After sailing from Rome, the Norwegian Jade continued south along the Adriatic and made its first stop in Naples. We had several options here: we could explore Naples itself, take off to either Pompeii, Vesuvius, or both, or check out Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.
Since I’ve been a child, I’ve been fascinated by Pompeii. I had a children’s encyclopedia (who still remembers those?) about wondrous places like the Great Wall of China and Easter Island. Pompeii was among them. David and I watched documentaries before we left, because he wasn’t as familiar with the doomed town as I was. We decided that we would spend our one day in port visiting the ruins.
Getting to Pompeii from the Port of Naples
It isn’t hard to get from the port of Naples to Pompeii. You don’t need a taxi, and you don’t need a private guide or tour. Instead, as you exit the cruise port, walk until you get to the main street, then walk to Piazza Municipio. The tram lines begin here; you want to get on one that goes to Piazza Garibaldi. The single-ride ticket (as of 2015) should cost 1.50 EUR and can be purchased at a nearby newspaper stand.
Then from Piazza Garibaldi, take the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento and stop at Pompeii Scavi (there’s another station named Pompeii – that is not your stop). It is 3.20 EUR each way from Garibaldi to Pompeii Scavi, and the ride will take about 35 minutes. The trains come pretty often, about every half hour or so. Cash only!
Tips for Exploring Pompeii
Bring cash. As of our visit in 2013, entrance to Pompeii was cash-only at the amphitheatre entrance closest to the train station. It’s 11 EUR for adults. Not a big deal if the nearby ATM is working, but when we visited, it was not — we ended up walking into modern Pompei town to find one.
Have your own audioguide or book. As mentioned in these tips, you’ll want to either download a guide or bring a guidebook with you during your visit. This way, you can save yourself some cash (from having to rent the audioguide) and you won’t be tempted to hire a tour guide (there will be many offering their services by the entrance). It’s nice to wander on your own and look closely at what interests you (and bypass what doesn’t) so I highly recommend exploring on your own. Rick Steves has a free Pompeii walking tour that you can download.
Maps are free, and they do point out the places of interest, which are also clearly labeled. There are street signs all over the ruins. Pompeii was a city of about 200,000 at the time of its destruction, and it was fairly wealthy. Even though tourists can only access certain areas of it, you’ll still cover a lot of ground.
Bring water! If it’s a warm day, wear a hat; if it’s rainy, bring an umbrella. Pompeii doesn’t have much in the way of cover. There is one cafeteria in town but it’s pricey, so some snacks might be a good idea too. We decided to eat after we had explored to our satisfaction. Between the train station and the amphitheatre entrance are a bunch of shops and restaurants. We enjoyed pizza at one of them.
Italian pizza, ah, what a beautiful thing. I have never been a fan of pizza, but I realize now that it’s because I’ve only had the American version. It’s all about the dough! And the few ingredients that are carefully chosen to highlight their flavor.
What You’ll See in Pompeii
Pompeii is famous because its destruction was so complete, and it was so well-preserved when it was rediscovered.
It was built around the 6th or 7th century BC and was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. In between that time, it became a popular vacation spot for ancient Romans. The coastal town had impressive aqueducts, swimming pools, fountains (the town’s vital source of drinking water, besides being ornamental) and baths. It was an industrious and wealthy town based on what was left of the merchant houses, street bars, and wineries.
Though a lot of the town is in complete ruins, there is much left to see. The Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Artemis, as well as the amphitheatre, are both still recognizable. The forum, an expanse bordered by columns and featuring an altar at one end, was particularly interesting to walk. We also enjoyed popping into random houses besides the ones featured on the tours. Amazingly, a lot of the paint, murals, and mosaics are still visible and you can tell that they would have been very beautiful in their time.
Pompeii amazed and saddened me. That such a prosperous, vital city was snuffed out so completely… I couldn’t even look closely at the plaster remains (David took those photos). The bodies seemed gruesome, and you can tell that they suffered. I’m glad that we now enough now about seismic and volcanic activity so that a tragedy of this level could be better prevented.
Historians say that Pompeii gives us a good look into life during the Pax Romana. UNESCO has designated it as a World Heritage Site.