Mr. TWS always looks forward to visiting historic places, especially those in which his interest had been sparked many years ago as a young boy in northern Wisconsin. Such was the case with Pompeii. So I’ve asked him to share his perspectives about our day trip from Rome to Pompeii and Sorrento on a tour with Walks of Italy.
A fascination with history
By Mr. TWS
I think the beginning of my love for travel stems from my interest in and love for history. My interest in history bloomed in the sixth grade with my excellent teacher who enthusiastically spoke of ancient history and inserted many fascinating stories and personal feelings into his absorbing narratives. Particular stories really had a lasting impact and among those was the story of the apocalyptic destruction of ancient Pompeii by the eruption of the Mount Vesuvius volcano in AD 79. The thought of the instantaneous destruction that froze people in place was both frightening and fascinating to me.
Pompeii tour with Walks of Italy
Our tour began in Rome early on a clear sunny morning. As we traveled by coach through the beautiful rural areas of the Campania region, our guide provided an interesting narrative pointing out key viewpoints and important historic locations. For example, she mentioned the Appian Way (another tidbit from my teacher that had intrigued me and now has regained my attention as a place to explore on a future trip) and pointed out vistas of the Apennines and picturesque landscapes. Nearing our destination, we saw Mount Vesuvius looming over the area.
Highlights and surprises of Pompeii
The archaeological discovery of Pompeii revealed many details of the way of life within the Roman Empire at that time so perfectly preserved by the volcanic ash that covered the city. What an amazing place to visit and see this window in time revealing a thriving city during a fascinating period in history, the Pax Romana.
It occurred to me that with Vesuvius still an active volcano, we were potentially vulnerable to Pompeii’s fate. The thought quickly faded as I sighted the ruins of Pompeii and became excited with thoughts of what we were about to see there today.
Our expert archaeologist Walks of Italy guide was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about all aspects of Pompeii, its history, and archaeological findings as she led us on an informative and enjoyable walking tour of Pompeii. My first impression as we began the tour and had our first glimpses of the city was that Pompeii was a much larger city that I had expected. I had always envisioned more of a village, but in the first century Pompeii was a thriving city populated by around 11,000 people (or more depending on which estimate you use — the surrounding area brought the total to at least 15,000).
We walked along the many streets of Pompeii stopping at key buildings along the way, especially ones that displayed particular aspects of Pompeii life, structures, art, or implements. Our tour was well-paced, enabling us to get questions answered and cover and explore most of the large area.
I was also surprised at how much of Pompeii had been excavated — about two-thirds of the area of the city. Its wide paved major streets, an expansive forum, and a large amphitheater were among the highlights that show that Pompeii was a city of significance at the time of the devastating eruption. Many important Romans owned houses there and it was also a vacation destination for other Romans.
The amphitheater was one of my favorite aspects of our tour. It is believed to be the first Roman amphitheater to have been made of stone. It is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater (built about 70 BC, it is over 100 years older than the Coliseum), and seated somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 people.
It was exciting to walk across the amphitheater floor and imagine the gladiator fights that took place there over two millennia ago. I thought it was fun to climb the stairs to the top row of the amphitheater and imagine spectators going to their seats.
Sweeney and I were both struck by one large wealthy family’s home which included courtyard gardens and colorful murals.
Another interesting aspect about Pompeii lifestyle was the row of brothels. In addition to graphic adornments on the front of each small chamber that identified the business, there were well-preserved murals depicting the services available to facilitate selection — particularly helpful because there were many different languages among clients and workers.
The forum was another impressive aspect of our tour. It was immense with numerous structures, aspects of life in Pompeii, and art. The aspects of the forum that remain enabled us to get a vision of what it might have looked like before the eruption. On the north side facing Vesuvius are remains (walls and columns) of the Temple of Jupiter, columns of the two-story arcades that flanked the west and east side, the Temple of Apollo, and the Basilica.
The baths were impressive for the level of restoration, its murals, and the impressive technology they used so long ago.
