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Visit the Ruins of Pompeii: A Complete Guide

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One of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole of Italy, the ruins of Pompeii are an archaeological and historical marvel and absolutely fascinating to explore. When in Italy, a visit to Pompeii is definitely warranted! Wandering around the crumbling remains of the ancient city as Mount Vesuvius looms ominously in the distance — a stark reminder of Pompeii's fate — is no less than an awe-inspiring experience.

Offering up a fascinating look at what everyday life once looked like in a Roman city, Pompeii is an amazing historical site to visit. Here you can find a truly unique snapshot of life in Roman times. New discoveries in the ruins continue to be made even to this day! We compiled a guide to help you make the most of your time in the excavated city.

Quick Facts

Here is the most important information you need to know when planning a visit to Pompeii.

Opening times and seasons:

1st April‒31st October: Monday‒Friday (09:00‒19.30) / Saturday‒Sunday (08.30‒19.30)

1st November‒31st March: Monday‒Friday (09:00‒17:00) / Saturday‒Sunday (08:30‒17:00)

Time needed to visit: 4 hours, although you could spend all day exploring the site!
Best time to visit: As early in the day as possible to avoid queues and the strong afternoon sun.
Getting tickets: A full price ticket to the Pompeii site costs USD 14.97 while a concessionary ticket works out to USD 8.5*. Concessionary tickets are valid only for people between the ages of 18–24. You can buy your tickets to visit Pompeii at any one of the three entrances to the site.

History of the Pompeii Ruins

Once a thriving Roman city, Pompeii was forever frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. Ash and lava spewed forth from the volcano, destroying most of the city's buildings while covering Pompeii in a thick layer of volcanic ash. Although most citizens managed to flee to safety, thousands died amidst the chaos caused by the eruption.

Pompeii was left untouched beneath the volcanic ash until 1748 when excavations began to uncover its ancient streets and people were astounded to find that the remains of the city were remarkably well-preserved. Nowadays, the ruins are one of most impressive archaeological sites in the world and millions of visitors explore the remnants of its bathhouses, temples and humble homes each and every year.

Location of the Ruins of Pompeii and how to get there

Street of Pompeii
View of an ancient cobbled street in the ruins of Pompeii

Located in between Naples and Sorento, Pompeii has great transport links and isn’t too hard to reach.

  • From Naples, you can take the Circumvesuviana train to the Pompei Scavi – Villa dei Misteri stop where you'll find both the Porta Marina and Piazza Esedra entrances. For the other entrance, Piazza Anfiteatro, you need to get off at the Pompei Santuario train station.
  • You can also get to the ruins by bus. The SITA bus line runs from both Naples and Salerno.
  • Many visitors opt to drive to the ruins themselves. From Naples, you need to take the A3 motorway before turning off at the Pompei Ovest exit. From Salerno, you simply follow the A3 motorway to Pompeii, this time turning off at Pompei Est to reach the ruins.
  • From Sorrento to Pompeii, it’s just a half an hour journey on the Circumvesuviana train to the ruins.
  • If you don't feel like finding the ruins yourself, there are many organized tours of Pompeii that arrange to pick you up from either Naples, Salerno or even Rome.

Pompeii entrances

When you visit Pompeii, it's important to note that there are in fact three entrances and there are a number of ways to reach each of them. It's a good idea to decide in advance which entrance you want to use so as to plan out your travel route accordingly.

  • Porta Marina is the main entrance to visit Pompeii and lies just a short distance away from the Piazza Esedra entrance. Although Porta Marina has the best facilities, it is the most crowded of the three entrances.
  • Piazza Esedra is much quieter and while it has fewer services available, you should be able to enter the site in the shortest amount of time. At both the entrances, you can take any of the Pompeii guided tours that are on offer.
  • The Piazza Anfiteatro entrance lies about a 15-20 minute walk away from the other two and is also very popular as it is located right next to all of the main sights such as the forum and amphitheatre. While this does mean that it gets quite crowded, entering here means you are immediately greeted with many of the main attractions. However, you can’t book to go on one of the Pompeii tours here, hence the entrance is suggested only for those who want to explore the ruins on their own.

