Visiting Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius: tickets, travel tips, tours, highlights [2024]

Easily accessed from Sorrento, Naples, and Rome, Pompeii is an enormous preserved snapshot of ancient history. The remains of this ancient city have been remarkably preserved by the lava from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Discover the best ways to visit Pompeii, what not to miss, the best tours, and itineraries.

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Why You Should Visit Pompeii

More than 2.5 million people from Italy and around the world flock to visit this amazing UNESCO World Heritage site each year. It is a major Italian landmark. It is, in a word, incredible.

pompeii-plaster-cast-body
Plaster cast of a Pompeii body

Thousands of years after the catastrophic eruption of the nearby volcano Mt Vesuvius, it’s possible to get a taste of everyday life in this large and once-booming city.

Pompeii is an ever-expanding archaeological site with new areas being opened almost every year.

It is huge! It is a large town with dozens of streets, shops, temples, homes, and a large civic area. More than 11,000 people lived here.

It had many more amenities than you would find in a town of 11,000 people today. The Romans built Pompeii to last and it is all still here for you to explore today.

You can see it quickly on a Pompeii tour, squeeze in a visit to other sites such as Mount Vesuvius (5 miles away) or Herculaneum in one day, or spend two full days seeing most of the ancient city.

Aside from ancient temples, buildings, city streets, brothels, villas, and vendor stands, there is another remarkable and unique sight that has been preserved by layers of ash from Mount Vesuvius.

Where the deceased Pompeiians decayed beneath the hardened volcanic sediment, archaeologists were able to pour plaster casts to capture the hollowed spaces left from their bodies.

This has created haunting images of the citizensโ€™ final resting poses as they went about their daily life when the lava spewed through the ancient towns around the volcano. 

These evocative body casts are known the world over for their one-of-a-kind tribute to the natural disaster and attract thousands of visitors every year. 

So what was Pompeii, what happened, and when? Below is a snapshot of its history.

A Brief History of Pompeii

๐ŸŒ‹ Founding of Pompeii

Pompeii is thought to have been founded by the Oscans around the 8th century BC along the banks of the Sarno River which was a major trade route.

๐ŸŒ‹ Invasion: Greeks, Etruscans, and Samnites

Because of its strategic location for trade, Pompeii was invaded by the Greeks, then the Etruscans, and then by the Samnites in the 5th Century BC.

The city became a large exporter of olive oil and wine and grew into a thriving metropolis.

๐ŸŒ‹ Roman Control and Culture

Then around 90 BC, Pompeii came under Roman rule and this was its economic peak. It became a desirable destination for the Roman aristocracy who built villas and temples within the city walls.

๐ŸŒ‹ Eruption of Mount Vesuvius

In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius violently erupted, sending ash and debris miles into the sky. Rubble from the mountaintop rained down upon the city for hours.

While most of the population had evacuated and escaped the eruption’s destruction, around 2,000 people remained within the city limits and perished from a violent wave of ash and toxic gas flooding Pompeii at around 100 miles per hour.

Are the Pompeii Ruins Open for Visitors?

Pompeii, Italy
Pompeii, Italy

Visiting Pompeii Quick Guide

๐ŸŒ‹ Pompeii is open for visitors daily from 9 am to 7 pm. The last entry is at 5. 30 pm and if you arrive after 3.30 pm, there’s a reduced entrance fee.

๐ŸŒ‹ These opening hours are for the ‘standard summer season’ which is April 26 to October 31.

๐ŸŒ‹ It’s important to know that arriving after 3:30 pm will not give you time to fully explore the site. Also, if you arrive more than 10 minutes after your ticketed arrival time, you may not be allowed to enter.

๐ŸŒ‹ With the Archaeological Park, there are numerous sites that have separate entrance fees. These sites are open on different days and have different opening and closing times.

๐ŸŒ‹ If you are planning on visiting the site and booking a tour or a guide, it’s important to check the most up-to-date timetable of opening hours and the fee schedule. Check it here.

Where to Buy Pompeii Tickets

Many people want to know if you need to buy tickets for Pompeii in advance.

Domus di Paquio Proculo
Domus di Paquio Proculo

While it is possible to buy your tickets on the day of your intended visit, it is always safest to buy your tickets in advance to ensure you have a successful trip.

You will likely come to Pompeii in a large crowd of people either from a day trip from Rome, Naples, or the Amalfi Coast, or else you will arrive at the Pompeii train station.

You will all arrive at the ticket office at the same time and join the huge queues!

