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Pompeii and Vesuvius

Hi all,

Wanted to get some thoughts. My wife and I are arriving in Naples around 3:15pm but are staying in Sorrento. I was going to book a boat ferry to and from, mainly as I have heard that the naples train in rife with pickpockets AND that the boat ferry in. is really pretty.

Armed with that Information, I wondered if I could get some info on a day trip to Pompeii and Vesuvius? Specifically...
a) is it worthwhile?
b) how long does one need to appreciate it?
c) is vesuvius a hikeable thing or just something to marvel at from a distance?

Really appreciate the advice and general thoughts!

Posted by
10864 posts

I would not visit them the same day. Pompeii takes time and , for me, it was a wonderful day fulfilling a lifelong dream. You take the train from Sorrento to the entrance Pompeii.
I have visited other volcanoes and have no desire to visit another one. It is a bleak landscape. If you haven’t visited one, then go there another day. It is visible from Sorrento and quite impressive from there, looming over the Bay of Naples.
The train to/ from Sorrento is very basic, basically a commuter train. Just keep your eyes on your belongings. It is not a scary experience and it is the easiest ,quickest way to get to Pompeii and back.
We hired a driver to take us Sorrento to Naples airport. 120€.

Posted by
7083 posts

Month of travel? Crowding is a big issue from May to September, in every mode of transport in that area.

There are pickpockets everywhere in the world. Since we wear "Rick Steves" under-trouser money belts, we don't care much about pickpockets. We did find the Circumvesuviana so fiercely crowded and physically hot that it was an easy decision to take a car service (+- 90 Euros) back to the Naples rail station. But that decision was also driven by the outrageous 15 Euro cab fare from the Sorrento Circumvesuviana station to our hotel, Ambasciatori. It's just barely too far to roll suitcases, but not worth 15 Euros.

A specific problem on the Circumvesuviana is finding a spot to stand (and then supervise) your suitcase(es). Every inch of the car is literally crammed with people. But the price can't be beat, for budget travelers. The only luggage racks are bus-sized little racks over the seats.

The general consensus here is that Pompeii demands two hours. Four hours are needed to really appreciate it. Heat and sun suggest that summer visits should be as early as possible in the morning.

We skipped Vesuvius. It looms over everything, which is the point. But why trudge up a dusty, cinder hill in the beating sun? I've seen Mt. St. Helens and Hawaii's firery volcanoes. I don't need to hump up Vesuvius. It may be relevant to tell you that we've been (daytrip) to Capri twice, and we skipped The Blue Grotto both times. (We have seen a similar grotto in Croatia, which made it easier to save all the time involved in Capri's blue grotto.) OTOH, we bought the three-day, five-site ticket, and went to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Oplontis on various days out from our five nights in Sorrento. It is absolutely unnecessary for you to see all three of these, I'm just contrasting it with "skipping" Vesuvius and the Blue Grotto. You have your own travel style.

It does bother me when posters suggest that less ambitious visitors see Herculaneum "because you can see all of it in two hours." Both cities are still, MOSTLY buried under modern cities with the same name. As our host Rick writes, Pompeii clearly must have had a Synagogue, which would be a major tourist attraction. But it has not yet been found. Because of the modern city, it is likely to never be found. Herculaneum would be better for physically limited visitors, but it is a 15-minute, downhill, walk from the Circumvesuviana station. And it has no food sold inside. (Re-entry on same day tickets is not allowed at the five ancient sites.)

You may wish to use the search box top center with terms like "Pompeii Sorrento" or "Pompeii Vesuvius", and then click on the Forums filter, and then on the time back you want to consider reports. Your questions come up often here.

Edit: It sounds like bragging, but we paid extra for a view/balcony room at the Ambasciatori, and we saw Vesuvius and the gulf outside our window every day. Yes, it's far away. But it's an iconic view. Very valuable report farther down about the fast ferry from Naples. We were on a similar ferry Sorrento-Capri, and it had hundreds of airline-style seats, in an air conditioned cabin. But no significant view, even from the few, part-open-air decks, which were in the shadow of the bridge deck.

Sorrento is built on a cliffside. The marinas are a substantial distance below the top of the cliff. There are taxis, public busses, and a 2 Euro (?) elevator which goes to a nice part of downtown. But you'll have your bags.

I forgot to mention that Sorrento has only one, tiny sand public beach, between the two marinas. It has an aroma of diesel fuel! The expensive hotels have boardwalk swimming platforms below them, reached by the hotel's interior elevator. Hotel guests only. I don't really mean that as a slam, but it's a fair description.

