If you are here that means you trying to decide to which Pompeii tours is best for your day trip from Rome or the Amalfi Coast.
The city of Pompeii lies at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano whose eruption in AD 79 engulfed the city with ash and pumice-stone.
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Pompeii was excavated over several centuries, what we see today gives us the finest example of what a Roman town would be like and its occupants way of life
16 years before its final destruction, Pompeii was badly damaged by an earthquake and had not yet finished rebuilding. When the final flow descended only about 2,000 people remained trapped in the city because most people evacuated as soon as the eruption started.
If you are a history junky you must visit Pompeii. Peering into the crater of Mount Vesuvius and strolling the streets of Pompeii are both absolutely unforgettable experiences.
This guide to the Pompeii tours and Mount Vesuvius will cover everything you need to know before you go, how to get there, also advice on one of the most popular questions asked about visiting:
- How much does it cost to visit Pompeii?
- Do you need tickets to visit Pompeii?
- How much time will you need to visit Pompeii?
- Can you visit Pompeii in one day?
- Should you take a self guided Pompeii tours or group tours?
Where is Pompeii?
The world famous Pompeii is 150 miles south of Rome and not far from the coast of Naples. If you are staying in Praiano, Positanoor Amalfi, you’ll have to travel first to Sorrento to take public transportation to Pompeii and Herculaneum.
If you do not want to purchase a private tour to visit Pompeii the Sita bus will drop you right in front of the Circumvesuviana train station in Sorrento.
Buses depart about every 30 minutes from Sorrento, with stops along the route at the Pompeii and Herculaneum sites.
- From Sorrento to Pompeii: 30 minutes
- From Sorrento to Herculaneum: 50 minutes
Getting to Pompeii Independently
For travelers using public transportation in order to visit Pompeii will involve a trip on Circumvesuviana train from Naples or Sorrento to the Pompeii Scavia train station.
It is roughly about 30 minutes from either location.
Four Different Pompeii Tours
- Large Group Pompeii Tour
- Small Guided Walking Pompeii Tour
- Private Pompeii Tour
- Self Guided Pompeii Tour
Large Guided Walking Pompeii Tour
What To Expect
Leave your Sorrento hotel in the morning, and relax on the journey inland to Pompeii.
Once you arrive at the UNESCO World Heritage–listed archaeological digs, meet your guide and head off on a tour to discover Pompeii’s highlights.
As you explore, learn about the destructive volcanic eruption of AD 79 that buried the ancient city for centuries. The ash and molten lava that streamed out of Mt. Vesuvius preserved the town remarkably, and many original landmarks can be found around the site.
See the old public baths, the Macellum (market), and the Temple of Jupiter, and hear about their history from your guide.
After a break for lunch at your own expense, continue with a drive up the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius. Stretch your legs on a short hike up to the crater’s lip and learn about the infamous volcano from a mountain guide.
Make use of some free time to gaze out over the Bay of Naples, then return to your transport for the drive back to Sorrento.
Your day trip ends with a hotel drop-off in the evening.
Small Guided Walking Pompeii Tour
What To Expect
Make your way to the Pompeii excavation on your own (it’s an easy trip from Naples or Sorrento on the Circumvesuviana train to the Pompei Scavi station).
Meet your guide at the coffee shop in the Hotel Vittoria, not far from the entrance to the Pompeii archaeological site.
From there, you’ll follow your guide into the ancient city and travel back in time. Learn about the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD that buried Pompeii and preserved it.
Walk on ancient Roman cobblestones, looking out for the ruts left by wagon wheels. Visit the theater, where once there were lively performances of tragedy and comedy.
See Pompeii’s thermal bathhouse, where residents would go regularly to bathe, exercise, and gossip. Peek into the remains of local businesses, such as restaurants, bars, and shops selling food and clothing.
Walk through the forum, the heart of any ancient Roman city, to see the ruins of both temples and civic buildings.
This is where priests and politicians spent their time, and where government and religion came together. Look at the barracks where Roman gladiators once trained and lived.
Private Pompeii Tour
What To Expect
With this 2-hour guided walking tour, you can see the best that the archaeological site has to offer.
Meet your guide at Cafè Hortus and prepare to be dazzled by this UNESCO World Heritage site. If there’s something in particular you’d like to see, tell your guide so he or she can tailor the tour to your liking.
If not, there’s plenty of things to be wowed by. See the city walls and the Porta Marina gate that was once the entryway to the harbor of Pompeii.
