Visiting Pompeii, the ancient Roman city in southern Italy that was destroyed by a volcano, is on a lot of people’s travel bucket lists. Before I visited Pompeii I felt quite overwhelmed about the best way to visit, so I did a ton of research. Here’s the advice I found most useful on how to visit Pompeii, along with some tips on how to climb Vesuvius.
Update January 2023: Pompeii is fully open for visitors. You can read more about what to expect when you visit Pompeii below.
- Where is Pompeii?
- What happened at Pompeii?
- Visiting Pompeii in 2023 – latest information
- How to get to Pompeii
- Food and drink
- Guided tours – are they worth it and which one to choose
- How long does it take to visit Pompeii
- What to wear to Pompeii
- How to climb Mount Vesuvius
- Visiting Pompeii, Vesuvius and Herculaneum in one day?
- Day trips to Pompeii from Rome
- When to visit Pompeii
- Where to stay for visiting Pompeii
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First, some basics about your trip to Pompeii.
Where is Pompeii?
Pompeii is in the Campania region of southern Italy, 15 miles south of Naples and 150 miles south of Rome. It’s 16 miles from the lovely resort town of Sorrento and 22 miles from Positano, on the Amalfi coast.
Rather confusingly, the archaeological site of Pompeii (you might see it referred to as Parco Archeologico di Pompei or Pompei Scavi on maps) is right next to a modern town called Pompei. The volcano that destroyed the ancient city, Mount Vesuvius, is still active, so the people living in the modern town still live with the risk of another eruption. You can see the volcano towering above the landscape from all over the area.
What happened at Pompeii?
In AD79, Mount Vesuvius erupted. The force of the explosion blew the entire top of the mountain off, sending rocks, ash and dust over 10 miles into the sky. The rocks and ash rained down on Pompeii for nearly a full day. Most residents fled the city but around 2,000 people (around a tenth of the population) stayed behind.
When, finally, a flood of thick ash, poisonous gases and superheated rock hit Pompeii at nearly 100 miles an hour, the city was buried underneath millions of tonnes of volcanic debris. The victims’ bodies decomposed where they’d died, leaving body-shaped spaces in the hardened ash. Almost 2000 years later, archaeologists were able to pour plaster into these spaces, revealing the last moments of the victims and creating Pompeii’s famous body casts.
Visiting Pompeii in 2023 – latest travel tips
The information below is correct as of 1 January 2023.
Entry requirements for Italy
Italy got rid of all the remaining pandemic entry requirements on 1 June 2022 for visitors from the EU and other foreign countries. If you’re hoping to travel to Pompeii from outside Italy, it’s still best to check your country’s travel regulations and the entry requirements for Italy, just in case anything has changed at short notice.
Safety measures at Pompeii
Since 1 April 2022, the Italian super green pass certification is no longer required for visits to Pompeii, but you might find that it’s needed for other places you’re visiting on your trip to Italy. Masks are recommended but no longer compulsory.
Pompeii opening times in 2023
In the winter months (November to March), Pompeii is open Monday to Sunday, 9am to 5pm, with the last entry at 3.30pm. Access to some houses is restricted after 4.15pm.
Pompeii is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It may also be closed on May Day (May 1) – this is decided at very short notice.
From April 1st until October 31st the site is open 9am to 7pm, with the last entry at 5.30pm. In summer there’s also the opportunity to pay a reduced entry fee if you arrive after 3.30pm, but that probably won’t give you enough time to fully explore the site. Access to some houses is restricted after 6pm.
Pompeii ticket information January 2023
For your visit to Pompeii you can either book your tickets online, via the official ticket supplier Ticketone or go to the ticket offices at Porta Marina, Piazza Anfiteatro and Piazza Esedra. There was a small queue when I visited in mid April so booking online could be a good idea during the hot summer months.
Visiting Pompeii is free on the first Sunday of every month but it does get very busy! If more than 15,000 visitors have arrived by 12pm, the ticket desks will close for an hour. You can avoid the queues for free tickets by booking them online.
