The train, Pompeii
From Naples or Sorrento take the commuter train to the Pompeii Scavi stop. This is the stop you want to take to see the ruins. From the stop you take a right on the road that runs in front of the station and walk about 1/4 of mile to the entrance.
We found it very easy to get to Pompeii from Naples by train, so it’s not necessary to take a sightseeing tour unless you want to. There’s a great little line called the Circumvesuviana that leaves from an off-shoot of the Centrale railway station in the city. You can buy your tickets at a counter there, or in the main ticket office (where you need to go to the specially indicated counters – 7 & 8 when we were there). We tried both and found the former was quicker so I suggest you head straight to that area of the station.
Trains seemed to be pretty frequent (the longest we waited was about 20 minutes). You reach Pompeii Scavi, the station for the ruins, about 35 minutes out of Naples. Tickets are really good value. We paid €1.70 each way on a weekday (November 2007 prices), and at weekends you can get a €5 pass to cover multiple journeys – great value if you’re planning consecutive days out or want to do as we did and travel to both Herculaneum and Pompeii on the same day.
When you get off the train turn right and you’ll find the main entrance to the ruins just a couple of minutes’ walk along the road. You’ll pass several cafes here if you’re looking for refreshments either before or after your visit – see my Restaurant tip for a recommendation.
The circumvesuviana train takes you pretty to the front gate of Pompeii. For a couple of euros, you can get to Pompeii from either Naples or Sorrento in about a half an hour. Easily the best way to get there.
Once you get to Naples on the train, you must still catch another train to the Pompeii Scavi ruins. This train is the circumvesuviana. It is downstairs in the train station and a roundtrip ticket will cost less than 5 euros. The train leaves every 30 minutes so it is never a long wait for the next one. Once you get on the train, pay attention to the stops. There is a list of the stops by all the doors and an announcement is made at each station. For the Pompeii ruins you want to get out at the Pompeii Scavi stop. This will put you almost at the ticket center to pompeii. In less than 5 minutes you can walk from the train station to the ruins. There is also a small restaurant and shop in the station. I would suggest buying a bottle or two of water as the restaurant inside pompeii, when open, is verrrry expensive.
To get back to the Naples station, you must go down a corridor that leads you under the tracks to the platform on the opposite side. This, too, comes every half hour.
Just take the Circumvesuviana (it's harder to pronounce than to take, or to find) from Sorrento and get off when everyone else does - the stop's called (surprise, surprise!) "Pompeii".
And from the stop, you can take a bus to Mount Vesuvius, which we didn't do.
If you're based in Sorrento (like we were) the best way to travel to Pompei is by Circumvesuviana train. Be sure to buy a ticket and validate it before you board the train! Tickets can be bought in any tobacco shop or at the train stations.
If you take the train, make sure to get off AND ON at Pompei Scavi (Villa dei Misteri). We made the mistake by walking from the archeological site to the new city of Pompei and to try to catch a train from there. We were already on the train to Salerno when we realized that this wasn't the right one ... We got off at the first station, had to take the train back to Pompei, walked from Pompei to Pompei Scavi and finally got on the right train. Woo hoo!
#3: Take the 'real' train to Pompei
Pompeii does have an actual train station, with trains going to Naples, Salerno, and even Rome. It's a bit more expensive but the Circum Vesuviana is a dirty, dirty train. This option offers more comfort and it moves much more quickly. There's even a direct train from Rome to Pompei although the only direct train that we could discover from Pompei to Rome ran on Sundays.
When leaving the train station just walk straight until you hit the piazza. Turn left on Via Plinio and look for the entrance on the right (it's maybe about a 15 minute walk).
#2: Take the Circum Vesuviana to the Pompei: Santuario stop
Actually the stop is just called "Pompei" but Santuario is sometimes used to distinguish it from the other stop. Santuario refers to the large church that dominates the piazza in the modern town of Pompeii. This stop is less common than the other one because the walk to the site is about 15 minutes, but if you're looking to get more out of Pompeii than just the ancient city I would recommend you get off here. I find modern Pompeii fascinating personally. Here is a small bustling town that has grown up alongside the ancient city. Vesuvius is always within sight and looms over the town much as it did 2000 years ago. Residents would always be reminded of its destructive nature when walking past the ancient city. I wonder what they think of it, what does ancient Pompeii mean to them? Why choose to live in such close vicinity to a volcano that will erupt again?
