Pompeii leaves no one indifferent: it is hard to believe that this city petrified by the lava of Vesuvius was almost two thousand years ago a place full of life in the middle of the Roman Empire. The eruption of the volcano paralyzed the daily life of its streets and people, leaving the panorama we see today.
Thanks to the good preservation of its remains and the hard work of historians and archaeologists throughout history, today we can reconstruct how the social life and customs of the citizens of Pompeii were. Take note of the must-sees if you are planning a trip to Pompeii.
Don't miss your ticket to Pompeii
Discover one of the best preserved cultural heritages in the world and walk through an ancient city with centuries of history.
The ruins of Pompeii are a unique place in the world. No city suffered the fate of this one to endure later as it has. Therefore, it is a must-see place in Italy and you cannot miss the opportunity to get your ticket.
No matter if you visit it alone, with family or friends, Pompeii can be enjoyed alone or in company. The important thing is to let yourself go and get lost in so many centuries of history.
Recommended if: you do not want to wait in line once you get to Pompeii to get your tickets and you want to make the most of your time.
1. Walk through its cobblestone streets to discover the city that was buried under lava
As soon as you arrive you will see the immensity of the archaeological site, which was the one that was completely petrified. Before starting the exhaustive visit and dedicate yourself to know each and every one of its nooks and crannies, take the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the area, enjoy the view of its streets with Vesuvius in the background...
If you have arrived here early in the morning, there will not be too many people and the silence of the early hours of the day will make you travel back in time just walking through the ancient streets of the city.
If you plan to make the visit on your own, without a guide or audio guide, it is a good time to familiarize yourself with a map and try to locate the main key attractions of the city and mark the itinerary that you will follow for the rest of the day.
2. Marvel at its amphitheater
Did you know that the Roman amphitheater of Pompeii is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater in the world? The famous Colosseum in Rome was built almost a century after this one! For this reason alone it deserves an exclusive visit.
An important part of the social and leisure life of the city took place here, where shows, games and, of course, battles were held. This amphitheater could hold up to 20,000 people in the audience. At first glance, it is not as large or as striking as the Colosseum in Rome, the stands are smaller and at its base there is only grass and sand.
Even so, you can access its interior without any problem and I assure you that it is worth it. Write it down on the list of things to see on your tour of Pompeii.
3. Don't forget any of its highlights
Walking through the forum you will see the remains of columns and other constructions that were erected in the most social part of the city. There are remains of columns, statues and temples that help us to get an idea of the majestic size of some of the monuments and buildings of the time.
Religion was fundamental for the citizens of the time and they dedicated much of their free time to pray in the temples. Throughout the tour of the city of Pompeii you will see the remains of some of them, being the Temple of Apollo the oldest and most important: it was built between the eighth and seventh century BC and today little is preserved of its structure, but it is worth approaching to contemplate it.
The thermal baths
Throughout the city of Pompeii there were several thermal baths (or public baths) where much of the social life of the city also took place. Remains of several of them are preserved, but undoubtedly the best preserved are the "Terme Sabiane" so if you have time to stop in any of them, do not hesitate and do it in these.
By now you will have realized that leisure and social life occupied a large part of the time of the citizens of Ancient Rome and of course, it was the same in Pompeii. In their day to day life, citizens participated in shows, meetings, religious celebrations, etc where they met with other citizens (always divided by social classes) and this place is proof of that.
The Lupanar is an old brothel where the citizens used to go frequently. Today it is quite well preserved and you will be able to access its interior. Note that some mosaics and the beds (now petrified, of course) are still preserved. Unbelievable but true!
Its theaters (Teatro Grande and Teatro Piccolo)
Both are still very well preserved. In their day they were already used for theatrical performances and today, the Teatro Grande still hosts live events. Can you imagine attending a small concert or a play in a theater with two centuries of history?
Don't be fooled by its name, although it is called Teatro Grande, the capacity is only 5,000 people and when there is an event, the atmosphere is very intimate and special. Check the theater's official website for the program in case you are lucky enough to have an event during your visit to Pompeii.
The mosaics and details of the House of Faunus
Being one of the most majestic houses preserved in the city, entering the House of Faun is a must. It is estimated to have been built in the 2nd century B.C. It was once one of the richest and most luxurious villas in the city and inside it housed true works of art that are still preserved. Some of them have been transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Naples, but inside you can still see some statues and mosaics that are worth stopping to contemplate.