Explore the ancient theater where performances were regularly given. Gawk at what once was a Roman version of a ‘fast food’ restaurant, where vast vases still stand that were used for storing food.
Stop at the Forum and learn about the political system in Pompeii and what the Forum was used for. Walk down the basalt-laden streets and squares of the city.
See the blocks that provided stepping-stones across the often-flooded and sewage-filled streets; and view must-sees such as the Temple of Apollo, the Macellum market, and the public weighing scales.
And, intriguingly, see the casts of victims who were immediately frozen by the volcanic eruption. Stop by the thermal baths, a popular pastime in ancient Roman times.
And even visit an old brothel, also a much-enjoyed proclivity among Roman men. Your 2-hour tour ends at the original starting point, when you say goodbye to your guide.
Self Guided Pompeii Tour
What To Expect
With the self guided Pompeii tour, you determine how plan your own tour and you are in control of how much time you plan to spend at Pompeii, and then plan your visit accordingly.
You should allow at least 4 hours for your self guided Pompeii tour, and you should be able cover quite a bit of ground. Pompeii is so big that you could easily spend 7 hours visiting the site.
Make sure you download the Pompeii – A day in the past app in before you arrive at Pompeii and I also suggest taking the virtual tour – virtual walk through Pompeii’s ruins with Google Street View.
I also suggest downloading a comprehensive free Pompeii guide PDF that is an explanation of all of the excavations by the Board of Cultural Heritage of Pompeii.
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What To Know Before You Visit Pompeii
You’ll want to dedicate several hours to Pompeii.
Visiting Pompeii is different from visiting the ruins in Rome. Pompeii is extremely well-preserved which means it will take hours to tour Pompeii.
You will be able to tour the forum, courthouse, amphitheater but do not forget Pompeii is full of hidden treasures you wouldn’t expect to find in an ancient city like a fast-food restaurant, brothels, homes, kitchens and functioning vineyard that is still is use today!
When you visit Pompeii I recommend spending a minimum of 5 hours if you are interested in the history of Ancient Rome or Pompeii I promise you will not be disappointed.
Pompeii opening times:
Pompeii is open every day except 25th December, 1st January and 1st May.
From 1st April to 31st October the site is open 9.00 – 7.30pm (with last entrance 6pm).
At other times the site is open 9.00 – 5:30 pm (with last entrance 3.30pm).
Do you need a private Pompeii Tour / audio guides:
If you want to understand what you are seeing make you really will need a guided tour.
There is no way you will be understand how the people of Pompeii lived, their daily lives, and the aftermath of Mount Vesuvius.
Hours and Tickets To Pompeii
- 1 November to 31 March: 9:00am – 5:00pm
- 1 April to 31 October: 9:00am – 7:30pm
- Open daily; closed 1 January and 25 December
- Pompei: Ticket price EUR 15 for Pompeii, discounts: EUR 7.50 (students between 18 and 24 and teachers). Free for children under 18.
- Herculaneum: Ticket price EUR 11 for Pompeii, discounts: EUR 5.50 (students between 18 and 24 and teachers). Free for children under 18.
- Free entrance the first Sunday of each month
- You can purchase a pass for both sites for EUR 20
How To Enter Pompeii
There are three main gates to enter Pompeii. Two entrance gates are at the south western corner of the Pompeii, one by the Circumvesuviana train station, and the last entrance is where all the buses drop off passengers.
Pompeii is not and I repeat is not an amusement park so you will not have luxe facilities which will provide 5 course meals, ice cream for the kiddos, and a lounging area for you to relax when your feet get tired.
There is just one small restaurant and rest room facility in the middle of the Pompeii plus rest rooms at the entrances.
Pompeii is hot AF! Think back to a time when you have felt like your skin was melting off and double that. Pompeii has minimal shade so it is imperative you bring the following:
- A bottle of water (that you can refill at one of the many water fountains);
- A sun hat;
- A map of the site, available free at the entrance.
Visiting Pompeii requires a ton of walking, and the cobblestone streets are painful to walk on so this is not the time to be cute.
Save your feet the pain and anguish by wearing comfortable walking shoes especially if you’re going to be visiting Mount Vesuvius on the same day. check out my post on What to pack for Italy.
Bring a Snack
There are not a ton of food options so please make sure you bring a snack. There is a picnic area in Pompeii for you to sit down for a break, rest your feet and recharge.