Posted by
619 posts

I've only been to Pompeii, and thought it was amazing. We stayed nearby overnight so we could be there when it opened in the morning. You will get a range of answers on how long it takes to see---that really depends on how thorough you like to be. We spent about five hours there, then left and had lunch in the town before driving to Positano. We didn't see everything, but we did see a lot before fatigue and hunger set in.

Posted by
5445 posts

There are videos on youtube of a hike to Vesuvius if that would be of help to you. The RS videos may also have had footage of a Vesuvius hike but I can't recall for sure. It didn't look appealing to me, but I've hiked to the top of a volcano before. It looks dry, dusty and hot. I didn't catch when you are going, but my husband and I are staying in Sorrento at the beginning of November and it sounds like the ferry will not be an option, but I would guess that the train would be less crowded at that time. We plan on stopping at Pompeii on the way to Sorrento and possibly Herculaneum on the way back to Rome if we decide we'd like "more" after our Pompeii visit.

Posted by
3112 posts

It's easy to plan a day trip from Sorrento to Pompeii, and imo it's very worthwhile. The Circumvesuviana train is much less crowded on that stretch of track (and you won't be encumbered by luggage), and the less frequent but nicer Campania Express train is another option in high season. One can easily spend a half day exploring Pompeii, which is fairly large. Be sure to visit the Villa dei Misteri, a short walk from the main part of the sight. Some people enjoy using a private guide (about 2 hours) and then staying afterwards to explore more on their own.

I've been up to Vesuvius and wouldn't rate it a must-do. It takes quite a bit of time to get there and to hike to the top (it took me a good 4 hours from Pompeii and back), so it might not be the best use of ones time on a visit of just a few days in the area.

Posted by
5197 posts

When are you going?

Pompeii is amazing and we spent a half day there which was not sufficient enough for me, I would have liked an entire day however it was also summer and very hot which did make it tough going.

We also did a Pompeii/Vesuvius tour. I was disappointed with the volcano aspect of the tour. We were taken up by bus to a certain point and then walked the last part, it wsan't a difficult walk but it's a narrow and busy path. This was in the days when the internet was in its infancy and my imagination of what the crater of Vesuvius would look like was disappointingly dashed. It's all subjective however as highlighted in another recent thread concering Vesuvius. I was unimpressed whereas another poster enjoyed their tour of the volcano. Personally I think it looks impressive from afar, no need to climb it.

As far as the pickpocket concern. I've travelled that train on several occasions and not only was it relatively quiet I didn't feel insecure or witness anything concerning. My parents equally travelled it without problem. To describe it as rife with pickpockets serves only to create unecessary fear. That's not to say that pickpocketing doesn't occur, it does but it's certainly not swarming with Fagin like characters all lurking around ready to pounce on every unsuspecting tourist. Use your common sense just as you would anywhere else and you should be fine. The fear of petty crime in Europe is often greatly exagerated. Sure, it happens but not as much as some would have you believe.

I've never taken the ferry but I would imagine it makes for an attractive journey.

Naples itself is not for me, too dirty, too busy, too disorganised and nothing compelling enough to warrant a return, however as with much in life....YMMV.

Posted by
2415 posts

We took the ferry and not to dash your hopes, there is no view. It is a fast ferry and you are inside like in an airplane and you can’t see anything out the window. Then you dock below sorrento and have to make it up the hill. We took a bus.

We were closer to ferry from where we were staying in Naples but it is just transportation.

We very much enjoyed hike up mt Vesuvius but mostly for the view. I also had never climbed a volcano and found it interesting.

We did it on a different day than visiting Pompeii. It would not have been enjoyable doing it the same day.

Posted by
15547 posts

a) is it worthwhile?

Pompeii? Yes, absolutely. Take that commuter train you're so afraid of (Circumvesuviana) from Sorrento to the scavi: cheap and easy. Many thousands of tourists do it every year and without losing their goodies. As some others said, the same precautions you want to take on this train are the same you'll want to take on most other forms of public transit in Italy and tourist-magnet cities throughout Europe.

b) how long does one need to appreciate it?

Depends on how interested you are in the ruins, which cover a vast amount of ground. We spent 5+ hours and didn't cover it all. Some visitors are fine with just a couple of hours and don't feel they need to see more.

c) is vesuvius a hikeable thing or just something to marvel at from a

Most tourists who want the view near the top hike it from the last drop-off spot served by buses. Couch potatoes report struggling on the trek up to the viewing area from that drop-off point, and the trail surface is loose and requires sturdy shoes but If you're moderately fit, you shouldn't have any big issues. Reports of the time it takes from drop-off to viewing area range around 20-30 minutes.

