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Exploring Pompeii: A Travelogue and Guide to Walking The Ancient City in Naples, Italy

Updated: 12 hours ago


Have you ever wanted to walk back through time?

The desire to visit an ancient city, reliving what life was like way back when has fascinated and intrigued visitors to archeological sites for decades. Walking the cobblestone streets of ancient Pompeii in Naples, Italy is a surreal experience, where one can not only imagine how its people tragically died, but how they lived.


 

NB: (July 2024) Italy is currently experiencing a heat wave, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees. Be prepared while travelling, by dressing in light, breathable cotton/linen clothing and stay hydrated. Pompeii has many water fountains available to fill up water bottles while exploring the site.

 


Sunset lit streets of Pompeii, Naples, Italy
Sunset lit streets of Pompeii, Naples, Italy


After my short visit to the archeological site of Pompeii on a group tour 20 years ago, I found myself immediately enamored with the ancient city. So, when planning our trip of a lifetime to Italy, we knew we wanted to stay in Pompei and spend as much time as possible walking among the ruins of the archeological site of Pompeii.


We spent two full days and nights in the Naples city center, at the charming Bourbon House B&B, then hired a car to pick us up (in style) and drive us to the city of Pompei, stopping along the way to hike up the crater of Mount Vesuvius and lunch (and wine tasting) at Cantina del Vesuvio winery. To learn more about our stay in Naples, Italy read: Pizza, Wine and Ancient Ruins: A Chaotic Trip of a Lifetime Exploring Naples, Italy.


 

What's the difference between Pompeii and Pompei? Pompeii (with double "i") refers to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and ruins of the ancient Roman city, but Pompei (with single "i") refers to the modern Italian city, within the metropolitan city of Naples, Italy).

 


View from Hotel del Sole, Pompei, Naples, Italy
View from Hotel del Sole, Pompei, Naples, Italy


We arrived in Pompei city (not to be confused with Pompeii the archeological site) in the early evening and checked into the simple, yet elegant Hotel del Sole, conveniently located directly across the street from the entrance to the archeological site of Pompeii. The view from our balcony in our oversized suite, overlooking the ruins of Pompeii, was simply spectacular.





Exhausted from the hike up Mt Vesuvius earlier that day (and a little tipsy from the wine tasting after), it would have been smart to simply rest for the remainder of the day in our luxurious suite, but we had other plans. After a quick unpack and freshen up in our Villa dei Misteri Suite at Hotel del Sole, we headed directly to the archeological site of Pompeii for our first visit.





Visit Pompeii: How to Enter the Archeological Site


There are three (3) entrances to Pompeii: Porta Marina (via Villa dei Misteri), Piazza Esedra (piazza Porta Marina Inferiore) and Piazza Anfiteatro (piazza Immacolata). Porta Marina is the main entrance to the archeological site of Pompeii and the most popular as it is closest to the Pompeii Scavi Train Station. This proximity means there are usually long wait times to enter the archeological site, depending on the time of day. The Piazza Esedra is closest to the Porta Marina entrance, but is reserved for group tours.



Amphitheatre of Pompeii, Naples, Italy
Amphitheatre of Pompeii, Naples, Italy


Piazza Anfiteatro is within modern Pompei, closest to the Anfiteatro di Pompeii (Amphitheatre of Pompeii). and directly across the street from Hotel del Sole. It is less popular and usually less crowded, though there can be long lines at peak times.



LUXURY TRVEL TIP: Want to visit Pompeii with less people? Visit outside the peak times and wander the ancient city in the glow of the setting sun. With this tour, you explore Pompeii from the late afternoon to sunset along side an archeologist.


During the Spring/Summer months, the main archeological site of Pompeii is opened 9a-7p, with the last entry at 530p. Be sure to check the official site before you go for any last minute changes to the schedule. We headed to the Porta Anfiteatro entrance of Pompeii, hoping to take advantage of the late hour and fewer people visiting to capture beautiful photos in the light of the setting sun.





 

TIP: We had purchased the new Community MyPompeii Card, which is an annual pass that allowed us to exit the site and return the next day without having to pay a separate entrance fee. The pass can only be purchased online prior to the first visit and costs $35 Euro. A one time ticket to Pompeii is $19 Euro, so if you plan on visiting more than once, or want the freedom to leave and re-enter during the day, the MyPompeii Card is the better option.

 


We, thankfully, managed to make it to the ticket office before the cut off time, and walked casually along the path towards the beautiful Anfiteatro di Pompeii (Amphitheatre of Pompeii). With the tall stone pine trees lining the Palestra Grande on the left, the Amphitheatre on the right and the silhouette of Mount Vesuvius in the background, we were immediately transported. We walked through the arched tunnels into the center of the Amphitheatre and marveled at its size and structure.



