The infamous history of Pompeii is something that immediately makes you want to learn more. After learning that Pompeii can be visited in person with so much still intact, so many have added Pompeii to their bucket list without a second thought.
However, after visiting myself, I found myself wondering “Is Pompeii actually worth visiting?”
Keep reading to find out all the things to know before visiting Pompeii, Italy, you should be aware of and get ready to enjoy your time there should you decide it’s worth it.
There are so many incredible museums around the world that showcase facts and history in a way that brings you in and leaves you feeling like you really learned something. However, Pompeii is not one of those places.
Of course, if seeing Pompeii with your own eyes is something that you’ve always wanted to do, then you should definitely still go. Seeing a historic place like this in person is a valuable experience in itself.
But if you have limited time in Italy and are wondering whether you should skip Pompeii or not, this will help you decide what to do.
Reasons Why Pompeii Is Not Worth Visiting
1. Pompeii is Very Disorganized
From the moment you start your tour of Pompeii, it becomes clear that you’re on your own. The area is so big and there are hundreds of numbers labeled on your map, each representing a different historical spot in this ancient city.
Although the numbers are meant to organize the city a bit better, they’re not necessarily helpful. At first, the numbers make sense, but as you get further into the city, they seem just as disorganized as if they weren’t numbered at all.
Truly, the only way to get around Pompeii without getting totally lost is by purchasing the audio guides. They don’t come with the ticket of Pompeii, but without them, you’re definitely going to find it hard to learn anything.
2. The Audio Guides are Lacking and Repeat Information
The Audio Guides follow along with the numbers on the map of Pompeii. As you get to each number, you can click on that part of the map and listen to the little blurb about where you’re standing.
In theory, this is a great idea. However, there are hundreds of places to visit and there is nothing on the app that lets you know where the most important parts of the city are.
After following along for the first 15 or so spots, you’ll realize pretty quickly that there’s no way you can hit all of them. And that not every single one of these are even worth listening to.
In fact, the information that is printed right next to the spot is usually the same information that the Audio Guide recites to you.
Since it was an extra cost, I expected the Audio Guide to include more information than just reading the signs around Pompeii.
But how can you find out where the most important parts are? Well, Pompeii isn’t going to tell you.
3. It’s Hard to Find Where the Artifacts And Important Sections of Pompeii Actually Are
The artifacts in Pompeii are always moving and new exhibitions are being put in, which made it difficult to know where things were.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, most of us go to Pompeii to see the casts of the bodies that were buried in ash. It’s a bit morbid, but definitely one of the main attractions at Pompeii.
So why did I have to GOOGLE where they were in order to find them? They weren’t on the map or in the audio guide, which was pretty frustrating.
If you had shown up to Pompeii without any data on your phone, you wouldn’t be able to figure out where they were.
The area of Pompeii is so large that it would definitely be possible to wander around the whole place and miss the most important areas.
Of course, this depends on each person’s interests. However, I found that the following places were the most interesting and definitely shouldn’t be missed if you do end up going to Pompeii:
- The Garden of the Fugitives
- The Brothel (the Lupanar of Pompeii
- The Forum Baths
- The Forum
- The Amphitheatre
- The Great Palestra
The Garden of the Fugitives is where they keep the largest number of casts of the bodies found in Pompeii, however, they sometimes close early so you need to double-check the times before you go there.
These places listed above are definitely worth visiting if you go to Pompeii.
However, the reason I still think that Pompei isn’t worth visiting is because the burden seems to lie on the visitor and not the museum to learn and be guided through the city.
That means that if you want your trip to Pompeii to be worth it, you need to come prepared.
You need to know where you want to go and maybe even come with some history already downloaded on your phone so that you can learn while you visit.
Maybe you think that this review of Pompeii is a bit harsh, but seeing what other countries have done with their major historical sites and how much can be learned while visiting, made the visit to Pompeii even more disappointing.
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4. The Focus is on the City of Pompeii, Not the Event of Mt Vesuvius
One of the more disappointing aspects of visiting Pompeii is that most of the visit is focused on what life was like in Pompeii before the volcano erupted.
Of course, some of that information was interesting. However, it seemed like 95% of the information was based around that and the event of Mount Vesuvius erupting was more of an afterthought.
At Pompeii, you learn about the houses, the politics, where and what they ate, what they believed, etc. Which was interesting in itself, but there was barely any information about the volcano erupting at all.
It almost felt like they forgot why people come to Pompeii, which is to learn about the catastrophic event, not just the city itself.
Yes, it’s definitely interesting that the city has remained very well intact because of the eruption, but I found it frustrating that I couldn’t find hardly any information about the eruption at all during my visit.