There’s a free iPhone and Android app called My Pompeii which will allow you to scan your ticket and then guide you around the site, although some app reviews, particularly on Android suggest that it doesn’t work that well. It shows a real-time indication of the number of people at each point along the route which is intended to allow visitors to avoid the most crowded areas.
Can you visit Pompeii in 2023?
Yes you can, and once you’re inside the park, visits to Pompeii are almost back to normal.
When Pompeii reopened in June 2020 the Pompeii authorities defined two walking routes around the site, Route 1 and Route 2.
These routes have now been removed and you can move around the site freely. Almost all the houses and sights that were closed during 2020 and the first part of 2021 have reopened – the Lupanare (brothel) is now open again for visitors, as is the Villa of the Mysteries. Some new things to see have opened too, including the thermopolium, which has been described as a Roman fast food joint.
Facilities at Pompeii
Toilets and drinking water are available inside the site. During 2020 and 2021 the cafeteria near the Forum was serving takeaway food. It has now reopened but it’s a good idea to take your own snacks, especially since the site is so large and you might be a long way from the cafeteria when you get hungry.
Which entrance to use for Pompeii
There are three entrances to Pompeii, all with a range of facilities:
- At the Porta Marina entrance (closest to the Pompei Scavi – Villa Dei Misteri train station where trains from Sorrento stop) there’s a ticket office, toilets and left luggage lockers.
- At Piazza Esedra, a little further along from Porta Marina from the station, there is a bookshop and toilets. There’s a small police station just outside the Piazza Esedra entrance.
- At the Porta Anfiteatro entrance (closest to the modern town of Pompei) there’s an ATM, bookshop, toilets and left luggage facilities.
If you want to take a tour of Pompeii without booking in advance, you may be able to hire an official guide at the Porta Marina or Piazza Esedra entrance between 9am and 2pm. There are no official Pompeii guided tours from the Porta Anfiteatro entrance.
Tips for your visit to Pompeii
1. How to get to Pompeii
The best way to get to Pompeii from Naples or Sorrento is by the local train, called the Circumvesuviana. The best station for the ruins is Pompei Scavi – Villa Dei Misteri train station. Pompei Scavi – Villa Dei Misteri station is on the railway line from Naples to Sorrento.
The train can be very busy and has a reputation for pickpocketing but there’s no reason to be scared. Keep your bag close and your wits about you and it’s perfectly safe and convenient.
An alternative to the Circumvesuviana train is the Campania Express. These trains run on the same route as the Circumvesuviana but stop only at popular tourist sites like Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Sorrento and take around 30 minutes less to travel between Naples and Sorrento. The Campania Express trains have air conditioning, the opportunity to book a seat and space for luggage. A round trip on the Campania Express from Sorrento to Pompei Scava – Villa Dei Misteri costs €15 per person.
Pompei Scavi station is less than five minutes’ walk from the Porta Marina main entrance to the ruins.
Pompeii from Sorrento
If you’re travelling from Sorrento or one of the other resorts along the coast, the easiest and cheapest way to get to Pompeii is to take the Circumvesuviana local train to the ruins. From Sorrento, the train takes between 25 and 30 minutes, which is almost certainly going to be quicker than driving or taking a taxi.
Pompeii from Naples Central Station (Piazza Garibaldi)
If you’re travelling to Naples by train then you’ll arrive at Naples Centrale, sometimes called Piazza Garibaldi after the large square outside the station entrance. To get to Pompeii you need to change trains onto the Circumvesuviana local train. To do this you can either go downstairs to the separate Napoli Garibaldi station, but when I went to Naples I chose to leave Centrale and walk down the street to Porta Nolana station.
Since Porta Nolana station is the start of the Circumvesuviana line (Napoli Garibaldi is the first stop), you’ve got a better chance of getting a seat on what can be very busy trains. Whether you board the train at Porta Nolana or Napoli Garibaldi, get on a train that’s headed for Sorrento.