Especially if you are taking a Pompeii day trip or are planning on only spending a couple of hours at Pompei, buying your entrance ticket in advance gives you the maximum time at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If it’s within a few months of visiting any of Italy’s major tourist attractions, there aren’t going to be any tickets available from the sites themselves other than by queueing up to get in.

TIP: If you are planning on visiting Pompeii on a weekend or public holiday, online advanced bookings are required.

Purchase your online downloadable electronic tickets online here, with the guarantee that you can cancel, completely freely, up to 24 hours before your entrance time. 

There are two extremely popular entrance  tickets to Pompeii with thousands of positive reviews:

1. Pompeii Reserved Entry Ticket

With over 5,200 reviews, this is the most popular entry ticket to Pompeii. The best features of this ticket are:

  • Price – at only US$26 it’s a great price for the convenience of an electronic ticket
  • Cancel for free with a 100% refund, no questions asked, up to 24 hours in advance
  • Instant confirmation
  • Download it onto your phone to show at the entrance gate or print your ticket
  • The booking fee is included in the ticket, there are no other charges.

2. Pompeii: Fast Track Ticket Entrance with Audio Guide

With over 2000 reviews, this is my preferred ticket. It’s $6 more than the reserved entry ticket, but these tickets are Skip the Line tickets, meaning you will get into the site with the minimum time queueing.

The best features of the Fast Track Ticket Entrance are:

  • Skip the Line ticket gives you priority entrance without queueing with the General Admission queues
  • Price – at only US$31.90 it’s a great price for the convenience of a skip-the-line electronic ticket
  • Cancel for free with a 100% refund, no questions asked, up to 24 hours in advance
  • Instant confirmation
  • Download it onto your phone to show at the entrance gate or print your ticket
  • Audio Guide included with your ticket (however, it’s completely useless)
  • The booking fee is included with the ticket, there are no other charges

If you would prefer to buy your ticket in person, you can do so at the ticket offices at Piazza Esedra, Piazza Anfiteatro, or Porto Marina entrances – the three entrances to the site of Pompeii.

Transport to Pompeii

circumvesuvia-railway-line-naples
Circumvesuviana railway line, Naples

Located on the Amalfi coast just 15 miles south of Naples and 16 miles northwest of Sorrento, Pompeii is perhaps easiest to reach by catching the Circumvesuviana train which travels between Naples (Napoli Centrale) and Sorrento, leaving Naples from Napoli Garibaldi station. 

TIP: The train begins at Porta Nolana station before stopping at Napoli Garibaldi Station and as it is a very crowded route, you’re more likely to find a seat if you set out from Porta Nolana station.

Hop aboard the Circumvesuviana at the Pompei Scavi-Villa Dei Misteri train station along this route for service to Pompeii.

An alternative train to the Circumvesuviana is the Campania Express which stops at popular tourist destinations along the Amalfi coast. 

Campania Express costs significantly more than the Circumvesuviana but does offer air conditioning, guaranteed seating, and space for luggage.

TIP: There is a size limit to the bags allowed into the Pompeii site. Bags larger than 30 cm x 30 cm x 15 cm are not allowed.

If you are traveling from further afield, and especially from Rome, check the timetables before the day of your trip to Pompeii to make sure you book a high-speed train in both directions.

Stazione Marittima

If you are visiting Pompeii from the Naples cruise port, catch the airport bus to Naples Central and then the train to Pompeii.

How Many Hours Do You Need in Pompeii?

Thermopolium, Via della Abbondanza Street
Thermopolium, Via della Abbondanza Street

Because of the scope of the archaeological site, it is very easy to spend a full day exploring the ruins of Pompeii.

If this astonishing UNESCO World Heritage site has been on your bucket list for a long time, staying overnight and seeing the site over two days means you can stay 3-4 hours each day and see all of the regions.

While official guided tours typically clock in at around two hours, that really is just enough time to get a preliminary taste of all that Pompeii has to offer. 

2-3 hours likely isnโ€™t enough time to wander past each of Pompeiiโ€™s most noteworthy sights but especially for travelers taking day tours from Rome, it’s unlikely you’ll get much more time here.

Below you can read about the main sites not to miss when you visit and the walking itineraries and how long each one will take.

How to Choose What to See and in What Order

Having just returned from another trip to Pompeii, I think it’s important to let you know my suggested itinerary. Below you will find the important walks that take you around Pompeii.

They are wonderful and I highly recommend them.

However, the crowds are back at Pompeii with a vengeance, and this includes school groups. My number one suggestion is to get there as early as possible.

Head straight to the baths and brothel which is the first building you see to the left of the entrance booths.

