Pompeii is such a treasure and still has so much to teach us about the way people lived during the 1st Century. As such, it is an active hive of new study and preservation work to ensure that what has already been discovered remains safe for future generations to visit and enjoy. Therefore, on any given day some of the streets, houses and other buildings are closed to the public – in some instances for months at a time. In order to best plan your trip and avoid disappointment my tip is arrive in the area the night before you want to visit Pompeii and stay locally.
That way you can visit the gate the evening before your visit and get the map. While there ask the guys at the ticket desk to mark the key areas/buildings that will not be open to the public the next day. That way you can then plan your visit over dinner and avoid planning visits to areas that will be inaccessible. Be warned you will get a frosty reception if you try this before about 4pm as they will still be busy still selling tickets to the people entering Pompeii that day!
When visiting Pompeii get there early and make sure that you “hit the hot spots” first. These are the main sights that all the big tour groups will go to when they arrive, and in this way way you can enjoy a near private visit to these amazing locations. My top tips for places to tick off first are:
1. The forum
2. Terme Stabiane (the Main Baths – but if traveling with kids be aware the men’s baths have some explicit paintings)
3. Terme del Forum (the Forum Baths)
4 House of the Faun
5. The Theatre Complex (not the Ampitheatre – as that is in a significantly quieter point of the site)
6. Villa of the Mysteries
Pompeii is a huge draw for tourists from around the world but many of them are on a day trip from Rome or one of the many cruise ships that pass through the Bay of Naples and along the Amalfi Coast. Whilst these tours give one a great chance to see the amazing city of Pompeii they guarantee that you will see it with several thousands of your new best friends. By lunch time on the day I visited I think there were more people in Pompeii than would have been there at that time of day in AD 78 before the eruption! However a bit of careful planning will enable you to visit the city on your own terms.
My top 4 tips are:
1. Stay in the Area so that you can get up and go to the site early and stay till after sunset if the mood strikes you.
2. The evening before you plan to visit, go to the entrance get and pick up the guide book and map. They seem to restock supplies later in day so if you arrive early they may not have anything available in your language.
3. Over dinner, plan your assault on the ruins using the books and the map. Plan a three hour trip – start with the biggest attractions and leave the basic wandering around till after 10:30 as the big tours will only visit the key locations.
4. Be at the doors when they open to maximise your time in the city without the crowds.