Things to see in the Pompeii ruins

There is absolutely loads to see in Pompeii and the site sprawls over a very large area. Here are some of the main attractions which you really don't want to miss out on:

The house of Faun
The faun statue at the entrance to the House of Faun
  • House of the Faun. One of the largest and indeed most impressive houses in Pompeii, the House of the Faun showcases how wealthy Romans lived. Its name comes from the little faun statue that lies at its entrance.
The plaster casts of victims of Pompeii
Plaster casts of eruption victims in Pompeii
cast of a human body in the Pompeii Ruins
Artifacts and more plaster casts on display
  • Plaster casts. Unlike anything you've seen before, the plaster casts are sombre to behold. The twisted figures were created by pouring plaster into gaps where human remains were once found. The plaster casts manage to be chilling and yet captivating at the same time.
Ruins of Temple of Apollo
View of the Temple of Apollo including the bronze statue of Apollo
  • The Temple of Apollo. Once the most important religious building in the city, the Temple of Apollo now lies in ruins. Yet is no less impressive, and some of its columns are still standing defiantly amidst the debris. The oldest building in Pompeii, the temple dates all the way back to the sixth century BC.
Various gladiator games and circus shows were hosted there.
View of the amphitheater in the excavation site
  • The amphitheatre. Marvellous to gaze upon, the amphitheatre is the oldest in the world of its kind. It is a highly impressive piece of architecture that was built to hold an audience of 12,000—20,000! Various gladiator games and circus shows were hosted there. Very well preserved, it is certainly one of the highlights of tours of Pompeii.
A panoramic view of Pompeii's forum
  • The forum. Once the beating heart of the city, the forum was where all public events in Pompeii took place. It was the political and religious center of the town. Until this day you can still see the remains of all of the important buildings and temples that surrounded it.

Take a Pompeii tour

One of the best ways to get as much out of your visit to Pompeii as possible is to join a guided tour. There really isn't very much information to be found when wandering around the site, so a guide is invaluable and can give you a more detailed history while taking you to all of the main sites. The ruins cover a very large area and a tour of Pompeii would be both time-efficient and indeed an engaging way to explore the park.

Rules to visit the Ruins of Pompeii

In addition to following the standard rules such as not littering, not clambering over the ruins or disturbing other guests, there are a couple of other things to bear in mind.

  • Only 15,000 visitors at a time are allowed to visit the site. You may find that you have to wait a while if the limit has already been reached.
  • Guests and groups alike must follow the established itineraries and refrain from roaming off of the designated paths.
  • The last entrance to the park is always an hour and a half before closing time.
  • You are not allowed to take large bags inside the ruins of Pompeii for security purposes.

Insider tips

  • There aren't many facilities and services inside the site, meaning it is a good idea to bring food and water with you.
  • There is very little shade in Pompeii so make sure you have dressed appropriately and have sun protection.
  • Wear comfortable shoes suitable for lots of walking on worn-out, bumpy paths.
  • The site is free to visit the first Sunday of every month. While going at this time can save you some cash, it is also one of the busiest times to visit the ruins.
  • If you decide against taking one of the Pompeii guided tours, make sure to pick up a map and guide booklet at one of the entrances.
  • Buy your tickets in advance through the archaeological site's online ticketing service to avoid waiting in a long queue and look out for Pompeii tours that offer a 'skip the line' ticket.
  • Buy a Campania Atrecard which will give you access to Pompeii and various other tourist attractions and museums in the region along with free public transport to and from the sites of interest. It is valid for three days from when you first use it and the first three sites are free with large discounts occuring from the fourth onwards. You can find out more information about the Campania Artecard here.

With so many incredible, historically-fascinating sites to explore in the ruins of Pompeii, including the forum, the amphitheatre and the Temple of Apollo, it is no wonder that the ruins are the highlight of many visitors' trips to Italy. The expansive archaeological site is one of the most impressive in the world and wandering around its ancient streets and crumbling ruins is an unforgettable experience. Whether you opt to take one of the Pompeii tours or decide to explore its wealth of wonders at your own leisure, a visit to Pompeii will certainly never fail to astonish.

*Note: Prices are as of March 2019

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