But we didn't feel that we missed anything by skipping it as you can see Vesuvius from many points around the gulf, including Sorrento, Capri and, of course, Pompeii. Seeing it rising over one of the cities it destroyed was a more moving experience for us than the view from the top would have been; one can imagine the signals of impending disaster from the citizens point of view.

Posted by
15548 posts

If you are taking the train to Naples, there's a Campania Express at 3.39. It's less crowded than the Circumvesuviana because it makes fewer stops and costs twice as much (a whopping €8), so the locals don't generally use it. From the Sorrento train station, it's an easy 10 minute downhill walk to the center. If you take the ferry, you have to get from the train station to the ferry pier, then from the ferry pier up to the town. It will take longer than the train.

Posted by
3940 posts

We spent a few hours at Pompeii with one of the tours you hook up with outside the site. I think if we’d had another 60-90 min after the tour was done to see more, it would have been perfect, but we had to make our way to Amalfi.

I guess Vesuvius depends on how much you want to see it. I thought the views from the top were lovely, and my husband thought it was pretty cool that he looked down into a volcano, as ‘boring’ as it may have looked. I kind of look at Vesuvius like’s maybe not worth the hype, but I’m glad we saw it once, and I never feel like I have to see it again.

And yes, you def need sturdy shoes if you decide to go to Vesuvius...your feet will thank you. If you do it in sandals, your feet will end up filthy and you’ll spend half your climb knocking rocks out of them. (I’ll mention we did Vesuvius on a day trip from Rome years back...combining it with a visit to Herculaneum. Pompeii we did on a different trip).

If you decide to skip Vesuvius (sorry if someone else mentioned this up above) maybe look at heading to the archaeological museum. We spent a few hours there on our way back from Amalfi and it was neat to see the stuff from Pompeii.

Posted by
23119 posts

As far as the pickpocket concern. I've travelled that train on several occasions and not only was it relatively quiet I didn't feel insecure or witness anything concerning. ....... To describe it as rife with pickpockets serves only to create unecessary fear

I concur. We have been on the Circumvesuvianna several times over the recent years. Always found a seat and it was not overly crowded but it was mid-day and not at 8am or 5 pm. It is basically a commuter trains. And there was always lots of other tourists. The whole business of pickpockets is vastly over discussed giving a first time traveler the idea that they are entering a den of thieves. We have spent nearly a year of travel in Europe over the past 20+ years and have never had a problem and new saw a pickpockets. But that could change in the next trip.

Posted by
53 posts

Thanks to every response! These were tremendously helpful.

After sharing all of these comments with my wife and just discussing, we found that is more important to "see the grounds" so as to fully appreciate what a tremendous impact that volcano had on that historical city. Per one of the comments, we've climbed diamondhead in Hawaii and though it was neat, it does not appear that Vesuvius would be anything like that. So we may just admire it from a distance (like we did with Mt. rainier/Denali lol).

We've had a Pompeii artifacts tour visit our city, and thus visiting Naples (to see the artifacts) is not as important to us. However, taking a half day trip to Pompeii, from our home-base in Sorrento, sounds like its well worth it. Will look into a guided tour v. just going on our own.

Again...thanks for all of the comments

Posted by
15547 posts

This tour meets near the entrance to the scavi versus Sorrento but is partnered with R.S. and sees very positive reviews. The price is right too! If interested we can run you through the (very easy and dirt cheap) process of getting there on the train.

Posted by
23119 posts

.....We've had a Pompeii artifacts tour visit our city, and thus visiting Naples (to see the artifacts) is not as important to us.......

Ah !!!! but I will bet it didn't include any of the artifacts from the special room that once required written permission from the Pope to visit. I thought it was fascinating given current social values and standards. Somethings never change. The exhibit came through our area and I thought it was a poor representation of what was available in the Naples' museum.

Posted by
15547 posts

I thought it was fascinating given current social values and

LOL, Frank. My first visit back in the early 70's? There were wooden shutters over some of the more graphic imagery still in situ at the scavi. You had to give a little man sitting there a few lira to reveal what was underneath. Those images were still there on my 2nd visit 30+ years later but the shutters and their keepers were history.

I have on occasion advised posters who will be visiting with children to be prepared for some interesting questions.

Posted by
25 posts

Yes!! Extremely memorable!! We took a 3 hour tour in the blazing 100 degree heat this June and could have kept going. We had a fabulous guide! We left Pompeii and drove straight to Mt. V. We did this with a 10, 14 and 17 year old, it was tough in the heat, but doable. This day was one of our favorites, from our 17 day cross country Italian vacation. Never had a problem with pick pockets throughout Italy. Wore a cross-body and kept a hand on it in tight conditions. Kept one person at the car at any gas stations to watch our luggage. Never saw any shady behavior.