4. Marvel at the human remains petrified by lava
One of the places that most attracts the attention of visitors to Pompeii is the Orto dei Fuggiaschi (or the "garden of the fugitives" in English). Here you can observe the petrified bodies of 13 people (adults and children) who tried to flee the lava of Vesuvius during its eruption.
If you are worried that these figures may hurt your sensibility, the truth is that although the body of the figures is perfectly visible, the fact that they are covered with stone reduces the detail of the image, so it should not be a problem.
5. Take advantage of the delicious gastronomy of the area
That Italy is a great place to eat is a fact, but if we go to the Naples area, the food is even better. The gastronomy in the cradle of pizza is a delight, and you cannot leave Pompeii without enjoying a good typical meal.
But as happens in many places so frequented by tourists, there is also a proliferation of fast food stalls or overpriced restaurants that do not offer sufficient quality. That is why I have compiled a list of the best places to eat in Pompeii that you cannot miss.
If you are visiting the city on your own or with an excursion that does not include food, take a look at the list and book in advance to make sure you get a table in the best places and leave Pompeii with a good taste in your mouth. You will find a lot of pasta and pizza, but also Mediterranean cuisine, mixed dishes and a variety of ice cream, sweets and desserts if you prefer to have a snack or a snack to recharge your batteries after the visit.
6. Make the most of your visit with children
Visiting Pompeii with children is a great idea, but like everything, it has its tricks. Practically the whole day you will be outdoors, so you will have to protect the little ones from both the cold and the heat. Comfortable shoes will be your best ally and carrying some snacks in your backpack is a highly recommended lifesaver.
In addition to all this, I recommend that you tell them something about the history of Pompeii before the visit, so they know what they are going to see (the history of volcanoes usually fascinates children) and this will keep them more entertained.
Apart from these tips for visiting Pompeii with kids, I also recommend you to read my article with the best tips for visiting Pompeii and getting the most out of your tour of the ruins of Vesuvius.
7. Climb the crater of Vesuvius
The culprit that millions of people still visit Pompeii today is undoubtedly Vesuvius, which when it erupted almost two thousand years ago paralyzed the life of the city, leaving its buildings and inhabitants buried under the lava.
A little more than 20 kilometers from Pompeii, the Vesuvius National Park is open to visitors, who can go there to climb Vesuvius and have the best views of the area, as well as a breathtaking view of the volcano.
There are some excursions from Naples to Pompeii and from Rome that, in addition to the visit to the ruins, include the climb to Vesuvius and it is 100% recommended. Travelers visiting the area on their own can also get there by bus, private car or even cab to make the climb to the top. Even, if you are looking for something different, there are very interesting horseback riding activities on Vesuvius. As you can see, there are many ways to see this incredible volcano.
8. Immerse yourself in the culture of Pompeii with a guided tour.
If you are hesitating between visiting a monument or attraction on your own or with an expert guide, for me there is no comparison: the experience is much better when they tell you and explain what you are seeing, give you details about the context and history of the place and immerse you in its culture.
In Pompeii, a city with such a tragic history behind it and a culture as relevant and distinct as that of the Roman Empire, taking a guided tour or grabbing an audio guide is practically a must.
Fortunately, the tourist demand to visit Pompeii is such that you will find numerous possibilities to join an organized excursion to Pompeii from Rome or an all-inclusive excursion to Pompeii from Naples. If you plan to get there on your own, when buying tickets to Pompeii find out if there is a way to pay extra and have a specialized guide or take the audio guide offered at the entrance.
9. Visit neighboring Naples
Naples is one of the most visited cities in Italy. Its spectacular streets and squares, its authentic neighborhoods such as the Quartiere Spagnolo, its sea views and its exceptional gastronomy make it a tourist enclave that few travelers want to miss.
It is just over half an hour from Pompeii and can be reached by plane, train or road, so you have no excuse to leave it out of your itinerary.
In addition, near Naples you have fairytale paradisiacal islands like Ischia, Procida or Capri and the picturesque Amalfi Coast, composed of endless cliffs of colorful houses that will steal your heart. Even the cities of Salerno and Sorrento from where excursions to Pompeii also depart.
10. Complete the tour by visiting Herculaneum
Herculaneum is another of the historic cities that fell victim to the eruption of Vesuvius. Right at the foot of the volcano was this rich and prosperous city that had better constructions and buildings than Pompeii itself. All that was razed and petrified under the lava, but today it is also possible to visit its archaeological remains, which are very well preserved.
If you plan to climb Vesuvius, you will have to follow the road that passes through Herculaneum, so it is the perfect excuse to make a stop along the way and enjoy a walk through this city that was also paralyzed in time in the year 79.