I feel like most people who visit southern Italy entertain a Pompeii day trip at some point. Shockingly, I’ve met many who fail to actually take it (usually because they’re overwhelmed with the city center of Naples).
Today’s post, therefore, will explain all the ways to integrate Pompeii into your trip—if you miss one, you can try another. I’ll also discuss differences and similarities between Pompeii and Ercolano (aka Herculaneum), another city destroyed during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
Whether you plan to visit Italy soon or sometime in the somewhat distant future, I hope my advice will get you pumped for your trip to Pompeii.
How to Reach Pompeii from Naples
The most typical Pompeii day trip sees you traveling from Naples to Pompeii and back in a single day. Here’s where the confusion begins. Although you have to enter a special area of Napoli Centrale train station and board a train known as the “Circumvesuviana,” the vehicle you enter is neither branded nor particularly nice. It’s just an ordinary second-class Italian train car.
Which is fine: The journey from Naples to Pompeii is less than an hour, depending on which train you take. Here’s another tip, to that end. Try and take one of the express services between Naples and Sorrento, which will get you to Pompeii without stopping at every single station. These will be denoted as such on the departure board just outside the Circumvesuviana ticket gates.
Ways to Visit Pompeii
Take a day trip from Naples
The easiest way to visit Pompeii is to do as I described in the section above: As a self-contained day trip from Naples. Note that if you follow this plan, it’s possible to nest in a stop in Ercolano (whose merits I go into later in this article) either on your way to or back from Pompeii.
Join a group tour
An even more mindless way to enjoy Pompeii day trip is not to go independently at all. Whether you book a Skip-the-Line Pompeii Tour from Walks of Italy, choose a different tour company or avail one of the offer your hotel is offering, a tempting way to beat the tour groups that crowd Pompeii is to join them.
Stop on the way back from Amalfi
The bad news? Unless you leave the Amalfi Coast extremely early in the morning, your journey (via Sorrento) back to Naples will be a hellish nightmare. The good news? If you do leave first thing in the morning, it’s easy to stop at Pompeii (and potentially Ercolano) on your way back to the city.
Spend a night in Pompeii
Who says you need to limit your Pompeii day trip to just a day? While none of the hotels or Airbnbs in the vicinity of Pompeii are much to write home about, there’s something to be said about enjoying the general atmosphere without having to rush through it.
Visit from farther afield
Because Naples is connected by high-speed train to many other destinations in Italy, it’s possible to take a day trip from other cities in Italy to Pompeii. While Rome (which is around an hour from Naples via HSR) is the most obvious choice, it’s also technically possible to take a Pompeii day trip from Milan, Florence or Venice.
Pompeii vs Ercolano
Although I’ve taken more than half a dozen trips to Italy, my 2021 visit was actually my first time in Pompeii itself. Previously, I only visit Ercolano (Herculaneum), another nearby city that also succumbed to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. I chose Ercolano at the advisement of Francesco, an Italian friend of mine who is an architect and a historian.
As far as why he recommended Ercolano, rather than a more standard Pompeii day trip? “The houses in Ercolano have two stories,” he explained, adding that they were in generally better condition than their counterparts in Pompeii. “Well, at least most of them.” As we explored the ruins, he also remarked that Ercolano seemed slightly less crowded than Pompeii, although both (having now visited Pompeii) were madhouses are far as I could tell.
Other FAQ About Visiting Pompeii from Naples
Can you do Pompeii in a day?
You can absolutely do Pompeii in a day! The best way to successfully execute this is to leave Naples no later than 8:30 so that you can arrive in Pompeii by the time it opens at 9. Buying your ticket to Pompeii online will also help you save time. After enjoying Pompeii in the morning, you can eat lunch at one of the restaurants near the train station.
Is a day trip to Pompeii worth it?
A day trip to Pompeii is absolutely worth it, considering how easy it is to reach Pompeii from Naples. On the other hand, if you plan to visit Pompeii from elsewhere in Italy, you may find the time, money and energy you expend to be too great for the thrill of a day trip to Pompeii.
Are there day trips from Rome to Pompeii?
Many organized tours leave Rome for Pompeii, but you can also take the trip on your own. To do so, ride a high-speed Italo or Frecciarossa train from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale, then transfer to the Circumvesuviana. Return to Rome the same day, or stay overnight in Naples.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of how you take it, a Pompeii day trip will be a highlight of your trip to Italy. This is especially true if you’re a 90s kid like me, and attended school when renewed attention seemed to be paid to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius nearly two millennia ago. Regardless of when you grew up, of course, it’s impossible to walk along the cobbled streets of Pompeii (or nearby Ercolano) and not feel moved. Along with the Amalfi Coast, Capri and/or Ischia islands and Naples itself, Pompeii is one of the top highlights of Italy’s deep south.