Some reading/research in advance is highly recommended so you have a good idea what you'll be looking at and where the visitor's services are. Here's a very good site with lots of good information on the individual ruins and where to find them, plus a google map of service locations. You may select a language in the dropdown on the upper right of the page:
And here's another good map of the streets, and location/info regarding more notable sites:
Additionally, Rick Steves offers a free podcast tour and PDF map which can be downloaded from itunes:
This info was lifted from the website included below - be sure to pull it up as the info could change.
Pompeii Scavi is open:
from November 1 to March 31
daily from 8.30 am to 17.00 (last admission 15.30)
April 1 to October 31
daily from 8.30 am to 19.30 (last admission 18.00)
Closed 1th January,1th May and 25th December
Single ticket - valid for 1 day
Full price: € 11.00
Half price: € 5.50 (*) EU citizens 18-24 and EU teachers (proof required)
Free: EU citizens under 18 or over 65 years old
Access to 5 sites: Herculaneum, Pompeii, Oplontis, Stabiae, Boscoreale - valid for 3 days
Full price: € 20.00
Half price : € 10.00 (*) See above
Porta Marina: tel. +39 081 8575348/9
Rent at Porta Marina booth for €6,50, €10 for two at time of this update. ID required.
Available in Italian, English, French, German and Spanish
November - March, daily from 8.30 to 17.00
April - October, daily from 8.30 to 19.30
Cloakrooms are available at the entrances, where you may store luggage.
November - March, daily from 8.30 to 17.00
April - October, daily from 8.30 to 19.30
The service is free.
There is a self-service cafe equipped with bar
Ticket/audio rental booths only take cash, and there is no ATM within the site so have plenty of euros in your pocket for the day.
A good guidebook and map are essential: don't rely on what's given to you with your ticket. Take some time to browse the materials for sale at the entrance, and choose one with good photos and comprehensive map. I read a fair amount of complaints about the audioguides, and signage is poor to almost nonexistent.
The site is MUCH larger than most visitors realize, and very hot in the summertime: wear a hat and bring plenty of water. Many surfaces are uneven and not stroller or wheelchair friendly, and comfortable, low-heeled shoes are a must. Pack some snacks as the cafe is a long way from the further reaches of the site.
This website has a helpful map for locating the more notable of the ruins, restrooms, picnic areas and the cafe: click the dropdown for "buildings" and then "Pompeii google maps" at the bottom.
During the summer season, BE THERE first thing the morning just before the site opens to avoid the longest lines. This will also allow you to see much of the site before the heat becomes oppressive!!!
Please respect all entrance and access restrictions. Refrain from making unnecessary noise, writing on the walls, and littering. Smoking is not permitted. Pets are not allowed - although you may encounter stray dogs that wander in from town.
Erotic art in Pompeii was discovered in the ancient cities around the bay of Naples (particularly of Pompeii and Herculaneum) after extensive excavations began in the 18th century. The city was found to be full of erotic art and frescoes, symbols, and inscriptions regarded by its excavators as pornographic.
Even many recovered household items had a sexual theme. The ubiquity of such imagery and items indicates that the sexual mores of the ancient Roman culture of the time were much more liberal than most present-day cultures, although much of what might seem to us to be erotic imagery (e.g. oversized phalluses) could arguably be fertility-imagery.
The Pompeians were a lusty lot with few hang-ups about body parts and their functions. Virility was venerated. Fertility was celebrated. Images of anatomy and adult recreation that today's society would classify as porn were common decoration in houses, taverns and brothels. A lot of the paintings and sculpture of this genre were moved to Naples and confined to a discrete location with somewhat limited access.
When I first visited Pompeii in 1973, remaining frescos of the, er, interesting sort (including this one) were hidden behind wooden doors that an attendant would open if you forked over a few coins. Those protective shutters are long gone so be aware of the possibility of running into some fairly graphic imagery - especially if having curious young people in tow or being squeamish about such things.
When Giuseppe Fiorelli was excavating the site in the mid 1800's, he discovered that mysterious cavities found in a particular layer of ash were what remained of people who did not, or could not, flee after the first stage of the eruption partially buried the city. Of 20,000 citizens, an estimated 2,000 died - quickly but painfully - huddled in structures which could not protect them from the deadly steam and gases of a pyroclastic flow. The bodies, encased in ash where they fell, deteriorated over time leaving molds that Fiorelli filled with plaster to capture the forms of both humans and animals frozen forever in the last moments of life.
You can see a few of these casts at the site and many more at the Archaeological National Museum of Naples. The other 18,000 citizens? The majority were probably overcome by the same pyroclastic event while trying to escape by land or sea.
Spray paint hadn't been invented yet but graffiti was scratched, drawn and brushed onto as many public buildings, latrines and tavern walls in ancient Pompeii as it is today. Some (as in the photo) were 1st century AD versions of political ads, some rhapsodize about love interests, and others, well, think about what you've read on the bathroom wall of a grubbier pub and you'll get the idea? Words of wisdom, amusing verse, jokes, insults, boasts of some gladiator's latest sexual conquest... it's all here and some of it is a real howl.
I'm enclosing a website with translations of some of the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) and where they were found. I claim no responsibility for content. If easily offended by bawdy language, read at your own risk.
Mosaics were another means of embellishing walls and floors. Tiny cubes (tesserae) of colored stone, ceramic tile, shells, glass or even gems were cemented into patterns ranging from simple geometrics to incredibly detailed pictures of plants, animals, mythological figures, deities and battles. Unlike painted frescos - which fade over time - most mosaic material retains its color so these works of art are as vivid today as they were two thousand years ago! Still, they're very fragile and many of the most intricate compositions have been moved to the National Museum of Naples because of displaced or loosening tesserae and naughty persons prying up pieces for souvenirs.