Pompeii from Naples cruise port (Stazione Marittima)
If you’re arriving in Naples on a cruise ship, you’re likely to dock at Stazione Marittima. From there, you could walk the 1.2 miles to Porta Nolana station on the Circumvesuviana line. If you’d rather take a bus, the airport bus leaves from outside Stazione Marittima and stops outside Naples Centrale station. A ticket costs 5 euro per person (as of October 2019).
Once at Naples Centrale, you can either go downstairs to the Circumvesuviana station (Napoli Garibaldi) or walk 10 minutes down the street to Porta Nolana station. This isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds – Porta Nolana is the start of all the Circumvesuviana lines so you’re much more likely to get a seat, and if you or someone you’re travelling with finds stairs difficult, Porta Nolana is more accessible. Board a train headed to Sorrento and get off at Pompei Scavi – Villa Dei Misteri.
If you’re planning to visit Pompeii with a car, it’s worth knowing that there are no official Pompeii car parks, but there are lots of places to park around Porta Marina and between the Porta Marina and Piazza Esedra entrances. One of the most recommended is Pompei Parking Zeus near Porta Marina which is safe, has toilets and has some spots in the shade. Parking here costs 3 euro per hour – the ticket machines don’t take cards so make sure you have enough cash.
2. Don’t take a big bag into the ruins
The level of strictness at Pompeii varies a lot but it’s best to assume that the staff won’t allow you to take large bags or luggage into the ruins. Anything above 30cm wide, 30cm tall and 15cm wide isn’t allowed – as a rough guide that’s a little bit smaller than the size you’d be allowed as a free bag on a budget airline.
As well as being for security, it’s also to reduce damage to the ruins themselves from people rubbing against the walls with their bags. There were a small number of luggage lockers at the entrance when I visited but it’s best to leave bulky bags at your accommodation.
Even if you are allowed to take your bag inside, the massive size of the site means that trying to explore while carrying heavy luggage isn’t a great idea, and it’ll restrict you from getting inside some of the most famous buildings. The Lupanar (brothel) house with its famous wall paintings is a particularly tight squeeze.
3. Do take a water bottle
There are drinking water taps all the way along the main thoroughfare where you can refill your bottle with safe drinking water for free. You’ll be doing a lot of walking and it can be very hot. As a bonus, many of the taps are set above Roman troughs so you’ll get to feel a little bit like a real Roman.
4. Don’t worry about food and drink (but do bring snacks)
There are cafes, ice cream/drinks stands and souvenir shops outside all three entrances to the site, but there’s also a reasonably priced cafeteria with a good variety of sandwiches, pizza slices, salads and snacks inside the ruins, just behind the Forum. There are toilets upstairs.
You can also take your own food and drink into Pompeii, and the sheer scale of the place might mean you’re nowhere near the cafeteria when you get hungry. Even if you don’t bring a packed lunch, it’s a good idea to take a snack or two, especially if you’re planning on spending the whole day in the ruins.
5. Don’t take one of the guided tours touted outside the ruins
– although they’re cheaper than the official guides they’re much larger groups (30+ people compared to around 15). There’s also a little office just outside the train station with an official-looking sign offering tickets – ignore it, the actual official ticket office is inside the gate. Tickets for the ruins cost 16 euro for adults.
If you’re visiting Pompeii at a busy time it may be a good idea to buy your tickets in advance. While the queue at the ticket office was relatively short when we visited in April, it can get very busy. Visitor numbers are already capped at 15,000 on the monthly free entry Sundays and there’s talk of restricting the number of people who can go inside the archaeological site on normal days too in order to protect the delicate site for the future. Buying your ticket for Pompeii online means you’re guaranteed to get in. You can buy a maximum of 5 tickets in each transaction.
