10 tips on how to visit Pompei and Vesuvius near Naples, Italy

How to visit Pompei and Vesuvius

I’ve just returned from a second visit to Pompei and first Vesuvius and in this article want to share some tips on how to make your visit to these two sites smooth and enjoyable. The south of Italy differs somewhat from the rest of the country, both as climate (quite hot!) and overall atmosphere and I’ve seen some people on forums feel hesitating to visit the tourist sights in the area of Naples on a self-organized tour, wondering about being safe in Naples, etc.

So, hopefully these tips below will help with planning your visit to Pompei, Vesuvius and anything else you want to see in the region of Naples.

How to visit Pompei and Vesuvius – 10 tips 

1. Stay outside Naples

I usually like staying in the bigger cities when exploring an area – there’s more to be done in the evening. For visiting Pompei and Vesuvius though, I would rather advise to pick a small village in between Naples and Pompei. Why?

First off, Naples is a really big city, with 4+ million of people living there. During the summer it gets really hot, there’s much traffic, any time during the day or night. For me it was kind of too busy and noisy for an enjoyable stay, even outside the high season. I loved the historic center and strolling around it, but I’d rather do this for part of the day and then come back to a more peaceful place for the evening and night.

Naples city center

Naples. Pretty busy and hot.

I wouldn’t say I felt unsafe anywhere in the city, but indeed in the evenings it seems like some streets simply get deserted, poorly lit, infested by people sleeping on benches, on the pavement.. So, you may simply avoid such areas and late night walk.

Where to stay then if not in Naples? See p.2

2. Stay in a village near the Circumvesuviana train route

From Naples there are two main train lines taking you to Pompei, Vesuvius and other sights in the region – the national railway line and Circumvesuviana line. While their prices are mostly the same, Circumvesuviana line is far more convenient for tourism as it passes close to the major tourist sights – Pompei, Herculaneum, Villa Poppea and so on. It also reaches Sorrento – a place which was way too touristy but worth visiting for a few hours.

So, if you stay in a village on the Circumvesuviana way – you have a pretty convenient and inexpensive means of transport to most tourist sites. I must note, however, that the train cars are more shabby and more crowded than the national line. But, for an average trip of 20-30 minutes, it’s perfectly OK. Moreover, during our stay, the National railway was on strike for couple of days, Circumvesuviana was not.

We stayed in Portici and this village, as well as Herculaneum village were really nice. Lots of Airbnb options to stay, peaceful, nice shops, bars and street markets. Still if you want to try Naples for a stay – we spent a few days in this lovely Naples apartment close to the archaeological museum with a most amazing host and can recommend.

3. Rent a car is not needed when travelling to Pompei and Vesuvius

Naples and the region has good and cheap public transport. At the same time traffic in Naples was hectic, I wouldn’t want to drive even to get out from the city. Car parks on the tourist sights were paid and crowded. I saw wheel locks on many local cars in and around Naples, which means cars get stolen..So unless you are travelling with kids, no need to rent a car really.

Naples airport has direct bus connections right to the central train station (~4 EUR one way). White taxis have a fixed rate of 16 EUR from the airport to the central station. Then, from the central train station you may take the Circumvesuviana train to your accommodation base (if you decided to follow my advice in p. 2:) or to the sight you want to visit.

How to visit Pompei and Herculaneum

Lovely wall decorations in Pompei

4. Get a combined ticket for Pompei, Herculaneum and 3 more sites

The combined ticket (22 EUR as of summer 2017 can be bought from any of the places – Pompei or Herculaneum and really saves time waiting on queues. It gives access to these two major sites and then free access to 3 more sites around, also buried under the volcano lava and uncovered now. We did visit Villa Poppea – the villa of what they presume was Emperor Nero’s wife – and absolutely loved it. Have in mind that the combined ticket is valid for 3 consecutive days only.

Villa Poppea How to visit Pompei and Herculaneum

Villa Poppea – the house presumed to be the summer residence of the 2nd wife of Emperor Nero

5. See if Artecard is functioning and get it.

There is a special tourist card in Naples called Campania Artecard. The 3-day version of the card gives you free access to 2 sites (including Pompei and Herculaneum), 50% off other site entrances and then free public transport in the region, including buses and trains. However, at the time of our visit this June  2017 they had a ‘technical issue’ and you could not buy it. Otherwise it is sold at the airport, at the central railway station (across binario 24) and on many other places. So – would advise to check out the Artecard website before you arrive and get the card, it does save money if you are an avid tourist 🙂

6. Visit Pompei in the morning and join a guided tour

Pompei is a big site but simply amazing! To visit it, get off at Villa dei Misteri train station of the Circumvesuviana. The state railways also have a stop at Pompei but is farther away and that stop is approx 15 mins walking from the other entrance of Pompei, which is less visited and hence – no guided tours are available.

