Do you know anything about the history of Pompeii and what momentous event happened there in the past? Since you’re here reading this, you probably know that it’s about a king’s bastard son named Jon Snow taking on a Roman senator and an active volcano in a battle to the death. Right?
Okay, I didn’t mean to insult your intelligence my dear wonderful and genius readers. To you, whose intellect far surpasses my own. I apologize. But everybody knows that Jon Snow knows nothing! So let me give him, and maybe you, a quick little history lesson about Pompeii.
Sometime around 79 AD, roughly 20,000 inhabitants of Pompeii went on about their daily business. You know, doing important things like writing lewd and lascivious graffiti on walls, drinking wine, being promiscuous, chasing rats out of the grain house, et cetera – See? I fucking know Latin, so I’m qualified to tell this story.
Just one day in Pompeii
So they went on about their daily sinful ways and then by divine judgment, consumed by fire and brimstone. Errr. Pompeii was a glorious city built by a bunch of genius engineers – you know, the ones that get straight A’s and are full of common sense?
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They thought it was a good idea to build the city next to an active volcano. I mean, hello, it’s an active volcano! You can have a sauna and cook your meals at the same time right there. Brilliant! But, on a fateful day on August 24th, the Volcano (Mt. Vesuvius) had a plan of its own. It decides to go nuclear and spew out an apocalyptic river of destruction leveling Pompeii along with most of its inhabitants. The city was buried under 20 feet of pumice and ash.
Centuries would pass later, and the city was forgotten until 1748 when Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre excavated it after the discovery of its sister city, Herculaneum in 1738. Due to the city’s unfortunate coverage of pumice and ash, the lack of air and moisture preserved much of the artifacts (and some people) to this very day. It’s an incredible archeological find, so much so that some 2 million people, like me, come to see it every year. And now you, want to look at it for yourself too.
Several ways to explore Pompeii
1 – You can go on a pre-booked guided tour (some smart people do this):
- Pompeii Ruins Skip-the-Line Small Group Tour
- Pompeii: Small-Group Pompeii and Herculaneum Tour
- Discover Pompeii: Guided Walking Tour of the Buried City
2 – Hire a guide on the spot @ €100 (made for suckers and tourists).
3 – Hire an audio guide that hawkers in the entrance are selling. It’s just a recording of Pompeii’s Little Red Book (made for level 2 suckers).
4 – You do-it-yourself (only for geniuses). The ticket includes a map and small pocket guide to the site. There’s even an app for the iPhone so you can have in the palm of your hands. But I’m going knock you down a few notches from a genius for owning an iPhone. Did I tell you that geniuses built the city who couldn’t, somehow, create an app for the Android? WTF?
So you don’t want to be bogged down with a group of tourist with their enormous heads and giant iPads blocking the views? You don’t like dealing with hawkers with their incessant hawking (Stephen is a genius)? And you obviously could use €100 for other things besides giving it to some glorified guide on the street, right?
You picked #4 – You Want a Do-It-Yourself Tour of Pompeii!
Congratulations! You’re a genius!
As mentioned, the ticket includes a small pocket guide and a map of Pompeii. While you’re at it, download the Pompeii – A day in the past app if you have an iPhone. The app even has a location service that will guide you from essential points on the site (requires the internet) – This should be all you need to discover all the not-to-be-missed places around the city.
Here’s how I recommend you do it if you didn’t pick tour from #1
Enter the site from Porta Marina entrance. Get your maps, guides, and the iPhone app if applicable. From there, make your way over to the Forum. The forum was the commercial, religious, and political center of Pompeii. Near the forum are the grain stores where you can still see a human-shaped plaster cast of Vesuvius’ victims. Go ahead, take selfies and be morbid.
Once done, you should head out on the Via dell’Abbondanza and navigate your way to the Amphitheatre. Gladiators once had deadly battles here while around 20,000 spectators watched much like the Colosseum in Rome (Are you not entertained?!?). By the way, if watching gladiators battle it out in Rome makes you hungry I highly recommend another tour: Rome Food Tours.
