Trying to decide when and where from to go to Mt Vesuvius can be a bit tricky. If you decide to go by train, it can take a while. And there are tours that tend to combine Mt Vesuvius with Pompeii for example.
I don’t recommend doing these tours, and instead you can go to Mt Vesuvius on your own by catching a bus from Pompeii. In this instance, I decided to go at 3pm which meant that the sun was not at its highest and it gave me a chance to rest after spending almost half an Italian summer’s day in Pompeii.
Once you arrive, you are taken near the base. You then buy a ticket at the entrance or the bus driver offers it (they do not markup the price). And from there, you proceed to walk.
Most people were appropriately dressed but I even saw some people wear wedges or bowler shoes. Not recommended! You can take your time going up the mountain. There are a few ‘stations’ offering things from souvenirs to water and even alcoholic drinks.
Once you reach the rim of the volcano you have the option to walk around it, then come back and walk down the mountain.
After almost a week in Montecatini, we went to Sorrento which is a town overlooking the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy. To get here, I took the train to Naples and then arranged a hotel pick up to Sorrento. Otherwise, it takes about an hour by train which is quiet long and uncomfortable (which, I’ve had experience in going to nearby areas!).
You can stay near the town which makes going to and from very easy. I also stayed at a hotel situated right uphill which required taking a hotel bus to and from the town centre.
Sorrento is a town that can suit many interests – if you are into shopping, there are many places there, for those that want to go to the beaches and island hop they can do so. For me, I went to Pompeii and Vesuvius (to be covered in another entry) instead.
I was not overly fond of Sorrento, but it was also nice spot to be in.
I only took a brief day trip to Capri as I then had to go to Naples that night. Unfortunately, either it was too brief or it wasn’t my style, but I was not overly fond of Capri also! There may be other islands that I could possibly like but not in this case.
Somehow, I thought Capri would be a bit like Monaco.
I navigated Pisa without maps, which was actually a good idea as the signs to go to the Leaning Tower of Pisa (or Torre pendente di Pisa) was clear and you also had an opportunity to wander around the piazzas of the older part of the city. There are some people that do a tour, but when you ask if they have ever wandered through the other parts of the city it turns out they haven’t.
You will also see a series of street art with a common theme by an artist called Blub. He has a lot of works also in Florence but can also be found in Pisa. See below!
Il Gelato Di Toto is a gelato shop that I recommend because of the flavors!
I was only in Florence for the day, but you can definitely spend more than a day!
I went to the touristic and historical sites (primarily, the Duomo area), and walked along the Gold Bridge or ‘Ponte Vecchio’ with a history from the medieval times. There were a number of museums and galleries which I did not attend but you can satisfy your historical, cultural and artistic curiosities here.
It is easy to wander around the city and think of times of yore with the artefacts from the yesteryears.
We took the train from Milan to Venice, which was quiet uneventful. Except! We sat on the wrong seats throughout the whole trip, the people didn’t mind though.
The last time I was in Venice was in 2013 and it was for the Biennale. Venice in July was .. I have to say, far too hot and crowded. I ended up going for a walk from around 6am as it was cooler and less crowded then.
I was back in Venice again in August, but will do this in another post.
We also had some nice meals around Venice, in particular at the Hotel Grand Carlton which overlooked the Grand Canal.
While there are buildings, templates and interiors that are interesting, the Pompeii ruins also had interesting fields and large-scale outdoor arenas that can be explored.
There are three ampitheatres – Teatro Piccolo, Teatre Grande (interior pictured) and Anfiteatro (pictured external).
You can enter these and also explore the outside perimeters.
Near Anfiteatro (the produced is name Villa dei Misteri) are some interesting vineyards. This is where the grapes are planted in the same position on the same soil, are grown using identical techniques in AD 79. These are all based on the studies from the Applied Researches Laboratory. How did they find the locations? It was through the original plaster casts of the ancient roots that were found.
