Pompeii, the ancient trading city sunk in the lava of Vesuvius, allows a unique insight into life 2,000 years ago thanks to its conservation. Here you will find tips for your day tour from Rome to Pompeii and how you can include an ascent to Vesuvius.
Volcanoes in Campania
The Campania region is still a volcanically active area today and the danger gives it a special charm. Next to Vesuvius there is the area of the Phlegraean Fields, where the Greeks assumed the entrance to the underworld. A whole family sank here a few years ago. A naughty child ignored the barrier and sank in the hot sand. The mother jumped after to save him and so did the father. Only the older son survived. What a tragedy!
The thermal baths of Ischia testify to the volcanic activity and places like Sorrento, the Amalfi coast and the island of Capri invite us to dream.
How Pompeii went down
Pompeii was a rich seaport at the mouth of the Sarno River with around 15,000 inhabitants. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
Vesuvius was not considered a danger as it had not been active for centuries, and people settled on the slopes too. An earthquake in AD 62 was not associated with the volcano. In AD 79, it erupted on the afternoon of August 24th. In the first phase, which was accompanied by many earthquakes and lasted until the next morning, a 15 kilometer high cloud of ash, gas and water vapor formed. During the night the activity decreased and many residents returned. In the morning came the lava that led to the downfall of the city. The hot ash that rained down on the city and the lava buried everything up to 6 meters high. People and animals died in seconds and left their mark on the cooling ashes. The sea is now 1.5 km away.
Visit the excavations
In Pompeii, you can stroll the streets among the ruins and inspect various buildings. You will find well-preserved mosaics. Frescoes give you a good idea of what it was like back then.
See the ancient streets with their carriageways, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and water pipes. In the lanes you can see the ruts of the carts. Traces from almost 2,000 years ago!
Human bodies have left their mark on the hot ashes. They have been unplugged and you can see their final moments, even the grimaces of horror.
Is a guided tour worth it?
The excavations cover an area of 44 hectares, 22 hectares of which can be visited. The area is divided into 9 “Regio” to enable better orientation. The Soprintendenza Pompei will provide you with a 148-page information booklet. Nevertheless, it is not easy to distinguish the really important and interesting things from the less interesting.
It’s hard to see such a large area in one day. If you only have a few hours available, we definitely recommend a guided tour.
Day tours from Rome
These are our favorites:
Day tour to Pompeii and Naples with hotel pickup and lunch
Day trip to ancient Pompeii and Sorrento, guided tour with an archaeologist and drive to the picturesque coastal city of Sorrento
If you organize the journey to Pompeii yourself:
Our tip: Pompeii and Vesuvius from Naples. This trip gives you the unique opportunity to see Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, which buried the city when it erupted, in one day. Drive up the volcano to the parking lot under the crater and then climb a wide footpath to the crater.
The most important excavations
No. 23, the Antiquarium, is located to the left of the main entrance. Opened in 2021, it displays finds from the 4th century BC to the eruption of the volcano in 79, providing an introduction to the history of the city and its relationship with Rome.
No. 14, the Temple of Apollo, is one of the oldest places of worship. The originals of the statues, such as Apollo as an archer, are in the Archaeological Museum of Naples.
Crossing the Forum (No. 20) you will come to the House of the Faun, No. 39, one of the largest and most luxurious houses in Pompeii. It covers an area of 3,000 square meters. Its richness can be seen from the entrance with the majestic portal, the decorations and the floor in marble. In the center of the water basin in the hall is the dancing faun. In the area between the first and second courtyards you can admire the copy of a mosaic from the 2nd century BC, which shows the decisive battle between Alexander the Great and the Persian king Darius.
In the suburb there is the Mystery Villa, n. 44. To get to the villa, take the ancient road to Ercolano, passing through Porta Ercolano. Well preserved frescoes show mysterious rites.
Even in ancient Pompeii, food was sold through the street. The Termopolio, No. 48, was excavated in 2018-2020 and its furnishings and decorations vividly show what it must have been like back then.
To get a cross-section of life in Pompeii, a look at the brothel is not to be missed. The Lupanare, no. 45, is decorated with erotic drawings.
Finally, we recommend the Garden of the Fugitives, L’orto dei fuggiaschi, n. 5, where there was a vineyard. The prints of 13 victims were found, adults and children, masters and slaves, who were surprised by a lava flow while fleeing over the hot 3.5 m high volcanic ash.
Opening hours and entrance to the excavations of ancient Pompeii
The site has three entrances. On certain days, reservations are required and you will find the date of the reservation and possibly the time and the reserved entrance on your entrance ticket. The main entrance is located in Piazza Esedra / Porta Marina inferiore. The same access rules apply as for all museums in Italy.
The following opening hours apply: November 1 – March 31 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., April 1 – October 31 until 6:30 p.m. Closed on January 1, May 1 and December 25.
Some archaeological sites on the site have different opening hours. The numbering corresponds to the map above:
- Palestra Grande (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Praedia di Giulia Felice (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Necropolis of P. Nocera
- Orto dei Fuggiaschi
- Casa della Nave Europa (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Casa di Octavius Quartio (entrance from the garden) (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Casa del Menandro (opening 9:15, last entrance 1h before closing of the park)
- Casa del Criptoportico (opening 9:15, last entrance 1h before closing of the park)
- Terme Stabiane (accessible only from the outside)
- Casa dei Cornelii
- Casa dell’Orso Ferito (accessible only from the outside)
- granai del Foro (accessible only from the outside)
- Tempio di Apollo
- Edificio di Eumachia
- Tempio del Genius Augusti (to be visited only from the outside)
- Santuario dei Lari Pubblici
- Macellum (to be visited only from the outside)
- Tempio di Giove
- Archi onorari
- Antiquarium (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Santuario di Venere
- Casa di Championnet (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Casa dei Mosaici Geometrici (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Orto botanico
- Foro Triangolare
- Tempio dorico
- Teatro grande
- Teatro Piccolo – Odeion (can be visited only from the outside)
- Quadriportico dei Teatri
- Casa degli Amanti (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Terme Suburbane (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Comitium ed Edifici Municipali
- Tempio della Fortuna Augusta
- Cave Canem (mosaic can be visited only from the outside)
- Thermopolium (Regio VI)
- Casa del Fauno
- Terme centrali
- Casa di Marco Lucrezio (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Casa degli Amorini dorati (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Casa di Leda (fresco can be seen only from the outside)
- Villa dei Misteri (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Lupanare (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Casa di Sirico (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Casa dell’Efebo (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Termopolio Regio V (opening 12:00, last entry 14:25)
- Casa di Orione (opening 12:00, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Casa del Giardino (opening 12:00, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Thermopolium di Vetutius Placidus (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Casa del Larario di Achille (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)
- Domus dei quattro stili (opening 9:15, last entry 1h before closing of the park)