Then continue on the main path through the Basilica and into the Forum.

The number of people in the Forum grows exponentially each hour until late in the afternoon and if you want to take photographs, it’s pretty much impossible by about midday.

Walking Itineraries

pompeii-regions
Pompeii Regions

The official Pompeii site offers itineraries for walks and a map for each walk.

The large archaeological park is divided into 10 Regions labeled in Roman numerals I-X. The walks are of different lengths, beginning at 2 hours, but also 3-hour, 5-hour, and 7-hour walks.

Each walk takes you further from the entrance. This is the distance covered by each walk and the entrance and exit points below:

Walk No. 1

  • Duration: 2 hrs
  • Entrance: Porta Marina
  • Exit: Piazza Esedra
  • Regions: VI, VI, VIII

Walk No. 1A

  • Duration: 3 hrs
  • Entrance: Porta Marina
  • Exit: Villa Dei Misteri
  • Regions: VI, VI, VIII + Villa Dei Misteri

Walk No. 2

  • Duration: 3 hrs
  • Entrance: Piazza Esedra
  • Exit: Piazza Esedra
  • Regions: I, VI, VI, VIII

Walk No. 3

  • Duration: 5 hrs
  • Entrance: Porta Marina
  • Exit: Piazza Anfiteatro
  • Regions: I, II, VI, VI, VIII

Walk No. 4

  • Duration: 7 hrs
  • Entrance: Piazza Anfiteatro
  • Exit: Piazza Anfiteatro
  • Regions: I, II, V, VI, VI, VIII, IX, X

Forum (Region VII)

Forum of Pompeii
Forum of Pompeii

  • The forum was a square building that served as an administrative center, and public market and also housed many different types of businesses. It was the civic hub for the whole community. 
  • It is 142 meters long and 38 meters wide.
  • It was surrounded by basilicas which were large one-story Roman temples used to house religious cults including those dedicated to Jupiter.

TIP: A large number of the sights you will want to see ring the Forum and also the Amphitheater.

The large and simple squares open on its western side to the Sanctuary of Apollo.

The alignment of the square was changed in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It once had travertine marble tiles but they were looted or destroyed many years ago.

As you wander around the buildings adjoining the Forum you’ll find granaries, public toilets, and a place for weighing and measuring goods.

Temples of Apollo and Jupiter

Trip Anthropologist
Temple of Jupiter

The Temple of Jupiter is one of the most recognizable images of Pompeii framed in front of Mt Vesuvius.

At one point in its history, the Roman Empire required every city to have a temple that was dedicated to worshipping the major gods of Mt Olympus.

The Temple of Jupiter became a temple for the worship of Juno and Minerva, as well as Jupiter.

The Temple sits on a large podium with steps along its front facing the Forum. It once was adorned with large equestrian statues that had been mounted on top of two monumental balustrades.

Trip Anthropologist
Temple or Sanctuary of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo still has many of its walls, columns, and statues and it’s possible to imagine how impressive the temple would have been with its Corinthian columns, central altar, and steep stairs.

Amphitheater (Anfiteatro) Region II, Pompeii

An amphitheater was an ancient Roman public venue for entertainment, including gladiatorial contests, animal fights, and theatrical performances.

Trip Anthropologist
Pompeii Ampitheater (Anfiteatro)

The term amphitheater derives from the Greek word amphitheatrion, meaning “a place for watching.”

You simply can’t miss seeing the Anfiteatro in Region II, it is one of the best city wonders. Looking a lot like the Colosseum minus a few stories, five bodies were found here when it was excavated.

The Amphitheater was built in 70 BC, just before the city was officially founded.

This means that it is the oldest Roman theater ever found.

But although it’s hard to comprehend just how old it is, it’s just amazingly preserved. it’s as if it were built 50 years ago!

The Anfiteatro is a great place to visit if you want to see some of the best-preserved ancient architecture in the Ancient World.

There are many interesting things to see here, including the remains of the seating areas, the stairs leading to the upper level, and the foundations of the walls.

Garden of the Fugitives (Region I)

Near the Amphitheater is one of the saddest and most haunting sites in Pompeii. In an area of vineyards that hosted banquets and was covered by a pergola, is a glass case near the back wall.

Trip Anthropologist
Garden of the Fugitives

Inside the case are the casts of 13 adults and children. They were running to try and escape the eruption through the Nocera gate.

A layer of pumice had already rolled through Pompeii and these people ran upon them. The pumice was already 3.5 meters high.