Paints of Pompeii, Italy
Paints of Pompeii, Italy

Directly across, within the Palestra Grande, an exhibition entitled Art and Sensuality in the Houses of Pompeii, was on display and free to enter with the price of admission. (NB: Exhibit Closed on September 3, 2023).


This exhibit was our first taste of the magnificent sculptures and painted walls we would find in some of the excavated homes. The exhibit also included food and paints found among the rubble.






It was intriguing to focus specifically on the sensuality displayed in art found at the archeological site of Pompeii after we had visited the Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Room) exhibit at the National Archeological Museum of Naples while staying in the city center.


The Gabinetto Segreto exhibit features hundreds of sexually charged and obscene artifacts, taken mostly from excavations at the archeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, that were often separated from other artifacts found, due to their explicit sexual nature. To learn more about the Gabinetto Segreto, read: Hidden Sexuality: The Secret Room (Gabinetto Segreto) in the Naples Archeological Museum.




Large fresco of the House of Venus in the Shell, Pompeii, Naples, Italy
Large fresco in the garden of the House of Venus in the Shell, Pompeii, Naples, Italy




Visit Pompeii: How to Get Around the Archeological site of Pompeii


The archeological site of Pompeii is vast and can be very confusing to navigate without a map or a guide. The archeological site is divided into neighbourhoods, or regions. The neighbourhoods available to visit are many, and it is near impossible to visit everything within one day. Most tour guides visit the most popular homes and sites, but skip the majority of the ruins.


Using the MyPompeii app as a guide, we followed the main stone path, walking along the smooth sidewalks. The app was helpful when determining which direction we should turn to find a specific home, but found that the hours/dates displayed were not always correct.


Depending on how much time you have, when visiting Pompeii on your own, it is best to follow the main path, where the majority of the homes are located and only venture off if you have a map or walking itinerary. While we wandered, we entered the private homes that were open to the public, marveling at their ruined beauty and imagining what it could have been before the tragedy.



Interior of the House of the Wounded Bear with walkway visible, Pompeii, Italy
Interior of the House of the Wounded Bear with walkway visible, Pompeii, Italy


The original stone roadway is sunken to allow for flooding and refuge, while large stepping stones, periodically placed, allowed residents of ancient Pompeii to cross the road without getting wet or dirty. There are regular water fountains (some still in use) along the path, and in some sections, marble chips were embedded into the stone road to reflect the moonlight for greater visibility at night.


Each excavated home is affixed with a large metal door, often with open space to see into the entranceway even when closed, and if necessary, a small ramp for accessibility. Depending on the state of the home, sometimes it is only visible from the outside, sometimes there is a designated walkway, some rooms or paths may be roped off and inaccessible, and sometimes there is a representative of the archeological site of Pompeii monitoring the number of people and their whereabouts.






 

TIP: The MyPompeii App was a very useful resource.

It is a live map of the ruins, with information about the homes, including names, hours of operation and days they are open for public view.


It was a good way to orient oneself, as it is quite easy to get lost or turned around among the many side streets. The one element it lacked for us, was the ability to mark off which sites we had visited along the way, to keep track of where to go next.


The official Pompeii site also has new downloadable maps that would also be very handy.

 





Even without extensive knowledge of what exactly happened to the ancient city of Pompeii on the day that Mount Vesuvius erupted, one can imagine the total devastation that was bestowed upon the buildings and residents. Walking through the ruins of the archeological site of Pompeii, it is a constant wonder how these homes were not completely destroyed and how the beautiful pieces of artwork, delicate frescoes and lavish mosaics with intricate details, managed to survive. The colours are sometimes so bright and vivid, it is hard to imagine that they were once covered in thick layers of ash and rock.



Garden of the Praedia of Giulia Felice, Pompeii, Italy
Garden of the Praedia of Giulia Felice, Pompeii, Italy



Visit Pompeii: What to See at the Archeological site of Pompeii


The archeological site of Pompeii is vast and impossible to see in one visit, so choose the homes and sites you find the most interesting. On our first visit, entering from the Piazza Anfiteatro entrance, closest to the Anfiteatro di Pompeii (Amphitheatre of Pompeii) in region II, we visited what we were able to, entering the magnificent homes of Praedia of Giulia Felice, with its fabulous garden, the elite House of Octavius Quartio, with its temple to the Goddess Isis and the House of Venus in the Shell, with its spectacular fresco of Venus.






It is hard to pull yourself away from the unbelievable paintings or mosaics and squash the desire to explore the open areas, especially the lush gardens, but there is more to explore at Pompeii.


Between the excavated homes with metal doors, there are a variety of open building ruins, some have small barriers preventing you from entering, but most are open and free to explore.


Few visitors, we found, we aware that they could simply step off of the sidewalk and walk through these spaces, stepping into the ruined rooms, touching the marble and stone.