Casa del Giardino di Ercole vineyards:
Orto dei Fuggiaschi vineyard:
It was quiet an experience running into the vineyards after the heat from the ruins and also reading about the history of its cultivation.
If you have read that post, or if you want to see the highlights, please read on!
I did not do a lot of reading about Pompeii before the visit and decided to purchase a guide book. After entering the site, and maybe a minute or two walk, is a visitor centre with indoor exhibitions and a bookshop.
If I were to do the trip again, I would opt to get a guide instead, but the guide would need to be a historian. Or, hire an audio guide. It is very difficult to make sense of what is in front of you as there is very little written guides available.
However, while photographing these, I would photograph the name of the building or region so that I can later look back on where I have been.
I am not a historian and I used both Google search and my photographs of the building names and descriptions for reference. Thank you for reading and I hope that you enjoy this post!
In terms of regions, I went via an anti-clockwise direction starting from where the public administration buildings are on Regio VII, like below:
And from there, I went around the corners, through the inner layout (which was primarily residences, aristocratic residencies, and commercial districts) before exiting again through the administrative and religious buildings.
There are some very special areas in Pompeii, so if your time is a bit short you may want to make a note of these areas so that you can see them.
Casa del Fauno or House of the Faun features a tranquil green courtyard, statue of a dancing faun and possibly an early example of the square grid design on the floors.
Palestra Dei Luvenes contains a mosaic on the floor that is decorated with mosaic of physical fight between two athletes and interesting paintings within the interior.
Casa del Cinghiale has a mosaic featuring a wild boar:
Tempo di Iside still looks very ethereal thousands of years later:
House of the Cryptoporticus, owned by a wealthy owner.
The villa also had a garden on one of the lower level roof terrace:
They expressed their tastes through the sumptuous baths and the art and designs adorning these from the dainty bird designs to something a bit more daring:
Casa dell’Efebo contains some nicely preserved illustrations below:
Casa e Thermopolium di Vetutius Placidus
House of the Orchard was interesting as it had motifs featured on a dark background and was a merge of the Greek cult with the Egyptian. A similar design can be found in the Villa dei Misteri in this post.
Finishing off Pompeii
I finished the site by going through Region VI. This area is a bit rough – with the ruins being overgrown with nature but was among the area first hit. There is not a lot of special notes in this area and not many visitors.
Pompeii was a definite highlight for me. I decided to pay a small premium and buy my tickets online the day before. It still required lining up, but my wait was only for 10 minutes at around 9.20am compared to much longer lines for those who did not purchase in advance.
Advice visiting Pompeii in summertime
Some things I recommend that you do based on the trip to Pompeii mid August:
If you have the time, don’t do the set tours. These only cover a small portion and your entry fees are not covered.
It is worth the premium online to buy your tickets at another provider. You still need to wait in line to pick up the ticket but the line will be shorter.
Have comfortable shoes, comfortables clothes, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses. Sunglasses are a must since the sun reflect off the stones.
Go early, like from 9am. Far less crowds (especially the big tourist crowds). This means some good photo opportunities at places like the Basilica, the Forum, Tempio di Giove and more without much tourist interference like below.
I lasted until 1.30pm, then took a 1.5 hour break before taking a 3pm bus to Mt Vesuvius. You can buy your bus tickets at the entrance to Pompeii near the train station and buy the entrance tickets from the private bus.
It may be worth bringing something light for lunch instead of waiting at the kiosk/restaurants. There was a restaurant up a hill but it was still closed during my visit. There are water fountains around the site to replenish your water bottle.
For cheaper food and less crowds, there is a restaurant that is to your left after leaving the trains, by the parking entrance and away from the groups of restaurant.
I walk through Via delle Tombe (through the Necropoli di Porta Ercolano) and Villa dei Misteri which had some very interesting internal works below like the Egyptian/hieroglyphics inspired motifs:
The exit requires you to walk through a long ‘driveway’ all the way back to the train station. Not a lot of people went through here though, and I suspect that much of the large groups had been either tourists, or people left via the main entrance/exit points.