But then the pyroclastic flow caught up with them. That’s the very fast-moving pieces of lava, volcanic ash, and hot gases that burn anything in its path and can travel at 200 meters per second. 

The site was excavated in 1962 and you won’t easily forget this part of the story of Pompeii.

TIP: While in Region I, wander over to the Necropolis of the Porta Nocera.

Villa Dei Misteri (or Villa of the Mysteries) (Region VI)

Even if you only have 2 hours at Pompeii, don’t miss the Villa Dei Misteri.  It’s behind the Villa of Diomedes. It’s a long way from anywhere else, so you need to plan when you’ll venture up to the Villa.

Fresco painting on the wall of Villa of the Mysteries
Fresco painting on the wall of Villa of the Mysteries

The 2nd Century BC Wall paintings are the finest discovered.

To find in the triclinium, a 17-meter-long frieze of domestic life in Pompeii all in its original brilliant colors makes any trip to Pompeii worthwhile – even if it’s the only thing you see!

The general entrance  fee includes entrance to the Villa Dei Misteri.

Near the northern boundaries of Regions I and VII are a number of houses, a Thermopolis, and a bakery that are all well worth seeing.

This part of the area is called the New Excavations and it includes the House of Venus.

House of Venus in the Shell (Region II)

This well-preserved house takes its name from the large fresco of a naked goddess, Venus. The fresco shows us a luscious garden and above the garden is three scenes.

Venus in the Shell fresco. Credit: Markus Ruth @ Flickr
Venus in the Shell fresco. Credit: Markus Ruth @ Flickr

One is of the god Mars, the other a fountain, but in the center is an erotic painting of Venus lying in a large seashell.

The goddess is wearing only a tiara and jewelry. She is depicted sailing through clouds accompanied by cherubs. It is not considered ‘high art,’ but it is a very striking and dramatic fresco!

The Sanctuary of Venus (Region VIII)

Now destroyed, the temple to the patron goddess of Pompeii, Venus, was not something you could have seen even if you managed to get to Pompeii before the earthquake of 79 AD.

Trip Anthropologist
Sanctuary of Venus

Unfortunately, an earthquake a bit earlier in 62 AD destroyed it and it hadn’t finished being repaired when the next earthquake occurred.

The Temple here was made entirely of marble and had the best view of the whole city. It had a portico of rows of columns and two pedestals supporting statues on the eastern side.

Its remains stand high on a terrace and are one of the most photographed parts of Pompeii.

And the rest

The House of the Tragic Poet, the House of the Vestals, the Baths, Thermopolium, the Brothel, and the Bakery -the list carries on and on. And that’s why it’s easy to spend two full days here!

Roman Baths
Roman Baths

It is not uncommon, however, for visitors to tour Mount Vesuvius and some of the major attractions at Pompeii on the same day.

If this is your aim, strategize your visit to Pompeii so that you are able to see your top choices on your itinerary before the end of your time there.

If you would like to do further research, check out the official website for the ruins of Pompeii 

When planning your visit, be sure to factor in the weather and the time of year.

It is best to plan your visit during the offseason from November to March in order to beat the crowds that swarm the site in the summer months. Springtime is the loveliest time to visit ancient Pompeii.

Should You Take a Guided Tour of Pompeii?

While there are several tours advertised outside the proper site of Pompeii, it is worth your while to purchase one of the official tours offered by an expert guide.

These tours span about two hours and offer smaller group sizes by half than what the external tour guides offer.

The best of these is a small group tour led by an experienced archeologist. It takes between 1.5 and 2 hours and is the best value way to see the essential sites of Pompeii on a short visit.

This tour has over 1200 positive reviews with an average score of 4.9/5 and is surprisingly inexpensive.

Here are some reasons why it might be a good idea for you to take a guided tour of Pompeii:

  • There are few signs indicating the sites of Pompeii, so traveling with a guide can take the guesswork out of your visit.
  • The main reason to take a guided tour of Pompeii is time. It’s hard to know what to visit and in what order to make sure you have seen all the major sites.
  • This is especially true if you have mobility issues, if you visit Pompeii in peak season when the heat from the sun can be punishing, or when you are seeing Pompeii on a day trip.

Check out all of the best-selling tours of Pompeii from Viator and Get Your Guide.

What to Bring for Your Day Trip to Pompeii

Since you are likely going to spend a minimum of two hours at the ruins, itโ€™s best to arrive prepared for a full day. There is almost no shade at all!

Wear comfortable walking shoes that you donโ€™t mind getting scuffed or dusty, layered clothing, and a hat and/or sunglasses. 

