I’d been bouncing around since 5am, waiting to go to Pompeii. We originally booked a tour for 9am via Mondo Tours which is touted in the RS guidebooks as a way to save some money by booking a shared tour. Mondo has a subsidiary https://www.sharedtours.com/ which has an agreement with RS and once 6 people sign-up, then the tour is official and will go ahead. But Mondo also has its own site https://mondoguide.it/ which offers other shared tours under the heading NEW Shared Trips ENDORSED by Rick Steves. The official RS tours on the site are Shared Tours FOR Rick Steves. They’re supposed to email you 3 days before with notice if your tour is going ahead or not. But as became a pattern through this trip, if not enough were signed up they would wait, and I needed to be proactive and ready to make alternate plans.
Nobody else signed, so the night before I emailed Dario at Mondo and suggested we’d take the 11am tour and within minutes we were confirmed. I then asked Dario if I could go to the park earlier and then come out at 11:00 and meet up with the tour. But he explained that there is no in/out privilege at Pompeii which is frustrating because there are limited services inside, such as places to eat and sit inside the park. The confirmation said we’d pay our guide the tour fee of €20 plus we’d be responsible for the ticket into Pompeii, but it stated there was no need to buy the entry ticket in advance. I interpreted that as we’d give our money to the guide, and she’d bulk-buy our entry tickets, however as our group met up with the guide, she’d send us to the ticket window to buy our tickets which wasted quite a bit of time.
Despite the difficulties I’ve explained, we ended up using Shared/Mondo 3 times and were extremely happy. This tour was 2-hours and followed a similar route to what the RS guidebooks suggest. I’m willing to bet most guides take a similar route and it’s a good introduction to the site, but Pompeii has so much more that’s not included. For those people that ask if 2 hours is enough, I’m going to tell them it’s a good start, but you need a day or two if you want to immerse yourself.
If there is a couple of tips about Pompeii that I need to stress, it’s that you need proper footwear and it’s not family friendly for people with small children. There was a family of 6 on our tour; 2 sisters and their husbands, each with a baby, and two grandparents. They brought a large two-seater stroller with them which had to be carried almost the entirety of the tour as there are not a lot of flat, level surfaces in Pompeii. They left the tour early. Not only that, but the amount of other people struggling with inappropriate footwear was staggering; flip flops, high heels or chunky heels, dress shoes, or a pair of each plus flowing dresses if you were an Instagram Girl looking for the perfect photo.
For those on the Forum asking if Italy is crowded? Everywhere we went was crowded. I don’t recall crowds like this in 2014, but this time in all the major attractions such as the Bath House, the Brothel and the House of Vetti there were long lines to get in. A light rain started which helped clear things out and we wandered for another hour. If there had been in/out privileges we would have left and grabbed something to eat and come back in, but what little infrastructure there is inside stayed crowded and uncomfortable. We knew we were coming again and so we headed back to Sorrento.
*Pompeii’s website says no backpacks, no umbrellas and no eating within the archaeological areas, but even our guide was carrying an umbrella, and when the rain started, there was a sea of them. Plenty of backpacks filled with lunches as well. There wasn’t an area we walked by that people weren’t sitting on the curb eating. Nothing was enforced and I can’t blame people for bringing in food as Pompeii doesn’t have a lot to offer.