Sunday, October 9, 2016
So, Pompeii. We stopped by Pompeii for only a few hours on our way from the Amalfi coast to Rome (to Lake Como) so my memory of it will be colored by the very, very long hours of driving that sandwiched it - in addition to my own near-certainty that we would be robbed of our passports and valuables based on my experience replacing stolen passports for a living.
Happily, we spent 3 hours at Pompeii and never got pickpocted at all! And we saw lots and lots ... and lots of ruins. The town itself is so much bigger than people expect. I had been warned to take it easy, so we didn't have any expectation that we'd see it all, but we hit some highlights and had a good time regardless.
First off - get a map at the entrance. You'll need it. Then go ahead and ask where the body casts are - you know that's what you came for, don't try to pretend like you're there for the frescos and the ancient plumbing systems. There are a number right outside the Porta Anfiteatro entrance.
Once you've finished with the macabre stuff, put on your sunscreen and the widest brimmed hat you've got and fill up your water bottle before you hit the town. It's notoriously hot and sunny. To make things more manageable don't try to see it all. Instead pick a few interesting sounding houses - ideally the better preserved ones - and spend a little longer in each one - reading up on the history of the specific building. There are tons of guides available and that might be a good option if you're into guided tours.
It really is amazing how well-preserved some of the mosaics and frescos are and many of the buildings are in such good shape that you can walk all the way through. As with all ancient Roman sites I really wish they'd just completely restore one or two buildings to aid the imagination a bit, but either way - a very cool site and worth a visit. If you plan to go I'd recommend a half-day and make sure you've got parking and eating sorted out ahead of time.