Naples – A Day at Pompeii

Our first stop in Italy was the city of Naples. We flew directly from Paris via Air France and stayed for two nights. The flight was just over 2 hours and since we were travelling within European countries, we didn’t spend much time at either airports without a lengthy customs clearance. This was the first time visiting Italy for both Stephen and I. While researching Pompeii, we decided it would be easiest to stay in Naples for a night and it would also give us the opportunity to eat lots of Napoli style pizza. I had a better idea of what to expect than Stephen but both of us were a bit surprised at how rural and aged the city felt. We landed fairly late and hopped into a taxi to meet our Airbnb host. The drive was very bumpy, the streets narrow and there weren’t many street lamps. To be honest, with the late hour and new surroundings, I was anxious to check-in.

We met our Airbnb host, who took us to the spacious apartment located just blocks away from the best pizzerias in town. Walking the stone-paved roads during the day, I found the city much more charming and comfortable. Before hopping on the train for Pompeii, Stephen and I stopped by a cafe for espressos and a small deli to pick up paninis. Communication was difficult but not impossible. We trusted our panini filling (mortadella and cheese) to the person behind the counter and the giant sandwich turned out to be a delicious lunch for just €2.

Tip: While there is a small food court like restaurant in Pompeii, the quality and selection was only ok and the price was very high relative to outside of the ruins. I would recommend bringing paninis with you, which were much tastier and so much better priced.

Getting There

The closest train station near us was Piazza Cavour. We took the local train to Pompei Scavi – Villa Dei Misteri station, which took about 40 minutes. There wasn’t any assigned seating and the cars were full. Getting off the train, we followed the crowd to the gates of the Pompeii Ruins, about 5 minutes away. Entrance tickets were just over $20 and gave us access to the ruins for the entire day (6pm April to October and 5:30pm November to March).

The Ruins

There was so much to see. The city was vast and was split into 8 regions and the map pointed out points of interest in each region. We followed the free audio guide by Rick Steves, easily available for download as a podcast or on his free app. Although the audio of the guide was 38 minutes in length, including walking from site to site, breaks and taking photos we ended up spending almost 5 hours at Pompeii.

Some of my favourite sites included the Baths of the Forums, the amphitheatres and the stunning mosaics in houses of the merchant district. When we visited, there was a lot of work happening and some of the sites were closed off for further excavation and reconstruction. The majority of the city was in ruins and it was huge blocks after blocks of broken walls. Many of the artifacts recovered from Pompeii are housed in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit both.

Tip: Bring lots of water and some kind of hat because there was not much shade. Most tourists stick around the area closest to the start of the ruins but as you wander farther into the city, the crowds thinned out drastically. If you’re not following an audio guide, I would highly recommend joining a tour group as the historical information added so much richness to the visit.

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