The final part of the tour was emotionally moving. We were able to see displays of plaster casts that were formed by filling the cavities left by decomposition of the bodies of people (and animals) frozen in the volcanic ash.
It really emphasized the speed with which the disaster struck though I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t as instantaneous as I had thought. Many in the city were actually able to escape.
I kept this recollection of the Pompeii tour quite high level and left out many sites and details. But hopefully, you can get a sense of what there is to see and you will get a chance to visit sometime to take a tour.
On the lighter side …
After our immersion into the deep and intense history in Pompeii, a drive of less than an hour south along the coast on the Bay of Naples gave us a chance to enjoy the beauty of this area. During peak season, the tour includes a stop in the town of Positano on the Amalfi Coast. During the off-season (November to March) when we visited, most businesses there are closed, so the beautiful city of Sorrento on the Bay of Naples is on the itinerary instead. Although not on the Amalfi Coast itself, Sorrento is a great base location for those wanting to enjoy the Amalfi Coast drive and towns such as Positano.
After a lunch of pizza (of course), we strolled the town high above the Bay of Naples taking in the panoramic views and cliffside buildings.
The narrow streets are lined with gift shops selling local specialties, especially all things lemon — from limoncello to ceramics painted with lemons.
And then it was back to Rome where over the next few days we continued to be immersed in ancient history worthy of the fascination instilled by my former teacher.
Editor’s tour notes:
- This is a full day tour from Rome, lasting about 13 hours. Expect to spend several hours in a comfortable coach traveling between Rome and Pompeii, from Pompeii to Sorrento (or from Pompeii to Positano), and then on the return to Rome. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the views and conversation with guides and fellow tourists.
- Group size is kept to under 15 people making it easy to stay connected with your group and have the ability to ask questions as you go along. The provided microphone/head-set system system allows you to clearly hear and follow your guide.
- VIP access is a wonderful thing! Pompeii is a major tourist attraction. With Walks of Italy, you won’t have to wait in line for tickets and entry.
- As we’ve found with other Walks of Italy tours, the guides are expert, entertaining, enthusiastic, and always ready to answer your questions.
- Visit Walks of Italy for booking and for information about this and other Pompeii tours.
Disclosure: Our Pompeii and Sorrento day trip from Rome was sponsored by Walks of Italy.
I hate to admit that we’ve never visited Pompeii despite our times in Italy; often times just down the road. Loved the tour you gave us and you’ve convinced me we need to go there the next time the opportunity presents itself!
Thanks for the comments. Summer sounds really crowded. Hope you get there soon.
We visited Pompeii years ago and I confess that I was disappointed. I think my expectations were too high. We didn’t go on a tour or have a guide of any sort, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if we had seen it with a guide.
The Walks of Italy guides are so good. I’m sure it was a key to our really liking Pompeii. As I think of having done it instead on our own, I know it would have enjoyed it a lot less.
We did this tour in 2015 but we stayed in Sorrento for a day to take in the ambiance around the Bay of Naples. Pompeii was indeed a great look at Roman life during the period.
Thanks for the comments. We hadn’t been to Naples or area and hope to get back to spend more time.
I too am interested in history. The tour of Pompeii would be fascinating and would certainly give a great look into Roman life. I am impressed by the amount of restoration that appears to be done.
Thanks for commenting. The amount excavated and its size/area were the biggest surprises for me.
Pompeii is on my bucket list. Enjoyed getting there a little sooner through your lovely images. And now I know I want to go on to Sorrento after for some of that gorgeous pizza!
Thanks. Hope you get there soon. Off-summer would be best. Views of bay alone make Sorrento worth a visit. Love pizza and this was very good.
It looks like you enjoyed Pompeii a lot more than we did on our visit maybe the key is doing a tour. We found some of the other sites much more interesting but did not see some of the things you mention.
Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear. Comment above similar. Even more convinced guide was the difference — especially Walks o Italy.
Sounds like a fantastic walk—13 hours sure is comprehensive!
Thanks to Mr. TWS for sharing the walk with your readers, too!
Thanks. 13 hours was the whole day, which included coach ride from and back to Rome and lunch and free time in Sorrento.
