italy travel tip: plan for pompeii

My husband and I visited the Amalfi Coast for the first time in 2015. We stayed at a hotel in Praiano that his co-worker recommended. It was a lovely hotel, but what I didn’t realize is that it would take us most of the day to get there; the skinny, twisty, curvy roads are harrowing when you’re in a full-sized bus; and it made absolutely no sense, given that our big excursion in Amalfi was Pompeii.

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I tell you this because I want you to learn from my mistakes:

1) Recommendations are great but do the research to make sure it fits into your plans

2) Know how long it’s going to take you to get from point A to point B

3) If you’re going to do Pompeii, have a tour guide; otherwise, you’re not going to know what the hell you’re looking at most of the time.

_MG_1450Not to say that Pompeii isn’t worth seeing; it absolutely is. But I think we would have appreciated it a little bit more if we knew what we were looking at, or if we knew what had been found there, or who had lived there, etc.

Sometimes merely being in a historical place looking at ancient ruins isn’t as revolutionary or awe-inspiring without knowing about the people who lived there, or the artwork created there, or how long the columns have been standing, or what kind of building it was, even.

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We hitched a ride, probably not-so-subtly, a couple of times when we saw other tour groups walking through with a guide (yes, we were those people), and we walked through a building that had been a brothel, with ridiculously-uncomfortable-looking stone beds with stone pillows and rather graphic frescoes on the wall. Perhaps I would have been able to figure it out myself based on the frescoes on the wall, but maybe not. Besides, I like to regaled with stories. That’s why I tend to do guided tours whenever possible.

If you don’t want to book a tour ahead of time, there were plenty of guides you could pay to walk you around Pompeii right at the entrance where you buy tickets.

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A dog forever entombed in ash.

When I was researching Pompeii, I also came across information on Herculaneum. Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii, and it is much better preserved (more on that here, if you’re interested).

*And now, a NOTE about public transportation in Italy: It is extremely unreliable. The buses almost always run late, and sometimes, they can simply decide they don’t feel like running in the evening.

How do I know? Let me tell you a story. We took the last train back to Sorrento from Pompeii. There’s a bus stop at the train station, and there were about 30 of us waiting for the bus. Which never came. My husband struck up a conversation with a fellow American tourist, and they went inside the train station to see what was up. They casually said, “Oh, there are no more buses running tonight.” Which contradicted the bus timetables, by the way.

 

By then it was nine o’clock at night, I had spent the previous night sick with food poisoning or something, I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours, and I was tired as hell. And cranky. The hubs asked a cab driver how much it would cost if he took us all the way to Praiano, and it was exorbitant. So we split the cost with the other American family we had befriended, and all five of us crammed in a Prius or something, me hunkered down in my husband’s lap, quite illegally, I’m guessing. We didn’t get back to our hotel until well past ten o’clock.

Moral of the story: Do not depend on the buses in Italy, especially on a Saturday or Sunday night. If you’re going to make a trek along the coast from Sorrento, do it earlier in the day. It’s likely the bus will be late, but it’s also likely the bus will come. Good luck to you!

Pin for later:

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