The best way to visit Pompeii: 5 tips

The excavated archaeological site of Pompeii is unlike anything you’ll ever see. Even if you’ve visited in the past, continuing excavations have unearthed new wonders worth a second stop—and if it’s your first visit to southern Italy, a stop here is a must. But the site is immense and gets millions of annual visitors, so we have some tips to help you make the most out of your visit. 

What’s the best way to visit Pompeii? Follow our 5 tips below.  

Pompeii: a bit of background

Once a thriving and cosmopolitan city of the Roman Empire, Pompeii and its inhabitants were frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and buried the city under layers of ash and debris. Excavations began in about 1748 and since then a lot of the city has been uncovered, allowing the visitor to walk the streets and get a good idea of what life must have been like for people living in Pompeii under the Roman Empire.

Visiting Pompeii, Tip #1

Wear comfortable shoes, bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a water bottle. Pompeii is an excavated town. It’s a huge site, and there isn’t a lot of shade. Most people spend about 3 hours there, only because that’s about the length of time someone can absorb new information. During that half-day, you’ll be on your feet, and most likely under the hot sun. The best way to visit Pompeii starts with your own comfort.

the best way to visit pompeii

Visiting Pompeii, Tip #2

Don’t go on free Sundays. Pompeii gets millions of annual visitors, and it can be crowded even on days when there isn’t free entry. The first Sunday of the month, however, the site fills to overflowing. Admission is not expensive, and in my opinion it is not worth longer lines and more crowds just to save the entry fee. (You flew all the way to Italy after all!) If you really want to avoid crowds, visit the equally impressive archaeological site of Herculaneum instead. Herculaneum (Ercolano in Italian, which you need to know in order to get off the train at the correct stop!) gets only 300,000 visitors per year and is just 10 minutes away. The best way to visit Pompeii is with the fewest crowds possible.

5 tips for visiting pompeii

Visiting Pompeii, Tip #3

Hire a guide. Remember, you’ll be walking through a 2,000-year-old excavation of a town. The site is huge and many of the top attractions are not well marked, so a guide will make sure your time is spent efficiently. A good guide will keep you and your fellow travelers of all ages engaged with storytelling and historical context. A half-day private guided tour of Pompeii is not as expensive as many people imagine (rates for the private guides we use at Italy Beyond the Obvious are about $250 for a 2.5 hour private tour). The best way to visit Pompeii is definitely with a private guide.

Visiting Pompeii, Tip #4

Do not rent a car. There is parking at Pompeii, but the Circumvesuviana commuter train and its faster tourist cousin, the Campania Express, stop right in front of the gates of Pompeii. This train goes from the Naples Central train station to Sorrento, and stops at both Pompeii and Herculaneum on the way. We strongly recommend not having a rental car in Naples or the Amalfi Coast; more advice on driving in Italy can be found here.

Since Pompeii has luggage storage, it’s easy to visit on your way from Naples down to the Amalfi Coast or vice versa. If you don’t want to worry about hauling luggage on and off trains or getting pickpocketed (!), hire a driver. The best way to visit Pompeii is by train or with a private driver.

tips for visiting Pompeii

Visiting Pompeii, Tip #5

Visit the archaeological museum in Naples. When Pompeii was excavated, thousands of pieces of ancient art and artifacts were found and removed from the site. Most are currently housed in a wing inside the archaeological museum in Naples. Allow about 2 hours to visit this section of the museum, and ideally continue with your private guidfe to the museum. The best way to visit Pompeii definitely includes adding this additional context. A close second would be to go up Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that buried Pompeii. 

Visiting Pompeii as a day trip from Rome

Bonus tip! Visiting Pompeii as a day trip from Rome is not our most recommended approach, because it’s a long day. That said, we do plan this day for our travelers on a regular basis. Why? Because they’re visiting Rome, they don’t have time to go down to the Amalfi Coast, and they don’t want to miss Pompeii. Every trip we create is custom, but here’s what a typical day trip from Rome looks like, so you can get an idea of the logistics:

7 AM Taxi from hotel to Roma Termini Train station

7.30 AM Train from Rome to Naples Central Station

8.40 AM Train arrives at Naples Central Station. We book drivers for our travelers from here, but for anyone who wants to take the train, the Campania Express train is about a 20-minute walk inside the station. Trains come every 20 minutes or so, and then it’s about a 40-minute ride to Pompeii.

Driver to Pompeii, usually with a stop for local pastries on the way.

10 AM Arrive Pompeii, meet private guide.

10 AM – 12.30 PM Private tour of Pompeii

12.30 PM – 2 PM Lunch

In the afternoon, our travelers will typically either walk the crater up on Mt Vesuvius or visit the Naples Archaeological Museum

6 PM Pick up a pizza-to-go to eat on the train

6.30 PM Train back to Rome

7.40 PM Train arrives in Rome. Taxi back to hotel.

8 PM Arrive back at the hotel

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