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Herculaneum vs. Pompeii and Naples vs Sorrento

I am traveling with my family in late July to Italy. We really want to see Pompeii or Herculaneum. I have 2 boys, 11 and 16 and don't know if I should subject them to both sites. Should we do both or just one? How about adding in Vesuvius if the weather cooperates? Some friends also mentioned that it would be better if we stayed in Sorrento rather than Naples. Is that a good suggestion? We would be there 2 nights before traveling on to Rome for 3-4 nights.

Posted by
1882 posts

Can't tell you about Herculaneum, only Pompeii which is about half hour by train from Sorrento and we loved it. See what others say who have been to both. Stops right at the ruins, just be sure to get off the the correct Pompeii stop as there are two, I think it is the first one coming from Sorrento. Would definitely say Sorrento over Naples any day. Pompeii will be very hot in July, just be prepared and take plenty of water. Enjoy.

Posted by
515 posts

Pompei Scavi is the train stop for the ruins. There are porn frescoes in some of the buildings so check your guidebook.

Posted by
21213 posts

There is a lot more to see at Pompeii since most of Herculaneum is still buried under the city. Calling the frescos porn is a bit strong. Less graphic than many paintings. Without question staying in Sorrento is a far better suggestion. Naples is pretty rough not as pretty or peaceful as Sorrento.

Posted by
4152 posts

I have been to both Pompeii and Herculaneum a few times and really enjoy both. If you have time I would suggest seeing both sites but if you only have one I would choose Herculaneum. Pompeii is wonderful but Herculaneum is much more complete. You really get a feel for what the city was like with it's two and three story buildings, the frescos still in the buildings and complete buildings. It's a smaller site than Pompeii but well worth the visit. If you choose to visit Pompeii be sure to get off at the Pompeii Scavi stop. This is the stop for the ruins. The Pompeii stop is for the town. You can get a guide right outside the ruins that will help you understand them much better. Plan the whole day as the site is huge. Take some bottled water and a hat as it gets very very hot. As for staying in Naples or Sorrento, if you are doing things in Naples then you should stay there instead of commuting. If you are doing more in Sorrento then you should stay there. Donna

Posted by
515 posts

Pompei is midway between Sorrento and Naples by train. Midway between Pompei and Sorrento is Castelemare which has a long gondola ride to the top of a mountain overlooking the bay It's on Youtube.

Posted by
7923 posts

I agree with donna. I've been to both several times and love both places, but Herculaneum is much more intact. I think your boys would get more out of seeing Herculaneum than Pompeii. I also think your boys would enjoy hiking to the top of Mt. Vesuvius and seeing the crater at the top. My son did. I would definitely choose Sorrento over Naples. Sorrento is my favorite place in Italy, It's charming, relaxing, and wonderful. It's the opposite of Naples. Sorrento has a Hop On Hop Off bus which is fun for kids, it takes you outside of Sorrento to other areas as well as Sorrento. You probably don't have enough time for this, but if you go to Capri, you can rent your own speed boat for a very reasonable price and go all around the island stopping wherever you like to swim. It's called "Banana Boats" and its at the harbor in Capri near where you buy tickets for the ferries.

Posted by
515 posts

It's been a while since I was a kid. As an adult, I like Naples a lot: food, atmospherics, open air markets, a wonderful museum etc. When I was 13, I would have been bored after my third cannoli. From Sorrento, which is somewhat of a theme park for Brits and Americans, there are open air day trip ferries down to Positano and Amalfi and the ride is spectacular. The bus ride up the hill from Amalfi to the even more spectacular Ravello just takes a few minutes. There is an easy, wooded, hike down from Ravello back to Amalfi and the boat.

Posted by
1196 posts

We visited Italy in March and visited both Pompeii and Herculaneum. As explained by other posters, Herculaneum is smaller but more complete. When we first entered we were a bit disappointed as we had been to Pompeii the day before, but after exploring a bit we decided we really liked Herculaneum. If you have time, you could see both as they are really different. You should break the up with something different in between. However, if you only have 2 nights for Naples/Sorrento, you might not have time as Pompeii is pretty much an all day visit. Re Sorrento vs Naples, we had trouble deciding and ended up staying three nights in each. With only two nights I'd stay in Naples. I know most RS posters say Naples is 'gritty, dirty, scary, full of garbage' etc. We're in our mid-late 60s and while we enjoyed Sorrento and used it as a base for Amalfi coast and Pompeii, it is really more of a resort town and we were happy that we split our time. In Naples we stayed in a hotel on Piazza Garibaldi, near the train and metro station, again a no-no for many. It was convenient for the train to Herculaneum and also walking distance to many sights. Of course, we were not out after dark. With only 2 days Naples might make more sense. Easy access to the train to Pompeii, Herculaneum, Vesuvius, and if you take the train to Rome, Naples is one hour closer so it saves you time in both directions. Happy planning!

Posted by
687 posts

I visited Herculaneum before Pompeii, and preferred it. True, it's smaller, but that means the worthwhile buildings are closer - Pompeii can become a route march. Having more of the buildings intact is also a plus. If you only have two nights I would be inclined to stay in Naples. I didn't care for Sorrento, and although the drive along the Amalfi Coast is wonderful, it's not clear you have time for that.

Posted by
515 posts

Just noticed that Google Street View has Herculanium and Pompeii covered pretty well

Posted by
19 posts

Here is some good advice: stay away from Naples at all costs! Pick a nice hotel in Pompei instead (we stayed at the Amleto and had fabulous customer service). There has been a garbage strike in Naples for the past 2 years and there are piles of garbage (up to 4 feet high in some places) all over the city - the stench is unbearable! We were there on May 16th and got the heck out within the hour - we were very disappointed as we had been looking forward to visiting this very famous city. On top of the filth, we did not feel safe at all, even on the main roads. Having visited both Pompei and Herculaneum, I would say do both, if you can. And the climb to Vesuvius is also worth it. Also, we stayed in Sorrento for the remainder of our trip(at Hotel Elios - Gianna is fantastic!) and we really enjoyed the town - safe, friendly and clean.

Posted by
7737 posts

I think 95% of Americans who have been to both Naples and Sorrento would tell you to stay in Sorrento. Put me in the Sorrento camp. This especially true since you have your two boys. Sorrento is much safer than Naples, and it's beautiful. The boys will have lots of opportunities to wander around on their own in Sorrento, if you want. Herculaneum would probably be much more pleasant in late July than Pompeii. It's actually down in a huge pit, so it should be cooler.

Posted by
687 posts

Sorrento is tourist central. It's not even a beach town - it's up on a cliff. Naples is a real city. With only two nights, and intending to spend the day visiting Herculaneum and Pompei, Naples will also be more convenient - and you should see the museum there, as well as Capella Sansevero. I (solo female) stayed near the port, but if you're nervous the Chiaia area is very nice. I might avoid the Spanish Quarter after dark.

Posted by
257 posts

Naples unemployment rate is 50%. The have a lot of problem. I spent a week in sorrento last month. A lot of tourists talk about the problems in Naples. My advise is, don't stay there and don't stop there. If you change train in Naples. Be careful, it is a lot pocket pickers there.
Have a good trip!