Visit Pompeii Italy, Explore The Ruins

Why do you want to visit Pompeii

About 12,000 inhabitants lived in Pompeii and the remains of about 2000 Pompeii bodies were found buried under the ash. Most citizens escaped in panic leaving prized possessions and in some cases valuable documents, which have been excavated and give us an insight into their lives. Exploring Pompeii ruins is like exploring a part of our own past

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Best time to visit Pompeii

The high tourist season is from May to August when crowds are at their peak and lineups are very long. It gets very hot in the summer months, especially July and August were temperatures start in the high 80’s and even into the 90’s. Pompeii has very little shade so you are totally exposed to the full rays of the sun. If you will visit Pompeii at this time, bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat

The shoulder season is April, May, September and October. The rainy season is over by March. Spring arrives in Pompeii with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. The lineups and crowds are manageable and prices are cheaper for accommodations and some tourist attractions. Our Pompeii trip was at this time and we found it to be a good time to visit the Pompeii ruins

The fall season brings temperatures of high 70’s and low 80’s. It is still busy at this time but there are a lot less crowds than in the summer peak season

The off season is November to March where the tourist crowds have mostly disappeared but it is still warm, with temperatures starting in the mid 50’s. However it is the rainy season with November being the wettest month. Bring an umbrella and be flexible with your itinerary due to rain ie: one day warm and the next rainy. Tourist attractions generally operate on shorter hours at this time of year

What to do in Pompeii: Pompeii Self Guided Tour

Visit the 49 plus attractions using the self guided tour with a Pompeii map and list of attractions including images and youtube videos


Free wifi is available in many local accommodations, eateries and some public areas in Italy. I have found that it is much easier to buy a local tourist SIM card for your smartphone. If you have an old smartphone, use that one and get a tourist SIM card (instead of the current one you are using). I would not recommend kiosks or newspaper stands to purchase tourist SIM Cards. In Italy there are two major providers of SIM cards for tourists:

  • TIM for Visitors
  • Vodafone Holiday  
  • I have used SIM cards in Italy and you can get a top up from them when needed. Review the two providers before deciding on which one suits your needs best. I would suggest buying it from the local TIM or Vodofone store and have them activate it for you. Test it out before you leave the store. You will need ID (generally a passport)

Ways to Visit Pompeii

The lineups can be very long, especially in the heat or during peak season. I recommend you purchase tickets in advance. There are a variety of packages and combinations (guided tours and / or transportation) that can be purchased online. The best is to purchase a skip the line tickets. Book here online for skip the line entry tickets, select the one that best suits you. If you want tours with entry tickets, Book popular ones here and select from various options that includes skip the lines, an archeologist for a tour guide and / or transportation option.

Visit Pompeii Excavation Site:

City Design

Designed by roman engineers so streets are parallel in a grid system. Once you understand this, it’s easy to do the walking tour

  • Like any typical city, Pompeii Italy is divided into quadrants/regions identified by roman numerals (regions I to VIII). You will see a plaque on street corners when you enter different regions, districts and perhaps street names. The attractions also have a plaque identifying the building
  • It is a walled city built in yellow travertine with 8 gates called Portos staggered throughout ie: Porto Herculaneum on the northwest side (leads to town of Herculaneum), Porto Vesuvio and Porto Cupua Gate on the northern end (leads to Vesuvius), Porto Marina on the West, Porto Nola and  Porto Sarno (leading to Sarno River) on the east side, Porto Nocera (leading to town of Nocera), and finally Porto Stabia on the South side
  • Outside each porto or gate is a cemetery – i.e necropolis
  • Two major streets, makes up a grid system (via means street)
    • Via dell’Abbondanza which is the commercial street – starts on the west porto/gate Marina as Via Marina, then becomes Via dell’Abbondanza ending at Porto Sarno. Via dell’Abbondanza was lined with shops and many commercial activities took place here. The upper floors tended to be living quarters for the shop owners
    • Via Stabian runs north to south from Porto / Gate Vesuvio to Porto Stabia. It starts at the north end at Porto Vesuvio as Via Dei Vesuvio then turns into Via Stabiana and heads south to Porto Stabia to the south end

Road system

  • Many of the streets are narrow and would not have been able to accommodate carts to pass each other in opposite directions. Further exploration of the traffic pattern indicates the existence of one way streets
  • Just like todays roads, notice the ruts in the streets made by the carts
  • The streets are lower than the sidewalks by 30 cm, this is to accommodate the flooding from rain, debris from the carts or animal waste. To cross the streets, you will have noticed raised blocks or stepping stones the same height as the sidewalks. This allows for pedestrian crossing without stepping on the filthy roads
  • The roads had gutters on either side that would take the water away, along with the debris and dirt