If you forget to bring a snack there is a restaurant in Pompeii that is located near the forum but be advised the prices are high and there are not a lot of options on the menu.
What Not To Miss at Pompeii
The House of Faun
The House of the Faun which was built in the 2nd century BC during the Samnite period (200 – 80 BC.
Although the eruption was devastating, the layers of ash covering the abandoned town preserved artworks, like the mosaics of the House of the Faun, which would have otherwise been likely destroyed or decayed due to the passage of time.
The House of the Faun was named for the bronze statue of the dancing faun, a basin for catching rainwater; it has been moved to the center of the impluvium, as seen in the picture below.
Villa of the Mysteries
Next on our tour was the Villa of the Mysteries or Villa dei Misteri. The Villa is named for the paintings in one room of the residence.
Although covered with ash the villa sustained only minor damage in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the majority of its walls, ceilings, and most particularly its frescoes survived largely undamaged.
The Villa had both very fine rooms for dining and entertaining and more functional spaces. A wine-press was discovered when the Villa was excavated and has been restored to its original location.
It was not uncommon for the homes of the very wealthy to include areas for the production of wine, olive oil, or other agricultural products, especially since many elite Romans owned farmland or orchards in the immediate vicinity of their villas
The ownership of the Villa is unknown, as is the case with many private homes in the city of Pompeii. However, certain artifacts give tantalizing clues.
A bronze seal found in the villa names L. Istacidius Zosimus, a freedman of the powerful Istacidii family.
The Stabian Baths
This is the oldest preserved bath in Pompeii and you can also see a few preserved bodies here as well. The Stabian bath also includes an area for wrestling and a large Olympic-sized swimming pool.
House of the Small Fountain
The House of the Small Fountain is a stunning home with oversized back room where you can see frescoes, mosaic fountain and a beautiful atrium.
Garden of the Fugitives
There are 13 bodies in the garden which reflect the horrible final moments of the city. It felt uneasy looking at bodies frozen time but I couldn’t turn away.
Right next to the amphitheater, the “great palace” which was an exercise park that was used for sports and games.
House of Sallustio
This is the oldest house in Pompeii. Our guide told us it was most likely an inn and there is a small garden and covered porch in the back along with a fresco of the goddess Diana.
When To Visit Pompeii
I suggest visiting Pompeii in the summer months but be advised it be hotter than hell and extremely busy. If the heat is not your thing consider visiting in the off season (May or October) in order to avoid the heat and crowds but still have nice weather.
I visited Pompeii in early June and the hubby and I spent approximately 6 or 7 hours touring Pompeii and it felt like we need another 3 or 4 hours.
My husband is a history geek and he could have spent our entire Italy vacation visiting ruins.
Pompeii Tours and Ticketing
You can order Pompeii tickets and tours in advance. No need to stand in long lines.
Pompeii now offers the first Sunday of the month free in the off peak season which is October to March. Pompeii will offer 8 additional free days. The 2020 dates are:
- 30 March
- 25 April
- 8 May
- 8 June
- 24 October
- 24 December
- 26 December
- 31 December
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I can’t say this enough but please get insurance when traveling to Italy! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance.
Have fun while visiting Florence, but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
Make sure to get your insurance before you head off on an adventure! I highly recommend Travelex Insurance.
Conclusion Of Pompeii Tours
Towards the end of the tour, we congregated in the ancient Forum where the half-standing columns and structures of Pompeii’s most important political and social center stand silently against the shadowy backdrop of the volcano.
Pompeii’s horrific end was the most interesting aspect of this ancient Roman town but by the end of this tour it was rather Pompeii’s life, it’s daily existence that became the most captivating story.
Before you end your visit to Pompeii, turn around and take one last look at the impressive view of Mount Vesuvius in the distance.
2,000 years ago the still-active volcano erupted a cloud of gas, ash, and rocks. For hours it spewed, causing most of the residents to flee.
It took just one moment for the eruption to change and an avalanche of lava and rock to race down the mountainside toward Pompeii.
Though Vesuvius destroyed the city, it also effectively preserved it, stopping life in Pompeii in its track and providing us with most everything we know about the ancient town.
If you are thinking of Pompeii tours you will not be sorry! Pompeii is the kind of place that sticks with you long after your trip is over and the trip from Sorrento to Pompeii will be forever etched in our memories.
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Additional Articles On Exploring Italy
A day trip to Pompeii is the perfect way to end your Italy vacation.
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