If you’re staying in Rome, you might that think that a day trip down to visit Pompeii, and possibly even Mount Vesuvius, is an ambitious goal. You might even be told this by other people who’ve been there. Yes, it does make for a long 13-hour+ day and, yes, there are a few things that get rushed. But if you want the double experience, it’s not only possible – but enjoyable. Here’s how we did it. I’ve mentioned as I’ve documented our trip the few tours we went on, but this is the only time I’ll mention a group by name: we travelled with the well-esteemed City Wonders on the
I’ve mentioned as I’ve documented our trip the few tours we went on, but this is the only time I’ll mention a group by name: we travelled with the well-esteemed City Wonders on the Pompeii and Vesuvius tour. And the reason I’m going to mention them is because they were great. Now, I get no kickbacks whatsoever by saying so and I paid for our place; they have no idea who I am! Our guides were friendly and certainly knew their history. For the three-and-a-bit hours down (and then back again), they alternated between letting us snooze (appreciated at that hour of the morning!) and pointing out sights along the way, before zoning in on the history of the famous Pompeii eruption of 79AD, once we were within sight of Mount Vesuvius.
Tips for the first half of the day and Mount Vesuvius:
- We stop briefly for a snack and toilet break along the way. If you didn’t have the chance to eat breakfast, or if you have kids who get hungry easily, or if you’re hypoglycemic – I suggest you buy something to eat, even if you take it on the bus for later. You don’t get lunch until after the climb, somewhere about 2pm, and believe me after being on that mountain you are starving.
- For the same reason – buy water. There are three huts/shops up on the mountain, but lines can be long and they prefer correct change (as most establishments do in Italy). If you have notes, you’re better off breaking them at the bigger rest centre.
- Before you climb, decide what layers you think you might need to take off. I stripped down to a basic long-sleeved T-shirt and was very warm by the top. But it depends on the weather.
- Also consider buying or bringing a cap/hat. We all were quite sunburned by the time we got to Pompeii and there is very little shade anywhere.
- If you’re on a tour bus and have small children, try to get on the bus first. This can be hard. I found there was a bit of… shall we say… assertiveness in some people to get a favoured seat. We were the last on, and to my surprise discovered we’d all have to be split up. The kids, luckily, got a double seat and I got one nearby. It felt weird being apart from them, but they’re at an age now when it didn’t bother me (except when they started fighting and I had to walk down the back to sort it out). Don’t expect people to willingly give up a place if you want your family to be sat together. If your tour is less full than ours, it mightn’t be a problem.
- Depending on how good a time you make on the highway, the time frame you’re given to walk up, circle the crater, and then come down again is pretty ample. That said, we’re pretty fit, and I know of at least one person on our bus who barely managed to get up there before having to turn around again.
- People with a problem of heights should know this will be confronting. More than that, for me, was the sheer drop off the side, often with only a thin fence in between. The phrase ‘falling off a mountain’ now makes perfect sense because, literally, if you fell in some places, you would slide hundreds and hundreds of metres to the bottom.
But it’s worth it.
Tips for the second half of the day and Pompeii:
- You get a decent sized lunch as part of our tour, but as it is a set menu, don’t get too big an idea of what options you’ll have. We had a choice of two kinds of pizza (one meat and one vegetarian), plus a salad and drink, and that’s it. The drink can either be wine or soft drink. If you want more, that costs extra. The Americans we were sitting with weren’t really impressed, but we’re pretty easy-going.
- If you’re still hungry, don’t worry – there are lots of gelato options near the entrance to Pompeii.
- If you’re with a tour, it’s pretty easy to stay together, but it might be an idea to make a plan of where to meet up if you get separated from your family/party. The Pompeii site is very big and I didn’t see many site staff or volunteers around, and they might not be able to speak great English.
- There are toilets and a cafeteria, but if you’re lucky you can come across an ancient spring that still runs out of a water fountain, just like it did back then. It’s delicious and cooling!
- The plaster casts of the victims – humans and animals – are a sad reminder of the tragic loss of life that occurred during the volcanic eruption. Kids will ask questions, so prepare yourself.
- As you can see below, that time wasn’t without phallic symbolism or representation. Penis motifs can be found carved on the roads and on the side of some buildings. A brothel (or ‘happy house’) is also on the list of go-tos for more tours because it is so well-preserved. The pictographs on the wall are quite explicit, so be warned!
- The Pompeii part did feel a little rushed. We went to the main parts, but we dashed past or through others I would’ve loved to have looked at longer. Many areas aren’t accessible to the public, though, due to archaeological diggings or other maintenance. So, all in all, I think we did very well. We were all quiet on the bus coming home, and we had another rest stop on the way, which was good. Buying products like local chocolate and Limoncello are gently encouraged to help supports the local businesses, but don’t feel obliged.
- It took us an hour to walk home once we got back to Rome because the Metro shut early (on a Friday night!) and taxis were impossible to flag down. So maybe check the public transportation won’t do the same thing, because it really tests your stamina!
Any questions? Thoughts? Have you been to Pompeii? What did you think?
Check out the video with highlights here:
What’s a Living List? Look here to find out.