Walking Through the History of Pompeii
Each step I took over the weathered, yet sturdy cobblestones, I was reminded of the thousands of years of history those steps have seen. I was stunned by the sheer size of such an ancient civilization.
This experience is none other than the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pompeii.
Though famous for its destruction from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., Pompeii is said to have been established around the 7th century. About 4 centuries later, Pompeii was overtaken by Roman rule, marking the start of the once-booming civilization that is now frozen in time and visited by millions of people every year.
How to get to and access the Pompeii ruins
Before experiencing one of the best preserved historical sites, I had a short commute from Sorrento. To travel to Pompeii from Sorrento, one option is to use the cost-effective Circumvesuviana train. The train station in Sorrento is about a 15-minute walk from Marina Grande and is found on the corner of Via Marziale and Piazza Giovanni Battista de Curtis.
Train tickets were incredibly easy to access and cost effective. For example, I bought a €2.60 one-way ticket right at the train station window. I thought commuting by train was advantageous because it ran every 25-30 minutes (starting at 07:10), so it required little planning on when we had to arrive at the station. My friends and I simply bought our tickets and jumped on the next available train!
This was my first time using the Circumvesuviana train to travel, so imagine my surprise when an accordian player stepped on the train and performed a few songs before the train departed. What an exciting way to start the morning!
A short 30 minutes later, my friends and I arrived at the train station called Pompei scavi Villa dei Misteri. Conveniently, the train station was only a few paces away from the entrance to Pompeii.
Because Pompeii sees millions of visitors a year, there are dozens of ticket options available online and at the ticket office. My friends and I felt ambitious and elected to purchase the basic entrance ticket (€20.00 or €18.00 for visitors 18-24 years old) along with a €6.50 self-guided audio tour. I appreciated the audio guide because it had a virtual map of the entire archaeological park, we could see our exact location on the map, and it allowed us to travel at our own pace.
Unsurprisingly, Pomepii’s vast size encompasses so much history and countless artifacts. The entire archeological site is broken up into 9 sections that are called “regions.” Within each region, there can be roughly anywhere from 5 to 20 sites to visit. Since my visit was only a short day trip, I prioritized the popular “can’t miss” sites.
During my visit, I saw the Suburban Baths, the Temple of Venus, the Basilica, the Forum, the Temple of Apollo, the Amphitheatre, the Large and Small Theaters, House of the Faun, Quadriporticus of the Theatres, and the Large Palestra– just to name a few. It would be impossible to list every site I passed and saw since every step taken in Pompeii brought me to a different historical point.
While curiously wandering about, my friends and I discovered an amazing view at Casina dell’Aquila. Casina dell’Aquila has a look-out point that features an astonishing view of Region 1 and the landscape past Pompeii. This offered a whole different vantage point from above to see the layout of the residences and streets. However, Casina dell’Aquila is at the top of a small, easy-to-miss staircase that is next to Thermopolium of Asellina in Region 9. Be sure to keep a close eye out for it if you are in the area!
Pompeii is famous for making its visitors feel as if they have “traveled back in time” while walking through Pompeii’s many streets. I certainly experienced this mesmerizing effect as well. While the famous, large monuments and streets lined with residential homes create this effect, I also believe the small details certainly added to the experience.
I was shocked to see vibrant title work and mosaics masterfully made and still preserved with bright colors such as red, green, blue, and orange. There were hints of writing still living on the walls and portraits of people decorating building entrances. Our audio tour even mentioned that there is still evidence of graffiti from Pompeii’s residents. Taking a closer look at these details revealed so much about Pompeians’s daily lives and their value of art and politics.
My friends and I ended our Pompeii adventure at the Temple of Apollo in Region 6. To return to Sorrento, we bought €2.60 train tickets and refreshing lemon sodas to drink on the ride back.
Though I spent the day in Pompeii, I felt as though I only scratched the surface of all the history this famous site holds. From the audio guide, I learned that the National Archaeological Museum of Naples houses countless more Pompeii artifacts.
For example, the Temple of Apollo features two statues of mythological figures, one of Apollo (god of the sun) and another of his sister Diana (goddess of the hunt). However, the ones on display in Pompeii are actually replicas, and the original statues are on display in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. The same is true of the faun statue and mosaic from the famous House of the Faun in Region 6 of Pompeii.
Whether you are a history buff or just enjoyed your visit to Pompeii, the National Archaeological Museum could be a fascinating trip to continue reliving the history of Pompeii. I’ve certainly put it on my to-do list sometime before I return home.