This February (2014) I took my mum to Rome for 6 nights while my dad and brother went hiking in Germany. I learnt so much and visited a good number of places that I felt my experience may be helpful to others so here is a blog-advice-guide. I’ll cover the most popular sites in Rome, as well as taking the Italian railway to Pompeii and the metro system within the Rome vicinity.
Day trip to Pompeii from Rome (including train and ticket advice)
We bought our train tickets the night before from the self service ticket machines at Termini station. These machines are in the main hall as you go in and have the option for changing into a number of languages. The screens take you through the process logically and you can add a return towards the end. We selected an early time of 7.55am which got us into Napoli (Naples) at 10am. We paid €11.20 each per person each way for a second class seat.
We booked a return train back for 16.58, thinking it would be plenty of time. When the tickets printed there wasn’t a time on the tickets so we went over to the customer service desk. To join the queue here are there machines which gives you a ticket number and this works a bit like Argos stores. The number will appear on screens with a desk number to go to.
There are three options on the screen: for general help and advice press the third option which gives you a number beginning with I (capital i); the other options are for specific ticket buying. We were lucky and had some one who was able and happy to speak to us in English. We had selected a ticket which could be used at any point within the next 2 months! Brilliant. It meant we didn’t have to get that exact train back if we wanted to spend more time in Pompeii. He told us that you need to validate your ticket before you get on the train by using a small machine at the beginning of the platform you’re getting the train from. Without doing this your ticket is not valid for travel but there aren’t any signs to let you know about this so remember to do it! It marks your ticket like the picture below.
He was excellent- there was no way of us knowing this otherwise. Prices to Napoli can be a lot more expensive (up to about €50 each way) so plan this kind of trip ahead of the day you want to go.
The train takes between 2hr10-2hr30 from Rome. Once you get off the train follow signs for Circumvesuviana. This is a local train service and tickets must be bought from the offices on the lower floor of the station just before the entrance to the platforms. You can ask for a return ticket to Pompeii Scavi (in your best Italian if you can) and it will cost you €2.90 pp each way (accurate as of Feb 2014). Go through the barriers and to the platform for the Sorrento line. They seemed to come every half an hour and it takes about 30 minutes to get to the site. Each station is not announced, so keep an eye out! Once you’re off the train at Pompeii Scavi there are signs for the entrance and it is about a minute’s walk.
We didn’t have a queue at all because we went in the winter season, yay! The site also felt like we were the only ones there sometimes. It costs €5.50 reduced entry (18-25 years old) or €11 full price. I’d recommend the audio guide again (€10 for 2 audio guides, €6.50 for one) although beware- some signs are wrong and some houses may be closed. Even with this it is well worth going and doing the audio guide, just keep an eye on your map and do things logically. It might even be worth scouting out a guide to Pompeii before you leave for the holiday altogether if you’re sure you want to go (this is an example and is the one sold at the site). We spent 5 hours there and that’s wasn’t even doing all of the houses with the audio tour (because they were closed). At the time of writing there’s some quite extensive restoration going on which are going on a while. In fact, the site has been subjected to some damage from the bad weather covering western Europe late 2013/early 2014 and in March 2014 it was announced that one wall had collapsed. We saw some walls being held up with scaffolding and wood panelling and this explains why. Because of this news, it’s worth remembering to take extra care when walking around.
There is now a pizzeria canteen style area within Pompeii itself, converted from an open space (by the look of the map) so if you do need food you can buy while you’re there.
We got back to the hotel at about 9.30pm and just went straight out again for food! A great day well worth doing. If you can make it to Herculaneum too (maybe get a hotel for one night in Napoli) then it is also on the Circumvesuviana line. I have been previously and yields different finds: multiple stories and has grander houses etc. If you’re staying for that, there are so many recommendations for the Archaeological museum in Napoli you may as well do too.