Thanks to high speed train travel between Rome and Naples, planning your own day trip to Pompeii from Rome is a lot easier than it used to be. It takes about an hour to zip down to Naples on one of Trenitalia’s Freccia trains or with Italo train. Then you’ll need about another hour, by slow train or bus, to get to the ruins of Pompeii (aka Pompei Scavi).
Add all of that up and you have spent four hours traveling. I suppose the joy of traveling is the journey itself. But that time can be stressful if you are traveling with young children or seniors, especially when you consider the potentially stressful transfer time between Naples and Pompeii.
Should You Plan a DIY Day Trip from Rome to Pompeii?
Well, my answer is yes or no, depending on your circumstances.
One reason many people consider a day trip rather than an overnight to Pompeii and the environs is logistics and cost. You may wish to retain your hotel in Rome. Moving hotel rooms, packing up your belongings, is often a chore. It may seem impractical to book a hotel in Rome then in Pompeii and so on rather than staying put.
The cost of the train can also be a drawback. The base cost of a round trip from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale is approximately 100 euro for one adult. From there, you would have to change trains to get on the Circumvesuviana line. This narrow gauge train line goes from Napoli to Sorrento, making stops at all of the archeological sites in between: Pompeii, Herculaneum, etc. The fare for the Circumvesuviana isn’t much–a few euro. Then again, time is money.
Italotreno, Trenitalia’s high speed competitor, tends to have cheaper fares. It also offers bus service to Pompeii from the suburban station of Napoli Afragola. Side note here: Napoli Afragola station, designed by Zaha Hadid, opened in 2017. If you’re a huge architecture buff, then tack on some extra time if you’re choosing the Italotreno/Afragola itinerary.
The most practical way for travelers to do a DIY day trip to Pompeii from Rome is by train. You can also rent a car or go by bus. But that will tack extra time onto your commute.
Visiting the Excavations at Pompeii
The logistics of traveling to and from Pompeii are taken care of and now you have a day to figure out how to get around and see the most of this sprawling archeological park.
The Pompeii archeological park covers more than 160 acres/65 hectares–about the size of 160 connecting football fields–and is divided into nine sections (Regio I-IX).
The cultural heritage arm of the Italian government has done a lot to help visitors prepare for a visit to this UNESCO Heritage Site, offering downloadable maps, and providing guidance to visitors with special needs. There is also online ticketing should you wish to get that step out of the way, but buying advanced tickets isn’t necessary. The Pompeii archeological park also provides audioguides, but you have to pay for them.
So visiting the Pompeii excavations on your own is doable and encouraged. But it can be stressful. The site is huge, so you may miss seeing some frescoes or ruins or relics that you had hoped to see. In this case, you’ll want to consider booking a guided tour, which you can do from the information desk. Walks of Italy is just one of several reputable companies that are credentialed to lead tours inside the ruins and you can pre-book with them and meet them when you get there.
Pompeii in a day sounds like too much to plan on your own? Try these excellent alternatives.
This post was inspired by a friend and reader who wanted to know if he could plan his own day trip to Pompeii from Rome. Of course, you don’t have to do it yourself at all.
There are several tour companies that will organize (almost) everything for you, from travel to a guided tour of the excavations to lunch.
Enjoy Rome offers a 12-hour day trip from Rome to Pompeii that includes door-to-door bus service. This “independent” tour gives you four hours to visit the archeological site and you can upgrade for a guided tour.
Walks of Italy, which I mentioned above, offers a full-day small group trip to Pompeii plus lunch in Amalfi. The Roman Guy, whose tour of the Colosseum I enjoyed, offers a similar day trip to Pompeii, in both itinerary and price point.
If you want to go the exclusive route, then look no further than Context Travel, which offers a private trip to Pompeii in the morning with an afternoon visit to the Naples Archeological Museum (where many of Pompeii’s most famous treasures live). In sum, they put the whole tour into context. I’ve taken a Context Travel tour of Rome’s Jewish Quarter and found it very informative and enriching. Though I must say that the price point for this exclusive tour seems quite shocking.
Consider Ostia Antica
Another idea. If you really want to see Pompeii but just can’t figure out a way to fit it into your itinerary, consider a day trip to Ostia Antica.
Located about 30 minutes by local train outside of Rome, this ancient ruined city is Pompeii in miniature. Ostia Antica didn’t die the dramatic death that Pompeii did–the silting up of its outlet to the sea and rampant malaria drove its populace out. But it is still a beautiful, awe-inspiring, tour-worthy site with well-preserved Ancient Roman ruins.
Ostia is also near the beach, so you could swim in the morning and tour ruins in the afternoon or vice versa. Catch the train to Ostia and Ostia Lido at the Piramide station in Rome.