Wander on this end of Pompeii and then navigate your way back to the Porta Marina entrance via the Necropolis. There are tombs and gardens here worth checking out.
There are other noteworthy points, but none is as unique and amazing as Pompeii’s ancient graffiti. Bar none. Bring a Latin dictionary with you. You won’t regret it.
Just check these out:
APOLLINARIS, MEDICUS TITI IMPERATORIS HIC CACAVIT BENE.
Translates to: “ Apollinaris, doctor to emperor Titus, had a good shit here.”
SUSPIRIUM PUELLAM CELADUS THRAEX.
Translates to: “Celadus makes the girls moan.”
I wish this guy were still around. Maybe I could learn a thing or two from him. Not that I need to learn much from the guy, I’m a pretty learned guy. But, you know, it’s good to have somebody to exchange ideas with…ahem! Whatever, it’s probably written by Celadus himself!
DOMINUS EST NON GRATUS ANUS RODENTUM!
Translates to: The boss isn’t worth a rat’s ass!
THEOPHILE, NON FACIUNT ORALIS SEXUS SUPER PUELLAS ADVERSUM CIVITATEM MURUS, TANQUAM CANEM.
Translates to: Theophilus, don’t perform oral sex on girls against the city wall like a dog.
That…paints quite a picture…
There are strange paintings as well. Very interesting.
The stories told here are accurate to the best of my knowledge, except maybe the story about engineers building a city next to an active volcano, that’s just unbelievable.
Best Hotels and Accommodation in Pompeii
Here are the best hotels you can stay at when you’re visiting Pompeii. Smart people stay here and while the roof over your head may not stop the armageddon coming from an erupting volcano, at least you face it in style and comfort.
Getting To Pompeii
- By car: Take the A3 motorway Napoli-Salerno (exit Pompei west) or A3 motorway Salerno-Napoli (exit Pompei est).
- By train: On the Naples-Sorrento line, exit at the Pompei Scavi-Villa dei Misteri. On the Naples-Poggiomarino line, exit at the Pompei Santuario.
- By bus: There are buses from Salerno or Naples to Pompeii. The exit is Pompei (Piazza Esedra).
- Pompeii is open daily, 8:30 am to 5 pm from November through March. Pompeii does not have any operations on Christmas Day, New Years Day, and May 1st
- A single-day ticket is €11.
- At the Porta Marina entrance, you can buy an audio guide in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish for €6.50.
- Pompeii: 2-Hour Walking Tour with Priority Admission Ticket
- Pompeii and Amalfi Coast Day Tour from Naples All Inclusive
Travel Resource & Planning For Pompeii
If you’re going on tours and want to take awesome photos, I recommend you bring along a good point and shoot camera.
Italy isn’t cheap so I try to save up on things like accommodation whenever I can. I sometimes couchsurf from locals otherwise, I use Booking.Com to book all my hotels and hostels. I also use Airbnb to rent apartments from locals; get up to $55 Airbnb credit when you sign up!
I use Booking Buddy to find cheap car rental overseas but for within the EU, I use Auto Europe. Nothing beats having the freedom of driving around at your own pace. Sometimes I use bikes and scooters to get around, and I rent them via Bikes Booking which gives reasonably cheap rates.
I always recommend having your trip covered in case of unfortunate incidents. World Nomads is a good place to start and they’ve never let me down. I’ve also used Travelex and Roam Right in the past, both are good options. Do some comparison shopping and find the one that caters to your trip best.
Best Guide Book – Pompeii: Guide to the Site
Recommended Reading –Pompeii
Want to travel on a budget? Check out my guide on how to travel cheap (and sometimes free!), also don’t forget to read my in-depth guide on how to budget for travel to save you a lot of time and money.