And you thought I was done gushing about our trip… hah! After gallivanting around Rome for two and a half days (get all the details here), our last full day in Italy was spent checking off my oldest bucket list item – visiting Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii. I learned about the famous eruption 18 years ago when I was in Ms. Garcia’s 3rd grade class. My then-8-year-old brain couldn’t register that places like this existed in the world… I lived in Miami where the highest elevation is a landfill. I was absolutely fascinated and ever since then, I’ve wanted to visit the real thing.
I bought our Trenitalia tickets online. They were having a 2-for-1 online special, so the total cost of our round-trip tickets from Rome’s Termini to Napoli Centrale was just 72€.
We left Termini a little after 8:45am and arrived in Naples an hour later. Once inside the train station, we went downstairs, following the signs for the Circumvesuviana train, and purchased round-trip tickets for the Sorrento line. Unfortunately, you can’t buy tickets for this local train online, but there wasn’t much of a wait to purchase tickets.
**Definitely exercise caution in Naples Centrale. This station, along with the Circumvesuviana train line, was not only very dirty and run down but also very packed and well-known for being a pick pocketer’s heaven.
The train took about 40 minutes to get to the Pompeii Scavi station. Although the Ercolano Scavi station is much closer to Vesuvius (just 20 minutes from Napoli Centrale), I’d read a bunch of blogs that Pompeii Scavi had better options for Vesuvius tours.
We knew there was going to be a lot of walking in the afternoon, so we opted to do Mt. Vesuvius first. The most popular tour company is Busvia del Vesuvio, but I had contacted them before the trip and they told me they were closed until April. I guess March isn’t busy season, so when we got off the train at Pompeii Scavi, there was only option for a Mount Vesuvius transport – okay… don’t kill me, but I can’t remember the name of the tour company. They’re located on the 2nd floor of the train station and their close proximity comes at a premium. We paid 40€ for the 2 of us. This didn’t include the 10€ entrance fee we paid once at the volcano. So, in hindsight, we paid 40€ for a taxi, since the guide didn’t even go up the volcano with us.
The other alternative was wait for the next train, get off at Ercolano Scavi and try to find a cheaper option. In the interest of time, and since there was no guarantee we could find a better option in Ercolano, we decided to use the company at Pompeii’s station. After a few perfectly planned days, we had to say f**k it at some point, right!?
We waited for 35 minutes, then piled into a private taxi bus and set off. It was a long, winding, bumpy, vomit-inducing half hour trip. When we arrived our guide advised we had an hour and a half, and we set off. The hike to the summit took about another 30-40 minutes. It’s a pretty steep, unpaved climb. I was gasping for air about 10 minutes in, although I do that if I stand up too fast, so maybe I’m not the best judge of difficulty. The entire excursion took three hours, and left us plenty of time to have lunch before going into the Pompeii ruins.
Tickets to Pompeii were 11€ each. I had picked up a map at name-of-company-I-forgot, which we quickly realized wasn’t accurate (or maybe we were just too tired to read it correctly?) so we planned a course based on the directional signs in the main square and quickly got lost in the labyrinth that is Pompeii.
We could’ve easily spent an entire day here and probably would’ve still missed stuff. It’s incredible to see ancient ovens, pottery, baths and entire homes frozen in time. I was most enamored with the huge and incredibly life-like statues sprinkled throughout the ruins, not to mention the HGTV-worthy tile floors in some of the larger buildings.
After we left, we walked back to the train station. A word of caution, unless you enjoy running to the opposite end of the train to try and find a spot to stand in, don’t wait for the train at the top of the stairs like everyone else. Make your way down the platform. Trust me, after hiking a volcano and walking the cobblestone streets of Pompeii, the last thing you want to do is run.
We made it back to the station with plenty of time to spare, so we grabbed some pizza while we waited. Our train back to Rome took two hours (but cost half the price of the first train) and we were back in Rome by 8:30pm – just in time for second dinner!