Instead of taking an organized tour or bus from Rome, we opted on the “DIY” approach to visiting Pompeii from Rome. We got tickets to Naples on the first high speed train that morning, and then went around in circles a couple times before we found where we needed to purchase the local train tickets to Pompeii.
It was nerve wracking and time consuming, yes, but we also get to spend the whole day wandering the city and visiting the areas we wanted to see. On the other hand, when we were done and exhausted, we still had to make our way back! We also didn’t have access to a great tour guide describing what we were seeing. However, we really did appreciate being without the big groups. We did it, but we were totally wiped out by the end.
When we first arrived, we struggled to get our bearings for a bit and missed some of the views when you first enter on that side of the city. We finally stopped to look around in the big open square which includes a lot of awesome structures around the sides including the forum, the marketplace (Macellum), and temples.
Heading straight into the city from there, we pass beneath an arch gate, and stopped to get some food. Near there is also a bath house, the men’s side is restored and open. In the morning, the line was really long, so we were able to enter later in the afternoon, luckily between groups and got some great photos of this building without a lot of other people.
Aside from the modern restaurant, there are a lot of “fast food joints” in Pompeii. These counter tops with openings were places that served food all throughout the city.
At this point, we were still trying to listen to our Rick Steve’s tour, but having trouble finding the identifying areas to tell us where we were at. Soon, we started exploring any buildings that were open (there was a paper sign by the ticket office that I took a photo of which told us what was open that day), and following the map. If there was a match to our tours, then we listened.
The stone walkway here was actually a pedestrian crossing, and the number of stones crossing the street indicated whether it was a one way or two way street. Wagon wheels would fit between the stones, and you could see those wheel ruts still clearly in some of the roads. It was pretty tough and uneven walking!
A few buildings we went in included the House of the Tragic Poet, House of the Faun, House of the Prince of Naples, Casa dell Ara Massima, Casa degli Amorini Dorati, Casa di Marco Lucrezio, Casa di Casca Longus. I couldn’t get enough of the paintings on the walls (restored, of course), and I loved the big courtyards in the homes of the rich. We also saw a lot of ruins of houses that were clearly of the poor — few small rooms, not restored, just open ruins.
The restored tile floor in the Casa degli Amorini Dorati was my favorite.
Throughout the city grew wild poppies!
The Central Baths, which were unfinished at the time of the eruption, weren’t open, but we could see the large open space through the gates.
The people of Pompeii had plumbing with lead pipes!
The Casa di Casca Longus, so named from this table of lions (a replica for certain; most of the genuine artifacts are in a museum in Naples which we did not visit)
There are even real vineyards, right within Pompeii!
The Amphitheatre was also closed, sadly!
We particularly liked seeing the graveyards at the ends of the city. The one we enjoyed most was the necropolis near the Porta Nocera (another entrance to get into Pompeii). The graves were fascinating, and beautifully landscaped amongst the ruins.
We reentered the city proper from here, setting out to see the last few sites on our list. There were a few sections and streets entirely closed off, and when taking detours we missed a few sites. We stopped at the restroom though and encountered the most awesome view of the city we had seen yet, with a clear line to the infamous Mount Vesuvius.
Our last stops were at the small theater and gladiator training grounds (and the larger theater too, but we couldn’t find a way in after circling around nearly 3 times!) before we found ourselves back by the forum and where we originally entered.
After going into the bathhouse, we made our way out, passing by the Basilica, also closed, but a final view of the awesome ruins of Pompeii.
It’s hard to believe, but this was a very brief overview of all the sites we saw! Pompeii was truly a city, and we walked the breadth of the city the entire day, and still felt like we had seen only the major sites. Given that at any time, many other buildings and houses could be open, you could return and have an entirely different experience.
I had debated seeing Pompeii over Herculaneum, and truly if we could’ve done them all, we would have, but this was a great choice. It was fun exploring the city, finding ourselves in some streets without any other tourists, and marking on the map the number of the photo I had taken so we could reference back to it later. So much history, so little time.