This odd-looking slab in an alcove of the Forum is a mensa ponderaria: table of measures. The graduated sizes of depressions were used as the official units of measure by which goods were sold - assuring equitable competition among merchants and a fair deal for the customer. There are holes in the bottom of the "bowls" through which the product was drained after measuring. This particular table dates to before the Roman era and the original bowl sizes were altered to conform to later Augustan standards.
Pompeians believed that gods called Lares watched over their homes and businesses. Shrines to these deities could be located throughout the house but one was always near the hearth and could take three different forms: a niche containing statuary, a miniature temple, or painted fresco. Lares were usually illustrated as a pair of young dancers carrying drinking horns, wine buckets, sheaves of corn, horns-of-plenty or platters. Along with the lares, usually in the center of a lararium, was an image of the genuis - the spirit of the male head of the household - which was venerated as protector of the family. Representations of serpents - protective spirits and symbols of peace and prosperity - were also common as were those of additional gods.
In the first picture is a frescoed laramium with genius (center), lares (flanking) two other gods (outer figures) and serpents on the back wall of a shop. In the second picture is a temple-style lararium, or aedicula, on the back wall of this villa's peristyle.
Pompeii has many houses (domus) that are fascinating to explore. Some of them are very large and well preserved with re-created roofs, gardens, original mosaics and wall paintings. They are creatively named for some outstanding feature - such as a mosaic or painting - found in each structure. For instance, the House of the Wild Boar (above) has a large floor mosaic of a porcine creature being attacked by two dogs. The Villa of the Mysteries (not to be missed!) has an incredible fresco of what is thought to be the rites of a Dionysiac initiation.
It's a great idea to familiarize yourself with the general layout of a standard house, the terms used for the individual rooms, and what those rooms were used for. I'm including some websites that should give you a good start.
A young lawyer, Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, watched Vesuvius explode from his uncle's villa in Misenum - opposite Pompeii on the Gulf of Naples. The uncle, Pliny the Elder, scholar and commander of the bay's imperial fleet, sailed to the stricken area in a heroic effort to rescue an old friend and died of suffocation from the clouds of ash and dangerous fumes. The crew evidently survived and so Gaius was able to learn of his guardian's fate, which he documented along with his own firsthand account of the disaster, in two letters which still, miraculously, exist.
Gaius went on to have an illustrious career as a military officer, Prefect, Tribune, and Imperial Governor, and left behind an enormous collection of written correspondence to friends and superiors - including many to emperor, Trajan - which have provided historians with invaluable insights regarding political and social life in his era. Gaius also inherited his unfortunate uncle's estate and formally became Pliny the Younger. To read his account of the eruption, see the attached website.
Isis was a Goddess of nature. Despite being of the Egyptian Pagan tradition, her worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world, and she was viewed as the ideal wife and mother. The Cult of Isis was huge in Pompeii, with evidence to suggest some of the richest citizens of the town were devout followers. The Temple itself dates from the 2nd Century BC and after the earthquake of 62 AD was restored by N. Popidius Celsinus. On the north side of the complex is a small temple with a staircase leading down to an underground cistern containing the sacred waters of the Nile.
The House of Memander is one of the largest and most lavish houses in Pompeii. Its name comes from the well preserved Fresco of Menander, an ancient Greek dramatist, situated in the Peristyle. Much of the house is in a Greek style, such as the large Doric style columns in the Peristyle. This emphasis in Greek culture in Pompeiian lifestyle is not surprising, as the area had been used as a Greek port and trading post before the Oscans founded the city in the 6th centure BC. Although nothing is known of the occupier at the time of the eruption, there is reason to believe that this large house once belonged to Quintus Poppeus, a relative of Poppea Sabina, the second wife of Nero.
Suffocated by volcanic gasses and covered in ash and debris, their bodies eventually decayed inside the hardening matter. This air space essentially formed a mold, since the ash that had surrounded the person retained an imprint of the body. Excavators realized this and filled the air pockets with plaster. The resulting "plaster mummies" poignantly capture the human tragedy of Pompeii.
Anyway, our first time to Pompeii... the story goes something like this: After waking up and having what would become our typical breakfast of packaged breads, clementines, fatty milk, and more dairy (cheese, yogurt, and chocolate) during our stay in the apartment - we made our way to the Circumvesuvania train and purchased our tickets to Pompeii (or Pompei in Italiano). From Sant'Agnello, the ride to Pompei-Scavi was about 30 minutes one way.
Once we got to Pompeii (exit Pompeii-Scavi), we decided to purchase the Campania ArteCard (CAC) instead of the single use admission. By purchasing the CAC (we bought the 3 day pass), my sister and I saved some money bacaused we went to several more places than we originally would have without the card. Our CAC helped offset the transportation and admission costs, but mostly transporation costs, especially after visiting museums and since we were not based in Naples. That being said, I think Pompeii was one of my favorite places we visitited.
It's just amazing to think of all the history there and that there are still remnants of that history.
You just have to walk around - I would recommend getting lost there - but if you don't want to, there are tour guides, walking tours, and an audio guide. We used our Rick Steves guide book and the pamphelt at the information desk, which were good enough for us. Then we started walking around. I can imagine how in the summer it can be extremely busy -- even in January, there were more people than I had expected (I had read online how "dead" it was during winter, but not really, I think those days are truly gone).
We intended to stay 2 nites.... we ended up finishing our month in Italy here, a little over a week....more
stayed in pompei 1 night but well worth it. get off at the cicrcumsision station pompei and turn...more
The four of us, grandparents, daughter and grandson, had a very good stay here. The accommodation...more