6. Do take an official guided tour of Pompeii
Official guides tout as you’re queuing for tickets *inside* the gate at Porta Marina and Piazza Esedra, between 9am and 2pm. They wear a big official pass around their necks and offer tours in several languages. When we got in we were glad we’d gone on a tour as the ruins are huge and confusing with little signage – we wouldn’t have fully appreciated them even with an audio guide and definitely not with just the map and the guidebook.
If you want to be certain of getting on a tour in your language and at the right time you can book a tour in advance.
We had a great guide who’d been a little boy when Vesuvius last erupted in 1944 and he really helped bring the city to life for us. You’ll move quickly and see a lot in two hours, but…
7. …don’t expect to see even the highlights of Pompeii in a couple of hours
With a 2 hour tour and 2-3 hours on your own you can get a taste for the city but Pompeii is easily worth a full day. We arrived at around 10.30am and didn’t leave until closing time. The main sights are quite far from each other, particularly the larger amphitheatre and the Garden of the Fugitives where the main group of bodies are.
8. Do get a map of the Pompeii site
While you’re at the entrance, do pick up one of the free maps of the Pompeii site. There’s nothing else really to orientate you when you’re in the ruins and the grid system means it’s easy to get lost.
9. Do wear good shoes
The roads are dusty and uneven underfoot and some of the stones are slippy so you’ll want something comfortable with decent grip. Pompeii is definitely not the place for heels. If you wear sandals, expect your feet to be absolutely filthy when you leave!
10. Do protect yourself from the sun
On sunny days, take a hat, sunscreen and some kind of cover-up. There’s very little shade at Pompeii (as most of the buildings don’t have a roof!). I didn’t see anywhere to buy sunscreen inside the site.
11. Do take the time to get some background before you visit Pompeii
The more you can read up about Pompeii, the more you’ll get out of your visit. I watched a BBC documentary on YouTube and read Robert Harris’s novel Pompeii before we left – not academic at all but it really helped me make sense of what had happened here when Vesuvius erupted. If you want a more in-depth discussion of the myths around Pompeii and how people may have actually lived, Mary Beard’s book Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town is excellent and easy to read.
The official, free Pompeii guide book and map that you get at the site (sometimes known as the red book) has recently been put online as a PDF. Even if you plan to take a guided tour (and you should), it’d be useful to read the guide book in advance so you can make your own hit list of places you want to visit in Pompeii after the end of the tour.
12. Do get a different perspective
by visiting Herculaneum, a few stops along the Circumvesuviana train line from Pompeii and another easy trip from Naples or Sorrento. Herculaneum was also destroyed when Vesuvius erupted, but it’s much quieter than Pompeii. Herculaneum is also much better preserved and many of the buildings still have their upper storey intact.
The tragedy wrought by the eruption feels even more immediate at Herculaneum – by the Roman shoreline are boat houses full of the skeletons of the people who tried to shelter there.
How to visit Mount Vesuvius
Visiting Pompeii is unmissable, but it’s an awe-inspiring experience to go to the top of Mount Vesuvius and see (and smell) the smoke that still rises up from the crater.
From Pompeii to Vesuvius by bus
You can take a public bus from the Pompei Scavi Circumvesuviana station to Mount Vesuvius but a really easy route is from the station at Ercolano. On leaving the station in the direction of the ruins you’ll come out in a little square. Head to the left and you’ll see the Vesuvio Express office for the bus trip up the mountain. Try to get to the office as quickly as you can – if you’re at the back of the queue and the bus fills up you might need to wait for the next one.
The return trip from Ercolano to Mount Vesuvius with Vesuvio Express costs 25 euro each including entrance to the crater. It’s not a guided tour, it’s literally just to get you to the start of the hike to the summit but we found it reasonably priced and efficient.
Vesuvio Express block-book tickets for the crater so you don’t need to book your tickets for the crater (or Great Cono) separately – although there’s a couple of euros markup on the Vesuvius ticket price.
