As one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world, this ancient city of Pompeii offers a unique window into the past - frozen in time. While exploring Pompeii's ruins can be an unforgettable experience, it can also be overwhelming without proper preparation. I made a lot of mistakes on my visit, so much so that I felt compelled to write this article to help you make the most of your visit and not make the same mistakes. Here are the top 7 tips for visiting Pompeii.
1. Buy Tickets in Advance
This will save you a little time at the front gate. I waited about 20 minutes to get tickets and audio guides when I arrived around 11:30am. Since we had a driver waiting just 2 hours for us outside of the ruins, this cut into our time to visit Pompeii. It's so easy to just grab your tickets online beforehand, so I would recommend doing this and skipping a bit of an unnecessary headache when you arrive.
2. Wear Good Walking Shoes
You’ll be experiencing all of Pompeii by foot. And it’s a large site to explore. Very large. If you plan to see a lot of the major sites, you will be doing a lot of walking.
The stone roads are uneven so make sure you have good walking shoes and watch where you’re walking, as this is a very easy place to twist an ankle if you're not careful. This is especially true if you are trying to get through the ruins faster or are crunched on time, which leads me to my next, and possibly most important, tip.
3. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
I had a scheduled 2 hour visit - which turned into 2 hours and 45 minutes, and I felt extremely rushed the entire time - even sprinting and sweating my way back through the ruins to our driver who was waiting. I saw maybe half of the sites, and at a very rushed pace.
If you enjoy history and love taking photos (it’s an insanely picturesque place) I’d allow a full day to explore. You are reading this which leads me to believe that you have a strong interest in visiting Pompeii, so give yourself some time. If you are more so there to just see some of the main sites and consider yourself a casual explorer, I’d allow 3-4 hours. Don't believe what you read online that 2 hours is enough - you will just be able to see a fraction of the city.
4. Bring Snacks & Water
It can be a long, hot day so make sure you have plenty of water on hand. Bringing snacks will save time if you are there for a while and trying to see as much as you can. There are little cafe shops right outside the main entrance to buy a calzone or little pizza squares before entering if you are hungry and want something on the go. They also have little souvenir shops outside the entrances. There is a cafeteria near the forum area, but there are many areas to sit down for a lunch if you decide to pack in a lunch.
5. Check the Weather
During summer months the Pompeii heat can be rough, so my advice would be to try to either visit during the spring or fall (or even in the winter for some moody photos - although rain can be an issue).
If you are visiting during the summer, try to visit as early as possible in the day to avoid the heat & crowds. If visiting in summer, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of water are a good idea.
6. Book a Guide
I did not book a guide for my visit to Pompeii and I deeply regret that decision. I'm not the biggest fan of tour guides, depending on the visit, but the ruins of Pompeii need to be explained in detail to truly get the most of the experience. There are many subtle things in the ruins that the average person will just walk right past.
You can purchase an audio guide at the entrance, and the information is very interesting, but it is really not the most user friendly guide. You have to hold a hand remote, like an old school telephone, and press in buttons to hear explanations, that sometimes go on for a few minutes. If you are someone like me, always wielding a camera, its very difficult to hold your audio guide while also trying to take photos (and don't even think about also holding a water bottle!). Although the map feature on the guide was very valuable for me to try and find different ruins and figure out where I was, I would suggest getting a real human guide instead.
Having said all of this, I would try to avoid getting a big group tour that will probably move at a snail's pace and only see a handful of the ruins to match the speed of the group. A small group or private guide, which will be more expensive, would be the most ideal way to visit the ruins of Pompeii.
7. Visit the Pompeii Winery
After a long day exploring the ruins of Pompeii, cap off the day with a visit to the beautiful winery Bosco De ‘Medici. The winery is located less than a 10 minute drive from the entrance to Pompeii.
It’s an incredible winery with amazing wine, food, and of course limoncello. You can take a tour of the winery to learn more about the history of the winery including why the soil from the volcanic eruptions produces such unique wine. The tour also includes some ancient tombs from the Pompeii disaster which were just recently discovered in 2020.
The ancient city of Pompeii is a sight you just need to see with your own eyes at some point in your life. It's mesmerizing, grand, and humbling. A visit may come with some challenges, but hopefully after reading this article you will be more prepared to see a little bit of our world's history. For more information on a visit here, check out Pompeii: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Ancient City.