Rome to Pompeii: Surprisingly Easy!
I had dreamed of going to Pompeii since I was a child. It sounds ridiculous, but I vividly remember watching a documentary on the Vesuvius eruption in 79AD and telling my parents that I wanted to go there. There was something tragic but mysterious about an entire Roman city being completely wiped out and hidden by nature.
On a four day visit to Rome, I grabbed the opportunity by the horns and decided I wanted to go but as it was my idea, I was in charge of organising the itinerary! Now, as a teacher that has taken teenagers on a number of school trips, I should have thought it would be a breeze, but for some reason, I was horribly stressed, worrying that something would go wrong, we would be stranded, and it would be all my fault. I scoured travel websites for information, and found that people gave some information, but not a clear itinerary, so let me share mine for anyone who finds themselves in my predicament!
Book Rome Termini to Naples Central Station train tickets. I used http://www.trainline.eu which sold tickets on the Trenitalia IC and Frecciarossa lines. IC trains take roughly 2 hours to get from Rome to Naples, whereas Frecciarossa (the faster, more modern and newer trains) only takes an hour. I bought a return journey for two people for 138 Euros (£120). It seems a steep price, but to arrive in an hour and get the most time exploring Pompeii and Vesuvius, I was willing to pay! I selected the 7.35am outbound and 7.30pm inbound to allow for the most time.
Print out your tickets and off you go! Simple. I am under the impression that if you buy a flexible ticket, you have one chance to swap your time at the ticket office, however, I don’t speak Italian so I didn’t bother trying!
You have arrived in Naples. Follow the signs in the airport to Garibaldi station and look for the Circumvesuviana line. It is quite clearly written on a blue sign, and you need to take a few steps down to the ticket office.
The ticket booths seem to only take cash. Ask for a return to Pompei Scavi and you should have a ticket for both journeys. It cost 10.40 Euros for two people. Be careful in this situation. The ticket operator did not speak much English and only gave me two tickets even though I asked for two returns. We almost went through the barrier before I realised the tickets said ‘single’ and I had to ask the assistance of the barrier guard. Thankfully he had words and I got my second set of tickets! Punch your tickets into the blue slot to validate them, like you would on any UK train station and make your way down to the platform.
At our point of travel, the Pompei Scavi trains ran from platform 3. See the timetable on http://www.sorrentoinsider.com/en/naples-to-sorrento-train-schedule and watch the board as trains to two destinations run from this platform.
A word of warning: this is Naples, a notoriously dangerous and deprived city. The train station smells strongly of urine, there is graffiti and rubbish everywhere, and the trains are in poor condition. Be wary of conmen and vendors on the platform. We were approached by a man who gave us train information (even though I had printed the timetable and was actually holding it at the time) and then demanded a tip for his information. Do keep an eye on your money. Do not let them see it!
Pompei Scavi is about a 36 minute train journey and roughly 18 stops from Garibaldi.
You have survived the train journey and arrived at Pompeii! Hurrah! To visit Vesuvius you need to come out the train station and cross the road, where you will see a bus stop with a blue sign. This is the stop for the ‘big blue bus’ which costs 5.50 Euros for each return journey to the volcano. Avoid the touts in red t-shirts trying to sell you the same journey with a guide for 22 Euros each. It is not worth it.
Based on my experience, you get on the bus and it drives you about half way up the volcano. There, the driver pulls over and takes your cash. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH CASH OR YOU GET STRANDED! Then, the driver takes you to about 800m up the volcano, where there is a national park ticket office and you buy your entry tickets for roughly 10 Euros each. Then you get back in the bus for it to take you to the 1km pedestrian point. Check the return times on the bus and have a great time!
The hard bit is done. From this point, you simply have to retrace your steps. Be aware that the entry to Pompeii archaeological site is 13 Euros each and the Circumvesuviana trains are often late, so leave enough time to get back to Naples for your return train.
There is also a restaurant opposite the entry point for the archaeological site which is reasonably priced and serves tasty sandwiches and pizza, so well worth stopping there for some lunch!
The whole day was amazing. Admittedly I was expecting a bit more from Vesuvius, but Pompeii was more fascinating than I had ever imagined. We were there for three hours and still didn’t manage to see everything.
Overall, in comparison to organised trips which were costing roughly £140 (160 Euros) each, we travelled by ourselves for less than 210 Euros in total. Be brave and do it yourself. A day trip from Rome to Pompeii is much easier, and cheaper, than you think!