5. You Can Learn More from a Quick Google Search or By Watching a Documentary
The information on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius was so lacking that I actually spent quite a bit of time googling better information so that my questions were answered.
Instead of going back to my hotel after visiting the historic Pompeii and feeling like I learned something, I pulled up a documentary on the eruption and ended up learning a lot more from that than from the museum.
To make sure you learn even more on your trip, why not grab a few things to help you learn Italian and bring them on your trip?
Try out a few phrases or even watch your Pompeii documentary in Italian!
Read more: 10 Ways to enjoy Italy from home
6. Not Very Inventive or Interactive
While visiting Pompeii, I couldn’t help but think that so many things could have been done differently.
I had so many questions about the history of Pompeii and the eruption when I showed up and found that very few of them were actually answered.
So when I got home, I started brainstorming all the things I would have done differently if I were to run the Pompeii Museum.
There is an enclosed museum area early on in the visit that has some statues and encased casts of dogs and people who were caught in the ashes of the eruption.
That area could definitely have had some more interactive experiences, like a demonstration showing how much bigger Mount Vesuvius was before it erupted.
Did you know that Mount Vesuvius has erupted over 50 times and that scientists believe it is due to erupt again?
They could have included a video of what the eruption might have looked like, both from Pompeii itself and from neighboring Naples.
They also had signs that explained how the casts of the bodies were made, which was very interesting, however they could have had videos or even a presentation of what that looked like.
It would have been interesting to see what the city looked like covered in ash, or while it was being excavated.
Basically, Pompeii seems like they put the artifacts out there with just a bit of information, but it’s not presented with much creativity.
It also seems like the information they do provide is the bare minimum.
7. Visiting Pompeii Will Take All Day & You’ll Be Exhausted
If you aren’t much of a history buff and you’re in Southern Italy, maybe spending a hot day at Pompeii won’t be the best idea.
Even in the shoulder season, it can get super hot in Pompeii. You’ll need tons of sunscreen, water, and good shoes to really enjoy your day there.
But if your trip is short, there is so much to do near Naples that you might enjoy more. Whether that’s heading to the Amalfi Coast or a nearby island like Procida.
Something that’s always important to remember when traveling is that you don’t have to visit a place just because it’s famous and other people would do it.
It’s your trip and if you want to do something else instead, go ahead!
8. Getting to Pompeii Can Be Stressful & Hot
The best way to get to Pompeii is by taking the train from Naples.
Since most everyone is heading to Pompeii, the train ride there will most likely be filled to the brim.
The Circumvesuvius train (Circumvesuvius literally means around Vesuvius) takes about 45 minutes to get from Naples to the stop at Pompeii.
You can also take the Circumvesuvius from Naples all the way to Sorrento, but most people get off at Pompeii.
There is no air conditioning on the train, so if you’re traveling after 10 am or in the summer, it’s going to get pretty hot in there.
And with a lot of people stuffed into the same train with no AC, you might be standing for the full 45 minutes and sweating along with everyone else.
The best way to avoid this is to take the earliest train to Pompeii and to get on the train at the very first stop in Naples which is Napoli Porta Nolana.
This way, you can get to the station early and buy your ticket, then get straight on the train while it’s waiting to depart.
Most people get on the train at the second stop, which is Piazza Garibaldi. But the stops aren’t that far from each other and if you want to grab a seat, this is the best bet.
So Is Pompeii Worth Visiting?
If you are willing to put some work in yourself to make the trip worthwhile, then I think that Pompeii is worth visiting.
There are spots in Pompeii that are super interesting, and being able to be there in person to learn about this catastrophic event is definitely worth it.
However, you need to adjust your expectations if you want to really enjoy visiting Pompeii.
Make sure to know where to want to visit before you go, go prepared with lots of water and definitely a sun hat, and maybe find a better way to visit than paying extra for the Audio Guides.
If Pompeii is interesting to you, but seeing it in person isn’t something you’ve always wanted to do, skipping it is absolutely fine too.
Also, take into account that traveling with a large group or with family and kids might make a trip to Pompeii even more difficult and maybe not worth your time.
In the end, only you can decide whether visiting Pompeii Italy is worth it or not, but I hope this helped you make your decision!
Dayna Brockbank is a budget-crazy travel blogger at Happily Ever Travels. She has lived in 8 countries, has gotten lost in every single one, and somehow still has miraculously never broken a bone even after scootering around Southeast Asia for 2 years.
She speaks 3 languages and is a bit obsessed with Duolingo.
Contributing members are responsible for the accuracy of the content and views contributed to A World to Travel.