While I was in Rome staying at the Allesandro Downtown Hostel, they had a sign in the lobby advertising a day trip from Rome to Pompeii. I am fascinated with Pompeii and was excited to see that I could schedule the tour while I was visiting. The tour was being organized by Green Line Tours. I only had one hiccup on the morning of the journey as they were not able to pick me up at the hostel (the bus couldn’t get down the street). Luckily, the company was a short walk from my hostel, and I was able to pick up the tour bus easily there. With an area of 165 acres, where do you start to explore Pompeii? Here are ten incredible must-see sites for your visit to Pompeii while you are on your day trip from Rome to Pompeii.
The drive from Rome to Pompeii is beautiful as you travel along the Highway of the Sun, crossing the area known as Castelli Romani dotted with enchanting medieval villages. My eyes were glued to the window during the whole ride. When we arrived in Naples, we didn’t have very much time to see it thoroughly as we were only doing a drop off for people that were going to Capri for the day. I didn’t realize that Naples is a big port and a major hub for cruise ships. Traffic around the ports was crazy, with all the cars, buses, and pedestrians crossing the streets with their luggage. After more than half of our bus departed to visit Capri, we were treated to a quick drive-through of the city. I saw Castle Nuovo and a few other places that I want to come back and explore further.
Part of our tour in Naples included a short stop at a Cameo/Coral Factory. We were given a tour of how they make the cameos then given time to shop. The cameos on display were gorgeous. I wish I had some extra cash to pick one up for myself.
For our lunch stop on our Rome to Pompeii day tour, we were taken to Il Santuario in Pompei. Little fun fact for you: Pompei, with one i is for the modern city where Pompeii with two i’s is for the ancient city. We weren’t given a menu as everything was already preselected for us, and the lunch price was included in the tour. Although we had to pay extra for our drinks. Lunch consisted of a variety of appetizers, pizza, pasta, and dessert. We were all laughing at all the food because when we thought we were done, they kept bringing out the next course. You can’t go hungry in Italy. It is just not allowed!
We entered the Pompeii excavations area through the Piazza Esedra. The walk to the entrance is lined by beautiful pink and white flowering trees that are an amazing contrast to the ruin walls. Helpful hint for you: There is a fountain where you can refill your water bottle before you enter the archaeological site. I would highly recommend doing this as there are limited areas for you to do that once you are inside the grounds. One interesting thing I noticed is that the tourist area by the entrance was filled with oranges for drinks. It lent the air a citrus smell as you walked by them. Since Italy can be very hot in the summer and within the site, there is minimal shade for you to cool down, so make sure you are hydrated.
This is one of the entrances on the north/east side of the Pompeii archeological site. I can’t tell you how overwhelmed you feel as you walk through the gate/doorway and enter into the grounds. This entire city was buried by almost 6 meters of volcanic ash and pumice stones in 79 AD. And was only excavated painstakingly over the years to what you see and can walk through now. Plus, only 3/4 of Pompeii’s 165 acres have been excavated, and only approximately 1150 of the 2,00 suspected inhabitants have been recovered. It is a truly sobering thought to know that more bodies are lying under the ground you are walking.
This area is known as the four-sided theater or the Gladiator barracks. This large grassy area was probably used as a recreation area or shelter for the rain for spectators attending the theaters nearby. There are several areas in this section to explore, but don’t take too much time as there is a lot more to see as you go up the steps. You can see a portion of the theater when you are up there, but it was closed off for restoration work while I was visiting.
The house of the large fountain was a neat stop along the tour. This house so aptly named has a large mosaic fountain in the center of the back wall where their garden would have been. The water would have flowed from the center hole down the steps to the pool below to cupid, who is carrying a dolphin. The colorful tiles of glass, shells, and theatrical masks make this fountain genuinely unique. If you have more time, the house next to this has a smaller fountain that is decorated very similarly.
Walking along the streets to the individual homes takes a lesson in keeping your balance as the roads are made of uneven stones. You can also walk along the narrow sidewalk area next to the building. I had to ask about why there were these big stones in the middle of the streets. These were used to walk across as the lower portion in the road that you see was where the water and sewage flowed. Good to know.