How to visit Pompei and Vesuvius

How to visit Pompei and Vesuvius public transport accommodation

Pompei – fast food store

Do not make the mistake of visiting Pompei without a guided tour. I’ve done it once and hardly understood anything. And there’s no point to buy a book either, it’s just too much in that book, and difficult to imagine the whole picture.

A guided tour takes you within 2 hours through the major sites in Pompei, gives you background info on the volcano eruption, on what the city used to be before the eruption so it’s really worth it. We used a guided tour service which we booked at Circumvesuviana train station of Villa dei Misteri in Pompei, 12 EUR pp, no advance booking. You can also find guided tours on the internet and book in advance. Have in most most guided tours would have their last group start around 12 noon.

How to visit Pompei and Vesuvius

7. Visit Vesuvius using the EAV blue bus

There are both private bus options and state bus (EAV blue bus) options for reaching Vesuvius. The difference: for private bus you buy a return ticket and have a limited time to spend on the volcano, usually 1.5 hours. For state bus – no such limit, you buy one way tickets, go and return as you wish, per the bus timetable.

How to visit Pompei and Vesuvius

We did board a private bus from Herculaneum and the 1.5 hours was not enough to climb, get back and enjoy the view at the top of Vesuvius. Plus, there were guided tours at the top, I’d be happy to join one. So, my advice is to use the state EAV blue bus and be free to stay at the top as much as you want. At Villa dei Misteri train station in Pompei you will see the timetable of the bus to and from Vesuvius. Go for this option.

Note: this bus departs from Pompei Villa dei Misteri and returns to the same point. 

How to visit Pompei and Vesuvius

The view from Vesuvius is stunning..

8. Give yourself enough time for Herculaneum

Herculaneum was a much smaller site but equally interesting. It’s shocking to see the tunnels made during the times of the Bourbons (17th century) when people accidentally figured out there was something buried 20 meters below. Using tunnels they started taking out everything precious from the rich villas buried under the volcano mud. Thankfully, most of the treasures uncovered were preserved by the Bourbons and are now to be seen in Naples archaeological museum.

Herculaneum how to visit Pompei and Vesuvius

We did not take a guided tour for Herculaneum, but rather read form the leaflet that was given at the entrance. Well, I’d advise to go for a guided tour. And, give yourself at least 4-5 hours to enjoy this site in full. Better start early in the day, as it does get hot there as well.

Herculaneum how to Visit Pompei and Vesuvius

Unlike in Pompei where all wooden house elements were burnt, In Herculaneum some survived. Here is a wooden bed frame.

After the ruins, the village of Herculaneum was also an interesting one with amazing views to the sea, lovely shady cafes and markets. So – a strolling in the village after the sightseeing is recommended.

9. Visit the archeological museum of Naples to figure out the whole picture of Pompei and Herculaenum.

Now, even though Pompei and Heculaneum are impressive, you cannot get the whole picture unless you visit the archaeological museum in Naples. Why? Because all mosaics, all statues, all objects they found during the excavations are here!

Naples museum How to visit Pompei and Vesuvius

This mosaic was originally in Pompei but transferred to the museum. It’s made up of 1 million (!) mosaic stones.

Make sure you have at least 2-3 hours, get an audio guide (there were guided tours here as well) and – get amazed!

10. Visit the Seaside

Since Naples is on the seaside, we presumed there would be some city beach around for a quick dip – not one we could find though! You can walk next to the sea and it was lovely, but no beach.
But, at Portici there was a small black sand beach in a neat bay which was pretty good for swimming. Shallow waters, clean, quite peaceful, free. The other beach we saw was in Sorrento but paid one and awfully crowded. So, Portici one was not bad at all, maybe 15-20 mins walking from Portici Via Liberta train station.

Bonus tip: enjoy the local fruits and vegetables!

One of the tastiest (and cheapest) fruits I have tried were in Naples and the villages around. There were markets literally on every shady street and all of them selling delicious cherries, peaches, pears, plums – any seasonal fruit! Much different taste from the supermarket and lower-priced so – make sure to stroll the little streets either in Naples or the village you are staying in and enjoy! The markets usually have free water fountains so – you can even wash your fruit and enjoy it while walking around :)!

Pompei, Herculaneum, Villa Poppea, Vesuvius were all an amazing experience for me, you get back to those ages when the volcano erupted and almost dive into the life of the people of that time. There is so much and so well preserved – houses, mosaics, decorations, objects. And following the above tips, I hope you’d have a smooth and truly enjoyable trip. Enjoy!


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