To get to the Santuario stop from Naples, take the Circum Vesuviana to Poggiomarino not to Sorrento. From the train station take the street (Via Plinio) that is directly across from you, walk past the church, go through the piazza and keep walking. The closest entrance will be the ampitheatre gate on the right, however, you can continue to walk straight and walk to the next entrance which is the Porta di Stabia gate, or you can walk even farther and you will come upon the main gate, the Porta Marina entrance.
You can't get to the Santuario stop from Sorrento. You'd have to get off at Torre Annunziata and change trains from there and really that is just too much of a hassle. We figured out quite quickly that we'd get to the centre of town much quicker if we walked from the Villa of the Mysteries stop than if we waited to change trains in Torre Annunziata.
There are actually 3 ways to get to Pompeii depending on where you are and how much money you want to spend.
#1: The Circum Vesuviana to the Villa of the Mysteries stop
This is perhaps the most common, the easiest, and cheapest way. If in Naples, take the Circum Vesuviana towards Sorrento and get off at the above-mentioned stop. The site is less than a kilometer from the train station. Tickets shouldn't cost more than 3 Euros.
If you are in Sorrento take the Circum Vesuviana towards Naples (all trains go to Naples from Sorrento) and get off at the above-mentioned stop.
It can not be said enough. If you are taking the train from Rome like we did pay attention that your train stops at Pompei-Scavi, not just Pompei. You will lose much time if you go to the modern city of Pompei.
We were lucky and paid attention to what the locals on the train were saying (they could tell we were tourists) and we got off at the right stop.
To get to Pompei from Rome Termini you need to get the train to Naples and then change trains to Pompei.
There is a choice of trains to Naples, the faster eurostar train takes 1hr 45min and cost Euro22.21 one way. The slower train takes around 2 hrs 30mins and costs Euro 16.50 one way. You can use the fast ticket machines at the station for long distance journeys, they are very easy to use and accept cash and cards. Check the trenitalia website (www.tenitalia.com, click option to change to english) for times and prices, some of the one-way fares can be as low as Euro10.
When in Naples you can buy a ticket to pompei from the paper shops inside the station (that is where you can buy tickets for shorter journeys e.g. tickets for Ciampino from Roma Termini), there is one opposite the ticket windows, otherwise you need to queue up on the left hand side at windows 6 or 7. The ticket costs Euro2.30 one way, you can get a return (retorno) so on the way back you don't have to worry about buying a ticket, but don't forget to validate your ticket each on each journey. All the trains run quite regularly, and all the stations have a timetable on the wall for you to check departure times.
Outside Pompei station there is a map giving directions to the excavations, it took around 15 mins to walk.
We didn't have much trouble at all getting to Pompei from Rome. We took a train from the Central Station in Rome to Naples and then from Naples we caught a train to the Circumvesuviana stop. From there we walked to Pompei. The trip took around 2 hours from memory.
We went to Pompei as a day trip so in the afternoon we caught the trains back to Naples then Rome...
If you are staying on the Amalfi Coast and wish to visit Pompeii, the easiest way to get there is to take the Circumvesuviana train from Sorrento.
From Sorrento, get on the train headed to Naples. It will take you about 45 minutes to reach the stop for Pompeii: "Pompei Scavi." It only costs a couple of Euros and is a comfortable ride. Once you reach Pompei Scavi, exit the train and you'll find yourself right across from the entrance to Pompeii.
Pompeii is inbetween Naples and Sorrento, about 30 minutes from either of them by the hard-to-pronounce Circumvesuviana train This train runs hourly, so even during the high season, there should be room to squeeze on. The station you need to exit is the Pompei Scavi / Villa dei Misteri stop on the Naples to Sorrento line.
*** Be warned that there is a different Circumvesuviana line, which decidedly does not go to Sorrento but has a Pompeii stop. However this train leaves you with quite a walk to the entrance. ***
The circumvesuviana train, which covers Naples to Sorrento, stops at Pompei. The cost for a single from Sorrento was 1.80 Euros and it took about 30 minutes to get there. The entrance to the ruins is very near the station. Pompei gets over 2 million visitors a year, so if you're unsure of directions just follow the crowds!