Plumbing System

  • The plumbing system consists the aquaduct – Castellum Aquae near porto vesuvio which supplied water to the city
  • With its sophisticated underground water system, the streets were regularly flushed with water to remove sewage and trash
  • The forum baths had spouts to bring water into the bath, however there does not appear to have spouts to take the water out. So it seems that there was no circulating water in the communal bathtubs, and people bathed in stagnant bath waters
  • The wealthy homes have an open air atrium with a pool as well as clay pipes on the sides of the houses collecting rainwater which is stored underneath for household usage
  • There are about 40 fountains or water pumps delivering fresh water to the city and some are still in use today. You can fill up your water bottles at these fountains


  • Unlike today the wealthy citizens of Pompeii dined at home in their opulent dining rooms (called Triclinium) while the poor ate out at the Thermopoliums (food outlets). Over 80 have been found in the Pompeii ruins including about 20 on one street alone. The Thermopolium also served the many people from the surrounding area that came to visit Pompeii
  • Both the wealthy and poorer citizens bought their daily bread from bakeries scattered throughout the city. About 33 bakeries have been discovered, one of them still had 81 perfectly preserved round loaves in the oven
  • In one bakery discovered, there was a small room used to house the donkeys that were used to work the grinders. The animals and the food preparation was in the same area


  • Like any walled city, Pompeii had private houses (minimum kitchen facilities in homes), pubs, a main public square (Forum), a market (Macelleum), Terme which are public baths (as there were no private baths in most homes except those of the very wealthy), worship centers (temples), theater for plays (Teattro), amphitheater (sporting, gladiator arena), gym (Palestra), fast food restaurants (Thermopolium), brothels (Lupanar) and gardens/outdoor eating area (Triclinium)
  • Pompeii had a hierarchical structure divided along lines of wealth, however basic services such as health was available to all citizens. The Granary storage located in the Forum was used to distribute food free of charge during crop failure
  • On your Pompeii trip, keep in mind that most buildings in Pompeii were two story ie: What has remained is usually just the ground floor.  Many shops had owners who lived either at the back of the house or on the upper floor


  • 90 houses have been excavated; most are not open on any given day either for restoration work or safety reasons. Each house/attraction has a plaque in front of it indicating the name of the attraction
  • It was common for many of the luxury homes to have shops on either side of them. Some shops had living quarters on the upper floor and stairs from the living quarters opened onto the street. Most of the upper floors did not survive the eruption so it appears as though Pompeii was a city of one level homes and businesses. That was not the case
  • The private luxury houses owned by the wealthy of Pompeii were built in the same style. They had an atrium at the front surrounded by rooms that could be bedrooms, reception areas, kitchens or perhaps an office to conduct business.  If the house had a toilet, it was located in the kitchen area separated by a half wall. The front atrium was the reception area to greet guests. It had an open air roof that would collect rainwater into the pool below which was stored in a tank in the basement along with rainwater also collected from the clay pipes running down the sides of the house. An entrance way took you from the atrium towards the back of the house that had a peristyle i.e a garden enclosed by columns, and a triclinium (outdoor dining areas). Since most houses are similar, if you are short on time you don’t have to visit them all but do visit House of Faun, House of Sallust and House of Lucius Caecilius Iucundus Domus. The pdf map also has a youtube link recreation of these houses that show you how the wealthy Pompeii people lived

Visit Pompeii: Helpful Tips and Scams

  • There are limited options for food within Pompeii but just outside the Pompeii entrance are some food stalls. I did not find them to be reasonable in price or quality. The vendors outside will tell you there is no food or water inside. This is not true. There is a small cafeteria inside and water is free from the fountains
  • Bring a water bottle and there is water available at the ancient fountains and water pump stations throughout the Pompeii ruins to fill up your water bottles. The old clay pipes have been adapted with new pipes
  • Bring snacks, not large backpacks with lunch. Due to security concerns, security will not allow large backpacks into the park
  • There is no entry and re-entry so you can step outside of the park for lunch but there are picnic areas inside if you bring a packed lunch
  • Have hats and sunscreen for the really hot summer days
  • Wear good walking shoes as the sidewalks and roads are uneven and slippery especially when it rains
  • For small children, keep in mind that the cobblestones are hard to navigate on foot let alone with a stroller. I saw many parents struggling with strollers
  • A quick tour of some of the houses and attractions will take 1-2 hours. A complete tour of the attractions as per the self guide tour can take up to 6 hours
  • Bring a guide of some kind so you are not wandering aimlessly, otherwise everything looks like rubble
  • You can purchase an audio guide at the main Port Marina Pompeii entrance. I have heard that it is not very helpful. We had an official park tour guide who did not thoroughly cover the area as we discovered later
  • You will be approached as you exit the train station to purchase park tickets from the official booth. They may wear shirts that say “official” and take you to a booth that says” official”. These are NOT the official park staff. The park entrance has staff behind glass booths. Pompeii entrance park staff do not approach tourists and lead them to purchase their tickets