You can book tickets for Vesuvio Express online but these don’t include the ticket for the crater, you’ll need to buy that separately. For me the combined ticket was worth it as crater tickets sell out at least a day in advance and getting a bus up at the right time to make our ticket slot felt really risky.
The bus takes around half an hour to wind its way up the lower part of the mountain. You’ll be let out at the upper car park at 1000 metres up the mountain (this isn’t actually a car park – read on for how to drive to Vesuvius) and will have around an hour and a half to get up the mountain, look around and get down again to catch your return bus. If you miss it you’ll have to pay again or make your own way back.
If you take the public bus from Pompeii to Vesuvius, you’ll need to also book tickets to visit the crater.
There are a few tour providers who provide trips to Vesuvius from Naples and from Sorrento, often combined with wine-tasting and lunch at a vineyard on the slopes of the mountain. Wines from Vesuvius received the coveted DOC status in 1983 and can be produced in red, white, rosé and sparkling varieties.
Visiting Vesuvius by car
There are two official car parks for visiting Vesuvius, both run by the local Ercolano council. The closest one, parking area B, is at 800 metres up the mountain, while the entrance to the trail to the crater is at the upper car park at 1000 metres. The upper car park is reserved for shuttle buses – you can’t actually park there.
Spaces are limited at the parking places so it’s best to book your space online, especially if you’re travelling in a large car or camper van. The mobile connection is patchy on the mountain so book both the parking and your entrance to the crater before you leave and make sure you’ve downloaded your booking confirmations before you get there.
Booking parking gets you a space for 4 hours. To get from parking area B to the entrance to the trail up to the crater you can either walk along the road, which takes around 40 minutes, or for 1 euro per person each way you can take a shuttle bus, which takes about 4 minutes.
Walking from the upper car park to Vesuvius’s crater
From the upper car park it’s about a mile to Vesuvius’s crater, all uphill. It’s a fairly shallow gradient but it’s fine, dusty gravel underfoot so can be tough going. If it would help, you can take a walking stick from one of the guys at the entrance in return for a tip.
Wear shoes not sandals but don’t do what I did and wear your new white trainers – they’ll be covered in red Vesuvius dust and pretty much ruined by the time you get back!
There are a couple of souvenir shops which sell drinks and basic snacks, and another at the crater. When I visited Vesuvius there weren’t any public toilets anywhere on the volcano, and after overdoing it on hydration for the climb I ended up begging the shop at the car park to be allowed to use their (non-flushing!) toilet. Recent visitors say if you buy something at the shop, they’ll let you use their toilet, but that you might still have to hold your nose.
At the top, walk around the crater at least until you get to a jaggedy part with some steps as the crater looks different from different viewpoints. Try to spot Capri and Ischia on the horizon and Pompeii below and look out for puffs of sulphury-smelling smoke to remind you that it’s still an active volcano!
Our visit to Vesuvius took around 4 hours from leaving Ercolano station to returning back to Ercolano.
Can I visit Pompeii, Vesuvius and Herculaneum in one day?
You could, just about, but it’d be a long day and very rushed. I don’t think it’s possible on a typical cruise ship schedule. We did it in two days – one full day for Pompeii and another where we visited Vesuvius in the morning and Herculaneum in the afternoon (travelling from Sorrento), and that felt about right to us.
The two archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are both very moving (not least because of the body casts at Pompeii and the skeletons at Herculaneum) and for me it was worth taking some extra time so it wasn’t too overwhelming.
Can I visit Pompeii from Rome on a day trip?
It’s possible to visit Pompeii on a self-guided day trip from Rome thanks to Italy’s amazing high-speed trains. If you choose the fastest train from Rome Termini to Naples Centrale you’ll be there in 1 hour 13 minutes. Tickets are very reasonably priced if you book in advance. From Naples, take the local Circumvesuviana train to Pompei Scavi – Villa Dei Misteri.
