Don’t get me wrong. We learned a lot on our visit to this fascinating, once-lost, ancient Roman city in southern Italy. But take me there again – and here’s how I’d do it this time.
POSTED BY PINKY
The draw of Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum is undeniable. With both cities destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., at least 1,150 bodies have been found in Pompeii alone since excavation began in the late 1700s.
Images of the body casts that captured the victims’ positions at the moment of death had been etched in my mind since I first saw them on TV as a child. I found the idea of it, of something so horrific, downright frightening. And frankly, intriguing at the same time.
But I won’t bore you with all the details surrounding this catastrophic event. There’s more than enough material on the subject as it is, believe me. (My favourite, however, are the insights of Cambridge University historian, Mary Beard. I’ve provided a link below.)
So, what would I do differently if I were to return?
1. Oh, Not in the Summer, please!
Of course, this wouldn’t be too practical whenever kids are involved. In fact, we went in May precisely because we needed to work around the boys’ schedules.
The month of May also happens to be the start of cruising season in the Mediterranean, which my wonderful, travel-enabling in-laws had taken us on to celebrate their golden anniversary. (Some tips for ensuring a smoother cruise here.)
So yes, going there when we did was unavoidable. The heat, however, was definitely on. Literally.
We managed to have a good time, surely. Travelling with our boys is always fun. It would’ve just been sooo much more pleasant had the weather been way, waaay cooler.
What we did do right, however, was to make sure we stayed hydrated. And we brought our rain jackets. Temperatures and humidity were so high, one could just feel the rains coming.
And rain it did.
(Luckily, my in-laws had been to Pompeii before and decided not to join us in that weather.)
2. Get a Proper Tour Guide. Seriously.
We chose to spend the day in Pompeii when the cruise ship docked in Naples. And given our preference for exploring on our own, we decided not to join any of the rather pricey day tours offered by the cruise liner.
Instead, we took a bus from the port to Naples’ train station, then took the connecting train to Pompeii. Which was easy enough, really – save for a slightly jarring moment when a male passenger entering the train in Naples with his family caught a man attempting to pick his mother’s purse.
(This can happen anywhere in the world, of course, so just be mindful of your belongings, that’s all.)
When we got to the ruins, we each grabbed an audio guide and went on our merry way. Okay, “merry” might be pushing it a bit, but I’d say it worked just fine for us. Let’s put it this way, none of us really expected to be given a test on Pompeii, did we?
However, when travelling as a group, I’d say it’s worth considering hiring a private guide. I think an excellent guide would do a wonderful job of sifting through the myriad amount of information available – and there’s quite a bit! – and offer a more interesting take on what happened. So choose a guide wisely.
It’ll be cost-effective when the guide’s fee is divided among several people, say when travelling with friends. But even if one had to pay in behalf of everybody else (as one would when travelling with family), the time and energy spent much more efficiently alone is reason enough to choose this option.
And there’d actually be someone to answer all those nagging questions!
For an even easier time, I’d consider hiring a vehicle and driver to take the group all the way to Pompeii, spend 2 hours with the private guide, then drive to Naples for some of that pizza the city’s famous for!
3. Hear a Concert.
A couple of concerts were held for the first time at Pompeii’s amphitheatre in July of 2016. Elton John and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmore.
These shows went on at the height of summer, which, I know, goes against item #1 above. But a rare experience like this would be worth giving it some thought, don’t you think?
Just imagine how amazing that would be, to listen to music under the stars against such a unique setting. Now, how many people can actually say they’ve done something like it – much less in Pompeii?!
4. Rent a Car.
This is how we usually do it. If we weren’t part of a cruise, we would have rented a car and driven to Pompeii for the day.
Hiring a vehicle and driver is great, too. This way, no one in the group has to worry about parking and everyone can just relax.
Doing it either way simply allows us the freedom to go wherever the moment takes us. It opens up a much wider range of opportunities to experience a destination – in this case, more of Italy’s southern region other than the ruins.
To make a trip to this part of Italy extra special, we’ve got several options. There’s quite a few of them, actually. But let’s zero in on a couple, shall we?
For one, I’d consider staying in a spa resort in Pompeii. After all, where there’s a volcano, therapeutic hot springs can’t possibly be very far.
Counting this as the most relaxing option would probably be an understatement. There’s the spa, time to dine in a Michelin-rated restaurant, and there’d be no hurry to leave town right away. Great!
But why not go a little further? Just slightly over an hour’s drive away is Positano in the Amalfi Coast! (Read about my love affair with Positano here.)
Here we have even more places to explore, shopping to do, and great restaurants to try. Absolute heaven!
No one said a trip to Pompeii had to be all about the ruins, right?!
For more information on a visit to Pompeii, check here.
For some really interesting insights on the final days of Pompeii from Cambridge University historian, Mary Beard, click here.