< Click to watch a video of our walk through one of these open ruins, a spectacular villa with many rooms and an inner courtyard. To see more videos taken while on site at Pompeii, visit our YouTube Pompeii Playlist.







After a hearty breakfast the next morning, complimentary of Hotel del Sole, we entered the same way through the Piazza Anfiteatro entrance and bypassed the homes we had already visited, moving further along the main path, into regions I, VII and VIII. Even early in the morning, the sun was bright and hot and there were definitely more tourists.


We visited the beautiful gardens of the House of the Cornelli, entered the Stabian Baths and waded through the large crowd to enter the Lupanare, the famous "red-light district" where erotic painted images above the rooms informed guests what activities took place there. Pompeii was indeed a bustling city with amenities and entertainment for all who visited. This is one of the most popular sites to visit in Pompeii and the lines are always long, but it is worth the wait.



A sexually explicit painting above a doorway in Lupanare, Pompeii, Italy
A sexually explicit painting above a doorway in Lupanare, Pompeii, Italy


We stumbled through the streets, walking in the shade as much as possible, able to imagine more easily what day to day could have been like with many more people to navigate through. We entered the Bakery of Popidio Prisco (among others), where the mill and bakery were side by side. The wheat was ground with large lava millstones, many of which were found here. This bakery did not have a counter, so unlike the many caupona or restaurants we passed along the way, bread was likely not sold directly to the public.


 

What is a Caupona? The "Caupona" or "Taberna" refers to the tavern or place where food (and sometimes lodging) was on offer in ancient Roman times, often seen in the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum as opened to the street for a version of "fast food" service. Caupona restaurant in Pompei is considered the first faithfully reproduced ancient caupona.

 


Bakery of Popidio Prisco, Pompeii, Naples, Italy
Bakery of Popidio Prisco, Pompeii, Naples, Italy


We then passed the impressive Temple of Fortuna Augusta on the way to the massive Forum, in region VIII. The Civil Forum was the center of everyday life in ancient Pompeii, with public buildings, trade markets, shops, and places of worship. It is in this area where visitors to the archeological site of Pompeii often stop for food, drink and restrooms. Emergency medical services are also nearby. We opted to leave the archeological site for lunch, exiting and re-entering from Porta Marina.



UNIQUE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE: See Pompeii completely differently! With this tour, you're provided augmented reality glasses, with which you can see the reconstruction of buildings as they were in ancient Pompeii. The tour includes lunch at Caupona Restaurant.


After a luxurious lunch, we returned to the archeological site and re-entered through the same Porta Marina, this time stopping to visit the gift shop. In addition to goods for sale, inside we found casts on display, some of small children and one of a horse.


The casts are the bodies of victims frozen in the same position as when the volcanic flow reached them. Having been covered by layers of ash, the shape of their bodies remained preserved even after decomposition. Many in defensive positions, their teeth and bones sometimes visible, the casts are eerie reminders of the tragic end many encountered in Pompeii.



Close-up cast of a child, Pompeii, Italy
Close-up cast of a child, Pompeii, Italy


These casts can be found in multiple areas around the site of Pompeii, usually visible through glass cases, but the casts on display in the gift shop are in the open. It may be eerie to see the casts up close, but not nearly as shocking as the grim site at nearby Herculaneum. The ancient city of Herculaneum was also destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, albeit differently.


Skeletons at Herculaneum, Naples, Italy
Skeletons at Herculaneum, Naples, Italy

Today, visitors to the archeological site of Herculaneum, descend and pass the boathouses that hugged the original shoreline. Dozens of skeletons were unearthed inside those boathouses, the remains (and treasures) of those hiding and/or waiting to be rescued.





We spent the entire afternoon exploring the areas furthest away, in regions VI and V, picking and choosing what we wanted to see, including the opulent House of the Vettii, one of the richest and most famous in ancient Pompeii. We continued with the equally opulent House of the Dioscuri, with its columns, gardens and marble room, then onto the infamous House of the Fawn, one of the largest in ancient Pompeii, and admired its frescos and the fountain fawn, from which its name derives.




Fresco inside the House of the Vettii, Pompeii, Naples, Italy
Fresco inside the House of the Vettii, Pompeii, Naples, Italy


We continued on and visited he gorgeous House of the Large Fountain, with its detail mosaic fountain feature, and the newly excavated House of Leda and the Swan, with its beautiful visible fresco of the same name. Many of the homes and areas around the House of Leda and the Swan have not yet been excavated, with their sections still fully covered (as visible in the photo below). This area was significantly less populated than the other areas, with no visitors nearby, so we were able to explore and enjoy in silence.


 

Note: We only link to products and services that we have either used or would use, all opinions expressed are our own. Some may be affiliate links, with which we may receive a small commission for purchases made.