The Forum is a great area to get acclimated to the enormity of Pompeii. This was the center of the religious, cultural, and political life of the ancient Pompeii inhabitants. There would have been individual merchants selling their wares along with the hustle and bustle of everyday life coming and going through this area. Mount Vesuvius is an impressive background to this city, and you can’t help to imagine what went through their minds watching that volcano, which is still active today, explode.
The Temple of Jupiter dominates the north end of the Forum. This temple was built to honor the entire Capitoline Triad, which consisted of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. As the Roman influence over Pompeii increased, it was made more obvious as it was made to be the largest and highest temple compared to the Greek temple for Apollo, which was to the left of it. The temple was severely damaged in the earthquake of 62 AD and was waiting to be restored when the volcano buried it in 79 AD.
The Macellum or Market was the central hub for provisions. Fruits, meats, and fish were sold here. During the excavation, several Roman wall paintings were unearthed, depicting everyday life in Pompeii.
Lupanare was a surprise. The brothel was a booming business in Pompeii. There are only a few rooms in these buildings and house a stone bed, which couldn’t have been that comfortable. If an excavator found any building with erotic drawings on the wall, it was immediately classified as a brothel. Pompeii has a total of 35 lupanares (the Roman word for a brothel is lupanar, meaning wolf-den). With a population of 10,000 in the first century, that would mean one brothel for every 286 people. This part of the tour is not for the younger set of eyes traveling with you, as you might have to explain a few things that you aren’t ready to explain just yet.
The largest residence and most likely the richest family lived in the House of Faun. Surprisingly the mountain of ash and pumice dumped on Pompeii preserved the artwork in this home. It is one of the most luxurious aristocratic houses from the Roman republic seen today. You can find some nice areas within this house for photo opportunities as there are plenty of flowery trees along with all the mosaics and artwork.
The Mensa Ponderaria was used for a fruit and vegetable market until the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Today it is where you can find a lot of the archeological finds that they have uncovered. Including plaster-casts of victims, their pets, and all the artifacts of everyday life in Pompeii from wagons to vases. There are more plaster-casts of victims in the Antiquarium (see below).
The Temple of Apollo was Pompeii’s most important religious building with an ancient origin. It can be traced back to the 6th century BC from Greece. There are two copies of statues placed in their original spots for Apollo and Diana. There are also 48 columns surrounding the temple, and most of the front of the temple is appears as it did back then (See the first photo in post).
The Basilica was used for carrying out Justice among the residents of Pompeii. This was one of the most expensive-looking buildings among the ones connected to the Forum. But at the farthest end from Mount Vesuvius, you can still see the devastation of how the blast affected this town and everything in it. It basically decapitated the top half of the buildings and snapped the pillars at the base. Nothing could have survived that kind of power.
I took a little time out at the end of the tour and explored some more of Pompeii. I want to come back here and explore this city extensively. A few hours won’t be enough, but on a Rome to Pompeii day tour, you do get a good breath of Pompeii. You won’t feel like you missed anything extraordinary, but you will feel like you hardly made a dent exploring within this large town.
As I love art, I was always on the lookout for the drawings unearthed on the walls during the excavations. I’m so glad that there are so many that are preserved. It is incredible to see what life was like back then for the inhabitants of Pompeii before their destruction.
And for those who want to see more of the victims of the 79 AD volcanic explosion, you can see more of them in the Antiquarium. This is the museum you can go through at the end of your visit by the Porta Marina entrance. More artifacts can be seen while you go through this exhibit.
The day trip from Rome to Pompeii took the entire day but was jammed pack full of sites and great food. The total cost I paid was 126€. You can schedule your day trip to Naples from Green Line Tours. On the way back, after picking up the Capri tour people, we stopped at another road stop that had great views and local food for us to try. I purchased an Arancino, which is a deep-fried rice ball filled with cooked ham and cheese. Yum! Plus, I picked up some Olive Oil to take home. When in Italy…
Travel can mean different things for many people. Myself it is where I find happiness, health, and an incredible sense of knowledge of who I am and my part in this vast world. Walking around all the devastation and ruins in Pompeii makes you think a lot about what is going on in your life. It helped me to remember what truly matters.
Places like this can leave a profound impact on you. And when you leave them, you can’t help but put things into perspective that might be going a bit crazy in your life. And that you should enjoy every moment you have because you never know when it could be your last.
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