Closed-toe shoes are a sensible choice, as your feet will be covered in dust by the dayโ€™s end. The streets are paved with large cobblestones.

While large bags are not advisable, bringing a small tote or backpack is very useful. Here are a few items to bring with you during your visit:

  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks
  • Smartphone
  • Water bottle
  • Light jacket
  • Camera (optional)

Because of the nature of the ruins, there is very little shade in the archeological park.

Most of the remaining structures have no roofs or awnings to offer shelter from the sun and most buildings are roped off to prevent you from going inside.

After two or three hours you will be extremely hot if you visit between May and September.

There are drinking spigots along the walking paths for visitors to refill their water bottles! 

TIP: There is also a cafe that serves snacks and light lunches, but bringing your own food is usually cheaper. It’s also surprisingly hard to find. There are several picnic areas marked around the site for visitors to eat a sunny, scenic lunch. The most well-equipped is near Porta Nola.

Should You Visit Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius in One Day?

Crater of Mount Vesuvius
The crater of Mount Vesuvius

While it is undoubtedly possible to spend a full day admiring the history at Pompeii, its proximity to Mount Vesuvius makes for a convenient double-destination trip.

As such, it is not uncommon for many visitors to opt to tour the mountain and Pompeii in one go.

Of course, this is ultimately up to personal preference. If you are passionate about the history of the ancient Roman city, dedicating a full day will be worth your while.

If your interest is divided, it makes sense to work both stops into your day, especially if the weather is good.

Is Vesuvius Worth Visiting?

Vesuvius is a popular tourist destination in part because it is only 9 kilometers from Naples.

Mt Vesuvius hiking trail
Mt Vesuvius hiking trail

The volcano with its surrounding national park is known for its beautiful views of the Bay of Naples, and it is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world.

However, the danger level is not high, it is unlikely that another eruption will occur soon. and visitors can safely climb up the volcano.

You’ll be in good company if you climb the volcano because tourists have been coming here since the 1600s to peep over the edge of the crater.

How To Visit Mount Vesuvius

Getting to Mount Vesuvius is particularly easy if you are traveling from Naples, as there are regular buses traveling to and from the nearby mountain.

Vesuvius crater view
Vesuvius crater view

There is a ticketing office for Vesuvio Express in Ercolano, a town within the Metropolitan City of Naples which resides at the base of the mountain. 

One such bus usually costs around โ‚ฌ20 and will bring you to the base of Mount Vesuvius in about half an hour.

It is imperative you are not late for the returning bus, however, or you will be charged a second time for the next available bus, or youโ€™ll have to find your own way back.

If you are planning on traveling by the Pompei Scavi Circumvesuviana station, alternatively, there are also buses available from that locale.

After the bus drops you at the mountain, you will have an hour and a half to clamber up the trail and back before it returns to pick you up. It’s about a 4-kilometer round trip.

Make sure you have water, sun protection, and durable hiking shoes. Some guides offer walking sticks for support as you meander up the gravel path.

It’s also possible to take a shuttle bus from the car park. The car park is unstaffed but costs โ‚ฌ5 per day. The shuttle bus then costs โ‚ฌ2 for adults and terminates at the Ticket Office where the trail to the summit begins.

The official website of Mount Vesuvio National Park offers more information about visiting the volcano, including maps and directions.

The page includes details about how to get to the top of the mountain, what to expect when climbing, safety tips, and other helpful information.

Is Vesuvius Still Active?

The volcano has erupted several times since the first century – in the year 79 AD when it buried Pompeii – and it is still active today. In fact, it is one of the most active volcanoes in Europe.

The last eruption was in 1944 when lava flowed down the slopes of the mountain.

Pompeii in the National Archaeological Museum Collection

Some items recovered from Pompeii are held in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. These include:

๐ŸŒ‹ A scale model of the whole city of Pompeii

๐ŸŒ‹ Frescoes from the “Vesuvian Era,” include those from the House of Meleager and the House of Dioscuri, including “Europa on the Bull.”

๐ŸŒ‹ Mosaics, including a whole section on the House of the Faun at Pompeii, and the statue of the dancing Faun that was found at the site.

๐ŸŒ‹ The most famous mosaic in the collection is from the House of the Faun and shows Alexander the Great triumphing over Darius III of Persia.

This mosaic was on the floor of the Reception Hall (the exedra), and a few other incredible mosaics are kept by the Museum from the House of the Faun.

Unfortunately, the mosaic of Alexander defeating Darius III is undergoing significant restoration and is not on display at this time.

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