 


House of Leda and the Swan, Pompeii, Naples, Italy
House of Leda and the Swan, Pompeii, Naples, Italy


As the day was drawing to a close, our feet had swollen from all the walking in the heat and no amount of water was going to reenergize us, so we headed towards the Porta Anfiteatro exit, stopping to see the impressive House of Paquius Proculus, with it's phenomenal mosaic floor, and both the large and small theatres along the way.



Mosaic at House of Paquius Proculus, Pompeii, Italy
Mosaic at House of Paquius Proculus, Pompeii, Italy

The House of Paquius Proculus, like the infamous CAVE CANEM (Beware the Dog) mosaic at the House of the Tragic Poet, has a grand mosaic entranceway with a representation of a large dog.


In our time at Pompeii, we explored just over half of the vast archeological site. We knew we would not have the opportunity to see everything, nor would we be able to spend the time we wanted in each space.






There is plenty to see and visit at the archeological site of Pompeii, but due to the large area to cover and the number of homes/spaces available to enter, be sure to check off those sites you're most interested in visiting at Pompeii first, before time and the heat of the day catches up with you. If you have time, we highly recommend planning to visit Pompeii in multiple days in a row.


 

TIP: In the summer months, the sun can be very intense and it is important to dress appropriately in breathable cottons/linens and bring provisions. Carry a water bottle or collapsible cup with you to take advantage of the many fountains at Pompeii, staying hydrated will keep you cool and help extend your visit.

 


Small theater, Pompeii, Naples, Italy
Small theater, Pompeii, Naples, Italy



Visit Pompeii: Where to Eat


Having spent the morning exploring, the heat of the day had gotten to us, and we decided to leave for lunch via the Porta Marina exit, passing the impressive bronze statue in the Sanctuary of Venus along the way. Food is available for purchase within Pompeii, in the designated food area close to the Forum, but it is very limited and lines are generally long.



With the MyPompeii pass we purchased, we were allowed to exit and enjoy lunch outside of the archeological site of Pompeii, and return to the site without having to repay.


Leaving from the Porta Marina exit, we headed to a nearby restaurant called Capuona, designed as an authentic Pompeii eatery.





From the Porta Marina exit of the archeological site of Pompeii, it is only a 5-10m walk to the Capuona Restaurant, following the slope of Via Villa dei Misteri. The restaurant is located on Via Masseria Curato, along and narrow laneway, easy to miss if you're not looking for it.




Caupona Restaurant, Pompei, Naples, Italy
Caupona Restaurant, Pompei, Naples, Italy


Overall, the food, the atmosphere, the experience, was positive and one that we would happily revisit next time we find ourselves in Pompei. If you plan on visiting the ancient ruins of Pompeii, plan for a lunch break that will enhance your knowledge and experience of the ancient city. To learn more about Caupona Restaurant, read Lunching as Ancient Pompeiians: An Honest Review of Caupona Restaurant in Pompei, Italy.





Visit Pompeii: What's New?


The excavations are ongoing at the archeological site of Pompeii and new discoveries are made daily. Another advantage to purchasing the MyPompeii card, members of the MyPompeii community card will receive advance notification of the latest news of Pompeii, be invited to participate in an annual meeting with the Director of the Park, to be updated on current and future initiatives, and invited to certain special and exclusive events.




In June 2023, beautiful frescos were discovered at Pompeii that depicted ancient pizzas.


In April 2024, a unique black banquet hall was discovered at Pompeii, with fascinating Greco-Roman style paintings.


In May 2024, children's sketches were discovered, depicting violent gladiator scenes etched into the walls.


In June 2024, a rare blue-painted room with detailed frescos was unearthed, along with intact artifacts.


In July 2024, skeletons discovered are believed to have perished due to earthquake collapses, shedding more light on the events of day of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.




We are already planning our next trip to Italy and visit to Pompeii, this time with at least an extra day added to explore. Imagine the discoveries that will be made in the meantime, and the insights we will learn about how the residents of Pompeii lived (and died).

450 views6 comments

6 comentários


Really well-written post, very thorough! I had no idea that Pompeii and Pompei were different, either.

Curtir
D Marino
D Marino
17 de jun.
Respondendo a

Thanks so much!

Curtir

I would love to go to Pompeii! This is all so helpful.

Curtir
D Marino
D Marino
17 de jun.
Respondendo a

Thank you!

Curtir

Christy Scronce
Christy Scronce
15 de jun.

Pompeii looks amazing and ancient. I’d love to visit and walk through the ruins. It was pleasant listening to your video’s music while reading this post. Very relaxing!

Curtir
D Marino
D Marino
15 de jun.
Respondendo a

Thanks so much! When you can find the quiet in those spaces, Pompeii is magnificent.

Curtir
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