Updated: Dec 3, 2022
Nothing will make you appreciate the power of geologic forces than a day trip to Pompeii, one of Europe's most compelling archaeological sites. As you explore the massive area, you'll get a sense of the destruction wrought upon this Roman city by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
If you're vacationing in southern Italy's Campania region, near Naples and Sorrento, we highly recommend a day trip to Pompeii. Learn about the once-thriving city that sat here and how quickly – in about 25 hours – it was buried in volcanic ash and pumice. Marvel at the excavated and preserved ruins of streets and houses and see plaster casts of original residents.
It's easy enough to see Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius in one full-day trip. We suggest one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Keep in mind that the latter half of the day will be busier at either site. In both instances, a private guide is your best bet for an efficient and enjoyable experience.
There is something for everyone at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pompeii, whether you are an archaeologist, history buff, or geologist. Excavation efforts started in the 18th century, gradually revealing the city. Three-fifths of the area has been recovered, and excavations are ongoing.
Pompeii feels like a modern-day city, with its grid layout, central squares, and different styles and sizes of homes and temples. As you wander, imagine the life of the people who lived here nearly 2,000 years ago in the public baths, the houses, the coliseum, and other ancient yet well-preserved structures. In some places, you can still see the magnificent frescoes and mosaic tile floors emblematic of the era. Up until 1911, archaeologists took findings to the Pompeii museum in Naples. But after that time, artifacts were left in place for visitor viewing.
While you could spend a whole day or two exploring the entire site, if your time is limited, we suggest focusing your visit on the Roman Forum, the Amphitheatre, and the House of the Vettii. The Forum was Pompeii's main square, surrounded by the Macellum food hall, the Shrine of the Lares, the Temple of Vespasian, and the Curia, where the town council met.
Visit the massive Amphitheatre, which dates back to 80 BCE and could hold 12,000 spectators. The ruins are the most complete ooman amphitheater built before Rome's Colosseum. Take advantage of the House of the Vettii, which you'll find in the Vicolo di Mercurio. It's a stunning example of the middle-class lifestyle in Pompeii, with its exquisite frescoes, original marble decoration, and even a kitchen with authentic utensils.
If you're mobile and fit, take a hike up Mount Vesuvius, about 30 minutes along a fine-gravel path at a fairly steep angle. Be sure to pack water and a light jacket, even in the summertime. When you reach the wooden hut at the top, visit with English-speaking guides to learn all, there is to know about this active volcano. As desolate a landscape as it appears, once you're at the top, you'll have an outstanding view of the Bay of Naples.
For a more in-depth Mount Vesuvius experience, we can arrange a crater visit with a volcanologist tour guide. You'll hike to the other side of the rim, where you can see steam and heat waves coming off the crater.
Best Time to Visit Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
We suggest visiting Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius during Italy's off-season, between November and March. The site is extraordinarily popular, so a visit during this time will lessen the crowds you'll encounter. That said, no matter when you tour Pompeii, arrive as early in the morning as possible.
Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius hold many wonders. These are only a few. If you're in the Campania region, Naples or Sorrento, reach out, and we can curate the perfect day trip for you.