, and I doubt you did because I’m a total weirdo (#investigationdiscoveryaddiciton), then you’d be wrong. The building on the left is actually a free luggage storage facility that closes a half an hour before the park does, so be on time; a super cool feature when you realize that bags, backpacks, and luggage larger than 30x30x15cm are no longer allowed in the historic park.
The other building is a heartbreakingly, lovely display of nearly pristine mummies that lay there, forever entombed by Mount Vesuvius’ unadulterated power for destruction. So no, this building won’t leave you skipping down the yellow brick road as you sing a rousing verse of “ding dong the witch is dead”, but it is a great way to get an up-close and personal look at the human lives that were destroyed by this beautifully destructive piece of nature. A somber reminder that yes, this site has led to an unprecedented number of discoveries about ancient Roman life, but at a tremendous price. This exhibit emphasizes the human lives that were indiscriminately taken by this powerful force of nature; a reality that is sometimes forgotten in our eternal quest for a thorough understanding of the pas
7. Sitting on the Ruins and Taking Shameless Selfies (This really grinds my gears! Family Guy anyone?)
Look, I love Instagram as much as the next person and would like nothing more than to receive an obscene amount of money for posting a picture of myself at Pompeii, but I am not going to drape myself all over priceless, ancient artifacts just to get a good shot. Duh, they might break!
Sadly enough though, I saw this everywhere in Pompeii and it really pissed me off. I wanted to be that insanely angry mother who starts screaming, “See, this is why we don’t have nice things!” after the kids knock over a brand new lamp. But seriously, what are people thinking? Pompeii isn’t your private Instagram playground and you can’t just tromp all over anything you like just because your selfie stick won’t reach far enough to provide you with the perfect profile shot of the left side of your face. Ugh, I know I’m ranting and spewing a ton of run-on sentences but legit, people are so rude and disrespectful. It’s one thing to not know you’re doing something wrong, but it’s another to read the “do not touch” sign and then basically do everything except lick the ancient buildings.
Okay, my mildly moral lecture is over. Breath in the happiness and breath out the anger and impulsive desire to “accidentally” trip someone while they’re sneaking into all the roped off areas. I’d be all like, “Oh no self-absorbed, ego-maniac. I didn’t see your Coach sneaker wearing foot there. Guess no more selfie stick for you huh?” Wow, I am super passive aggressive but people are so entitled that it makes me want to hurl.
8. Missing the Ultimate Mt. Vesuvius Photo Op
You know that moment when you frame a shot in your mind and get all excited because you think, “Jackpot, Instagram gold”. Okay, maybe normal people don’t have this thought but as a wannabe social media influencer, I need all the help I can get, so every photo opportunity counts.
In my head, I’m thinking, “Please sir, be distracted by this huge picture of a badass mountain that killed a lot of people and that I have snazzed up with a little photoshop filter, in a vain attempt to mask the poor quality of both my photography and photographic equipment.”
Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t plaster that on top of my resume but you get the point. Pompeii provides you with a perfect view of the snow-capped peak of Mt. Vesuvius. So how do you score this heavenly shot? If you enter the park through the Piazza Anfiteatro entrance, continue walking past the Amphitheater, which will be on your right, and continue straight ahead, until you hit a wooden gate. From here, you will see a small section of that fence, to your right, that is slightly shorter than the rest of the fence. Yeah, go here and let the magic happen. Seriously one of my favorite photos from my entire trip to Italy, and that’s saying a lot since Itlay is just so damn photogenic. If only I were that photogenic then I’d never have to work again. But if this shot earns you a thin slice of instant fame and fortune, just remember your dear old friend, girl with the passport and maybe share a link or two of mine as you cruise to the top.
9. To Book a Tour or to Not Book a Tour, that is the Question
So I swear I love history. I actually majored in it in college (clearly I’m using that degree real well). I even took a Roman history class because I went to a Liberal Arts school that had all those weird credit requirements like Western Civilization that are supposed to “help you find your passion”. Instead, you just end up taking a bunch of dumbass classes like ballet. I mean, when the hell is someone going to ask me to pirouette? Never because I suck at any and all forms of dance, just watch my Instagram stories. You could also ask my college roommate. When I performed my ballet final for her, she started convulsing in fits of laughter.
But I digress. So I was forced into taking this Roman history class because of lame ass credit requirements, but I actually enjoyed the class. Ugh, I am talking way too much. What I’m trying to say is that I enjoyed the class and enjoyed history but when I was in Italy, I felt like I took a history tour every damn day. It was like there was so much history that I was trying to cram into my visit that, to be honest, I kind of got toured out. That and some of these tours are not cheap and can cost upwards of $70 a person.
That’s why I opted out of a tour in Pompeii. Instead, I ambled through the quaint streets of this forgotten city and took in the majesty and beauty of this ancient epicenter of commerce, until I was drawn out of my reverie by some idiot that I saw draped all over an ancient mosaic. I totally wanted to throat punch them but violence is not the answer. That and I’ve seen one too many episodes of Locked Up Abroad and have no desire to spend time in a foreign prison.
So while I think a tour is an amazing way to explore Pompeii, don’t freak out if you don’t sign up for a tour because not only does the main entrance offer audioguides but I totally enjoyed my visit and without any professional assistance.
10. Having No Cash to Buy Your Return Train Ticket/ Taking a Taxi from the Train Station to Pompeii
Keep in mind that I am the Loony Toon who totally used the wrong train, but when I bought my train ticket to Trenitalia, Pompeii station, I thought I was being clever. See, I didn’t buy a return ticket because I had no idea how long it would take me to tour all of Pompeii. To be honest, I had so many problems just finding the train that I wasn’t even sure if I would make it to these historic ruins.
But I persevered through my ever plentiful shortcomings and was ready to book my return ticket to Pompeii. But the only hitch in my giddyup was that there was only one ticket machine that accepted only cash, no credit cards. Come to think of it, the machine didn’t even accept bills, just coins. That’s why I had to go buy something at the cafe next door just to get some change (and pee). So definitely bring change if you plan on buying a return ticket, to Naples, at the Pompeii train station.
And no need to hire a taxi at the train station. Sure, the walk is a little long but the town is quaint and it’s impossible to get lost. Just follow the hordes of people in front of you and boom, you’re at Pompeii before you know it.
My Mildly Informative Pompeii Travel Guide has Come to an End (insert sad face here)
Guys, I really am sad this post is over because I had a lot of fun writing it. Sure I made a ton of mistakes but how else would I be able to create a list Pompeii travel tips that are totally practical? And just think, this is only the start of your journey as you travel from Naples to Pompeii. Sure, I could go on and on about the history of this elusive place but where’s the fun in that? No one wants to snooze through a history textbook in their free time. Besides, if you learn it all now then you won’t be gobsmacked when you get there and witness it in person.
So this post is basically here to tickle your taste buds (tickle, tickle) and give you an intro to Pompeii in tiniest of plastic, dioramas. I was gonna say in the tiniest of nutshells but like all historic sites, Pompeii has a huge plastic replica of the entire town that everyone just has to take a picture of. And I don’t get it. I mean yeah the re[plica gives you a feel for the scale of the place, but why the need for a photo? It’s not real but kind of like an overgrown toy. Sorry, I am going off on another tangent. I just never understand all the replica photos and I guess I never will. Whatever, I’ll just let my insane judgments go and dream about the day when I cease to make all these epic travel fails. Haha, like that will ever happen.
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