Approximately 250km from Rome, Pompeii is the home of a magnificently preserved Roman city buried in a thick layer of ash and larva. This is a perfect day trip from Rome as the city is easily reached in over two hours and plenty of tour companies organise this trip. Read our guide to making the most of your day, and which tours may be best for you.
Pizza and Tourism Traps..
Not all road trips to Pompeii are the same, but I feel we had a pretty good itinerary whilst visiting the perfectly preserved city. We left Rome, at the Flaminio metro stop bright and early at 7:30am meeting the tour guide, with our fellow tour members and boarding the coach. The coach was comfortable, of which I’m glad for as this journey was not short, Rome to Pompeii is 250km just under three hours by coach, so it was important the coach was up to scratch!
Home to the majestic Italian staple which is pizza, we stopped briefly in Naples in a purpose-built tourism coach ‘station’ in which we were able to use the bathrooms in addition to trying authentic limoncello. Of course there was the standard tourism trap tricks, we had been brought here to buy the souvenirs, but there was no pressure or force to purchase anything and we were able to use the washrooms without harassment. This is a worldwide phenomenon. I experienced a similar thing in Vietnam, where tour companies will pair with a purpose built ‘service station’ in which tour members can use the bathroom, only after they pass through the gift shop, or fondly in the case of our Halong Bay tour, watch a water puppet show (hilariously horrendous if you were wondering). After our guide gave us a brief history and the origin of pizza in Naples we stopped off at another partner pit stop, this time a restaurant providing us each with a margarita and a drink.
I'm positive that majority of large tour guide groups will stop at these service stations. It didn't put me off our trip and it was a welcome break after being on the coach so long, just be aware these places get busy, especially the bathrooms so bring your own napkins and get in the queues quickly! I also wouldn't be surprised if some of the wares are alot more expensive than souvenir shops in Rome, if you see something you like chances are you will be able to get it much cheaper in the city.
Our first historical stop on our tour we reached Mt Vesuvius, a huge, very dusty mountain which has an easy route and gradient. Whilst Vesuvius is very vast, it is not a difficult mountain to climb. A clear pathway winds up the side of Vesuvius with areas to rest if you are getting out of breath, winding up to a great view of a huge crater within the center of the mountain. It is quite surprising seeing the dark rocky and somewhat underwhelming top of the volcano, which makes it even more astonishing to think that it caused such devastation all those thousands of years ago.
There are amazing views at the top of Mt Vesuvius, but be wary that it is a long trek. There are plenty places to stop along the way and free tour guides half way up which are included with the volcano’s admission fee. Whilst tickets will obviously be included in the tours price, visiting without a group the tickets are €10. Although this may be an attractive option for people staying in Naples, there is restricted access for cars driving up to the Volcano which only allow coaches, so it may be best to check out public transport options instead.
More info on bus routes to Vesuvius here
Wear comfortable shoes and something cool, you're undoubtedly going to get a sweat on during your ascent. Be wary, the facilities are horrendous if not non-existent, so if there is a toilet on the coach use it or make sure to make the most of the washrooms at the previous pizza stop!
An entire city encapsulated in ash, Pompeii is amazingly persevered, with even some of the most minuscule details and paintings still remaining thousands of years onwards. The site itself is huge so depending on how much of a historical buff you are depends on how long you will need here, but I’d say at least 2-3 hours. This was definitely the most enjoyable and useful part of our tour. In a group we journeyed around the site with our guide telling us interesting facts and stories. I would definitely say that a tour guide was important in our trip, as majority of Pompeii is lacking signposts/information so we would have missed a lot of detail or struggled to navigate ourselves. That being said, I would have liked slightly longer time to have wandered around the site on our own as I feel we didn't have long enough time, despite this being the main attraction of our tour!
The site is lacking in tourist facilities and the maintenance of the site is pretty poor. Ideally I would recommend bringing plenty of water and any snacks with you and to stay with the group as you’ll struggle to navigate the site alone. Again wear shoes that will help you around the uneven terrain and this may not be 100% wheelchair accessible because of this.
I do think that joining a tour group is the best option for visiting Pompeii, it would have been exceedingly difficult and expensive for us to visit both Mt Vesuvius and Pompeii on our own devices. Our tour also provided a lot of facilities and information that the sites alone were lacking, such as food, drinks and toilet stops - which are seriously scarce at the volcano and preservation sites. That being said, if you are up for a challenge and want to tailor the visit to your own needs, or even are staying in Naples - a city much closer to both attractions, then it is possible, but will take alot of planning!
1. Local Rome Tours
Pick up from Rome, Mt Vesuvius, pizza in Naples, Pompeii, return coach ~25 people in the group
(This may be the trip I took!)
2. Enjoy Rome Tours
Pick up from Rome, Pompeii (slightly longer time at the site), return coach ~50 people in the coach
3. The Rome Tool Kit
Pick up from Rome, Naples city centre, Mt Vesuvius, Pompeii, return coach. - 50 people in the coach