How to get to Pompeii:

Catch the intercity train to Naples then catch the local Circumvesuviana to the Pompeii excavation site (not modern Pompeii town)

Arrive at the Naples central station. There are two main train lines that will take you to the Naples Central Station: Trenitalia and Italo. Italo is the new train company and started in 2012. Check both sites for booking online tickets to get the most convenient times and prices

To purchase tickets to Naples: Naples to Pompeii

The Naples Garibaldi Station: Naples to Pompeii Scavi

Once you arrive at the Naples Central Station, the station itself is on the main floor. To get to Pompeii you will need to catch the local Circumvesuviana train from the Naples Garibaldi Station

Purchase the Circumvesuviana train ticket: Naples to Pompeii Scavi

You want to catch the local Circumvesuviana commuter train from Naples Garibaldi to Pompeii Scavi Villa dei Misteri” stop (in the direction of Sorrento). Circumvesuviana has its own ticketing system. Just purchase a ticket from the Circumvesuviana ticket office located next to the platform or from the Circumvesuviana automated machine. Ensure it’s validated before you hop on the train/subway

Don’t confuse the Pompeii station with the Pompeii Scavi (Villa di Misteri) station. They are accessed by different Circumvesuviana trains. You want to make sure you catch the Circumvesuviana train that stops at the Pompeii Scavi (Villa di Misteri) station (train sign should say Sorrento)

Circumvesuviana train from Naples to Pompeii Scavi

The Circumvesuviana commuter train runs every 30 min and it’s a 35 min trip on an old train. It is the Italian version of a subway train and you do not need to reserve seats. It’s safe and well used by locals. It is hot (no air conditioning) and sometimes very busy. Keep your eye on your valuables and ignore the request for “donations”. There are luggage racks on the shelf above the seats

Arrival at Pompeii Ruins Archaeological Park (Excavation Site):

Get off at the Pompeii Scavi (Villa di Misteri) station NOT Pompeii station (Scavi means excavation while Pompeii station will take you into the modern town of Pompeii and not the excavation/scavi site). The modern town of Pompeii has an estimated population of about 25,000 and is famous for its excavation site located at the Pompeii Archeological Park

Exit at Pompeii Scavi (Villa di Misteri), turn right and walk roughly 5 minutes to arrive at the entrance to the excavations site. Luggage storage is available. Luggage can be stored at Pompeii Scavi Station or at the Pompeii Park entrance.

Piazza Anfiteatro Entrance

Some people take the train to the Pompeii station. You can walk from Pompeii town to the Pompeii park entrance closest to Pompeii town called Piazza Anfiteatro. It’s the entrance near the Amphitheater at the Pompeii excavation site. The bonus is the lines are shorter to get into the park. You will be starting your tour on the eastern end of Pompeii and not the western end. There are no tour guides or audio rentals at this location

Other sites in Italy

  • Visit the Roman Colosseum. Click on the Roman Colosseum attractions map HERE and accompanying Colosseum attractions guide HERE
  • Take the Rome attractions map and self guided tour: It includes the Vatican City attractions map HERE and the Vatican attractions guide HERE
  • Self Guided Walking tour to explore the neighborhood of Trastevere with map of attractions HERE and guide of attractions HERE
  • Visit St Peters Basilica. Explore all the attractions in St Peter’s Basilica with the attractions guide HERE
  • One of my favorite places is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The map of attractions is HERE and the self guided walking tour is HERE
  • Self Guided Walking Tours – Day Trips from Rome
    • Visit Pompeii with a complete self guided tour map HERE and the attractions guide to the 49 points of interest HERE
    • Spend the day in Florence, this was by far one of my best day trips. The self guided walking tour map is HERE and the attractions guide is HERE