When to visit Pompeii
Visiting Pompeii in summer
If you visit Pompeii in June, July or August, you’ll need to prepare for high temperatures, but there are some interesting extra events during the summer that could make summer the best time for you to visit Pompeii.
During June and July, there are often theatrical and music performances in the Roman Teatro Grande or occasionally in the Amphitheatre.
Long, warm summer evenings allow for other events too. In 2022, Fridays in July and August saw visitors able to take an evening walk in Pompeii, accompanied by sound installations and video projections. The route was quite short, from Porta Marina to the Forum (so you probably wouldn’t want it to be your only Pompeii visit), but it does look fun. Space was limited so if you like the sound of it for your visit in 2023, you’ll need to book in advance.
The Pompeii, Herculaneum and Vesuvius authorities have used the summer months to trial new tours and attractions. In 2022, the Herculaneum authorities opened up the underground theatre, previously off-limits for an experimental series of public tours. Again, tickets for these were very limited so it’s worth checking out what’s available in advance. I update this page every month so you can find out what’s on.
Visiting Pompeii in spring
March, April and May are a brilliant time to visit Pompeii and all the other attractions in the area. March can be a little chilly with a few days of rain, but cooler temperatures are good for exploring the ruins.
Pompeii is open as normal on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, which in 2023 falls in early April (Easter Sunday is April 9 2023). Trains and buses to Pompeii will also be running but to a holiday schedule with reduced frequency.
I visited Pompeii, Vesuvius and Herculaneum in mid April and thought it was the perfect time to take a trip to this part of Italy. The weather was warm and sunny but not too hot, and at Herculaneum in particular the spring flowers were beautiful. Summer opening hours start on April 1, giving you an extra two hours to explore (I needed it!).
If you’re visiting Pompeii in early May, be aware that May 1 is officially one of the few days that Pompeii is closed, but that’s by no means set in stone. In 2022 the authorities decided to open on May 1 after all, with little more than a week’s notice, and since it was the first Sunday of the month, everyone got in free!
Visiting Pompeii in autumn
The autumn or early winter months of September, October and November can still be good months to visit Pompeii. September and October are both still warm and sunny, and the summer opening hours at Pompeii last until the end of October.
In November you can expect more rain in the bay of Naples and cooler, but still comfortable temperatures.
Visiting Pompeii in winter
December, January and February are the low season for tourism in the bay of Naples, and if you visit during this time you should find the archaeological sites quieter than normal. If you’re staying anywhere other than Naples you may find that shops and restaurants that cater mainly for tourists are closed for the winter, but prices are cheaper in the ones that stay open.
If you’re hoping to climb Mount Vesuvius during your trip to Pompeii then it may be better to come during the slightly warmer months as bad weather or even occasional snow can make the hike up to the top hazardous.
Where should I stay for visiting Pompeii?
If you’re planning to visit Pompeii, a big decision is where to stay. Most people choose to either stay in Naples or Sorrento when visiting Pompeii – both places have lots to do and are roughly the same distance from the ruins but they offer really different vacation experiences.
Since it’s such a big part of what to know before visiting Pompeii, I’ve put together another post with the best places to stay to visit Pompeii along with advice on areas, how to get to Pompeii from each place and what to expect.
If you found this guide to visiting Pompeii in 2023 useful, you might like my other posts on visiting the Bay of Naples:
- Where to stay when you visit Pompeii
- How to visit Herculaneum, the “other Pompeii”
- Great day trips from Sorrento
- Things to do in Ischia, an alternative to Capri
- Tips for visiting Castello Aragonese in Ischia Ponte
- Things to do on the beautiful island of Procida
- Where to stay in Ischia – the best villages, beaches and hotels for every type of trip
- How to get from Naples to Ischia by ferry
- Visiting Ischia’s best thermal spa, Negombo
- How to visit Giardini la Mortella, a garden love story on Ischia
I hope you’ve found this advice for visiting Pompeii useful. If you have any tips for visiting Pompeii, please let me know in the comments.