Pompeii and Herculaneum have been on my bucket list for a long time. I am so happy that I have finally found the time and visited both of them. Of course, without visiting Vesuvius and eating Margherita in Naples, plus drinking Aperol Spritz, my trip wouldn’t be complete. If you are in Italy, the best way to reach the city is by train. I recommend you Italo trains, which are fast and comfortable, plus the central train station is pretty close to the centre and the metro station.
Naples, Napoli definitely has its charm. I don’t know about you, but I have noticed that most of the countries have its “south”. The region that is slightly different and chaotic than the other parts of the country. I have started this trip in Venice, so the nuance was more obvious. I wish I had more time (and a car) to visit all of the interesting sights in the Campania region, but at least I managed to visit three of the most famous: Vesuvius, Pompeii and Herculaneum. If you plan to visit yourself, I recommend you to purchase ArteCampania card. You will get free or discounted entrances to some archaeological sites and museum, plus free public transportation. Circumvesuviuana trains included. (Those trains which go to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Sorrento.)
Napoli is, besides Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, the most common starting point for those, who want to visit archaeological parks in the Campania region. Besides being famous for pizza and chaos, Naples is also a setting for the world-famous Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. Reading a book creates a new universe, but reading a book after visiting Naples is even more exciting. If you haven’t started reading Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, I warmly recommend you book one in a series: My Brilliant Friend. (link to Bookdepository and Amazon)
I have arrived to Napoli on Sunday night and on Monday morning I took the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii. From Pompeii train station, I took shuttle to the Mount Vesuvius. Touristic shuttle buses take you almost to the top. Only a 20 minutes long hike is needed to reach the crater of Vesuvius.
And the hike is well worth it: amazing view of the city and an opportunity to see a volcano from very close. If you stop and observe the surroundings and colours, you can notice that the granite stones have beautiful grey, violet and brownish colour. On the way up, you can see solid pieces of lava from the last eruption in 1944. I thought volcano mountain cannot impress me, but I was wrong. It was very exciting to walk up (the still active) volcano and think about his eruption in 79 AD. As I have later learned, the Pompeians were not aware that they lived next to a volcano. Ironically, many villas even had a nice panoramic view of the Vesuvius itself. Another thing that sparked my interest in volcanos, is the book of Charles Pellegrino, titled Ghosts of Vesuvius. (You can get your copy on Bookdepository or Amazon.) A book which reminds us of how volcanos are Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end. And, without any doubt, Pompeii and Herculaneum are one of the most famous examples of that.
For some reason, we are powerfully drawn to the subject of beginnings. We yearn to know about origins and we are readily construct myths when we do not have data.Charles Pellegrino, Ghosts of Vesuvius
Pellegrino’s book goes beyond the Vesuvius. It traces the history of the creation of the world. With his experience in forensic archaeology, he gives us also some very interesting facts about the last days in Pompeii and Herculaneum and how people lived almost 2000 years ago. Here comes a bit of a spoiler: they were quite familiar with a lot of commodities of contemporary life: glass doors, sewage system and natural air conditioning are just a few examples.
5 advices before visiting Pompeii:
- Try to avoid the hottest months (there is almost no shadow in the archaeological park)
- You will need at least 3 hours (if not more) to enjoy Pompeii
- Take a guided tour. Official guides wait next to the ticket office. Tours last 2 hours and are affordable, fun, insightful plus (probably the most important) they help you to get oriented in a very big area.
- Bring your water bottle. There are free refill spots in the archaeological park.
- Buy ArteCampania card to get free or 50% discounted entrance ticket.
Now, let’s start the journey…..