We booked this tour through City Discovery – and it was by far the most expensive thing we’re doing for our entire holiday at around $200 NZD each. There were cheaper options, but we didn’t find any that also included climbing Vesuvius, so we just went for it.
We had to be at the meeting point at Piazza del Popolo at 7.30am, so we left our apartment at 6.30 and took the number 14 tram to Termini, then the metro to that stop. From there it was just across the street to where the big obelisk and fountain are. The tour group was massive – about 100 people. Each group of 25 was assigned a colour sticker and a guide. It was the first time I had been on a tour of this size, and I probably wouldn’t do it again, as I just prefer the smaller groups. That’s not to say it wasn’t good – it was, but I just like the freedom to explore and take photos at my own pace, since I have previously studied ancient Roman/Greek/Egyptian history.
The drive was about 3 hours, with a rest stop about half way for coffee, food and bathroom breaks at Cassino. Other than being very busy, you could get an espresso for €1, which is pretty standard.
We stopped at Vesuvius first, where we were allotted 1 hr 20 minutes to climb as much as we wanted. So naturally I tried to climb as much as possible. Not that I’m a fit person, probably far from it. You can rent a walking stick for €0,50 if you think you’ll need it. The path is a bit loose and slippery, but not impossible to climb. The views of the city and bay of Naples were stunning. It was a little bit hazy – if you are going in the height of summer you’ll get the worst of the haze, which obscures a good portion of the view of the bay.
There are a few gift shops up Vesuvius that sell souvenirs – our guides told us the items that are being sold as volcanic rock are apparently residue from a factory in the Netherlands and are imported specially. They are definitely pretty and shiny, so up to you if you want to buy them.
After the climb down, we headed to a restaurant near the site of Pompeii for a Neapolitan pizza lunch (included with the tour). You can have either margarita, marinara (tomato, oregano, no cheese) or a white pizza (ham and cheese). The pizza crust was a lot thicker than a Roman one and was incredibly delicious. I couldn’t pick a favourite so I would recommend both styles.
After lunch, we headed to the site at Pompeii. I believe about 2/3 of it has been excavated and it is just incredible how much of it has survived. Some places have been restored in modern times, wooden beams have been added to roofs in place of the ones that rotted away or were burnt. Some of the houses are still intact and are just beautiful. You can still see the shops lining the streets and picture the carriages that moved over the stones. One of the more popular buildings to visit was the main brothel, where you can still see the original stone beds. We visited the mens public baths, where you can still see the changing rooms, cold water bath and hot water bath. The ceiling in the room for the hot water bath was build curved like an arch, so the condensation wouldn’t drip on the heads of the bathers. I think I need to remodel my bathroom!
We took some nice pictures of the main square, with Vesuvius in the background. Apparently 2000 years ago it was over 1000m higher than today! I can see why you’d want to build a city there, Vesuvius makes an incredible backdrop.
We saw some of the plaster casts of the people that died in the eruption and it was rather sad. The worst for me was seeing the dog that was chained up and wasn’t able to get free. (It made me think about how much I miss my dog and hope she is doing ok in her homestay).
We walked around for about 2 hours and it felt like we hardly saw any of it. Next trip, I would like to stay in Naples and spend time just exploring Pompeii without a group.
As always – pictures to come.