Walks of Italy sounds like a terrific company to look to for planning time in Italy. I didn’t realize that both Pompeii and Sorrento were both within reach of Rome. Sorrento has been on my list for a long time.
Thanks for the comments. Walks of Italy has been consistently good all the times we’ve tried them. Sorrento was a nice complement to Pompeii. Hope you get there soon.
I visited Sorrento on my Amalfi Coast Trip many years ago and loved it. Pompei is unique place place of Italy but quite tiring as it is huge. On sunny days it is nearly impossible to tour around. Luckily I was there on a cloudy day and could walk around for hours with no problems. You tour with Walks of Italy seems to be a good one! 🙂
WOI was great. I think in Nov. we got both sun and not too crowded. Good tip for summer visits. Thanks.
This looks and sounds fascinating! It reminds me a bit of the ancient city of Ephesus that we toured on our Greek Isles cruise. I’ve not yet been to Italy but if and when I go I would love to do this tour through Walks of Italy.
Hope you get to do it – I think you’ll really like it. Greek Isles on our bucket list. Thanks.
I’ve been wanting to go to Pompeii for years! The views are so incredible, and what a history! Exploring ancient ruins are one of my favorite things to do on my travels.
Thanks for commenting. Hope you get there soon. Sounds perfect for you. If you get there not from Rome, views would be something from Vesuvius hike too. Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, and Bay off Naples all good views too.
I am ashamed to say l have yet to visit Pompeii despite the many visits to Italy. Hopefully, I will rectify it soon. I love how well preserved Pompeii is. I love history too so l’m sure l would enjoy the guided tour very much.
This does sound like you would enjoy a lot. Hope you make it soon. From previous comments, tour (especially WOI) would add a lot. Thanks for commenting.
Glad you were able to visit a place that you’ve been exposed to through teachers and books. Very exciting. We loved Pompeii, too, and went on to see Herculaneum which we can recommend to you. All fascinating.
Thanks. I meant to mention Herculaneum as a tip. Really appreciate your mentioning. I wish everyone had teachers like that. It was great to tie this with the tour.
This sounds like a wonderful day! I’ve wanted to visit Pompeii since I was a kid, but somehow we’ve never gotten there — maybe that’s good, because it looks like they’ve done a lot more excavation over the years (decades). Thanks for the lovely virtual visit.
You’re welcome. And thanks for your comments. Hope you get there soon.
There was a fascinating exhibit of Pompeii artwork at the Royal Ontario Museum a few years ago and it was so interesting to learn about their way of life before the catastrophic explosion. It sounds as though Walks of Italy does a great job of bringing the Pompeii site to life.
We love, love, love Walks of Italy and this Pompeii and Sorrento tour looks spectacular! The Pompeii tour is something I regret not doing the last time we were in Rome and I’m drooling over the pizza right now…Thanks for sharing details of this wonderful tour – I hope to take it next time we’re in the area!
We did a tour with these folks in New York and loved it. They are a first-class organization. I traveled to Pompeii years ago and your tour and photos brought me right back there. I’d love to take their tour if I ever return to Pompeii.
What a day you had! Sorrento is one of my favorites, and Pompeii high on my “must visit” list. Love the tour info… always good to have on hand!
This was so much fun to read over! As a kid I was given a book called Readers Digest Omnibus.. essentially a book of short but true stories which included one about Pompeii.
I had always wanted to visit. In 1972 in Amsterdam, you could go to the street in front of the American Express office and young people going back home to wherever were selling their old vans. As long as it ran and you could sleep in it, it sold. Bought mine for $600 from a young guy going back to Los Angeles. We put 10,000 miles on it travelling all over Europe and Morocco before selling it for $750 in London.
In Pompeii, we camped for free in the parking lot of a nearby restaurant and met some young folks from Alabama doing the same thing. Bighest differences us and them was we were from Canada while they had a newborn on board the VW van they were living in…a really tiny little baby. The Italians lived up to the stereotype and were very gracious to them and to us despite being horrified that they would be travelling like that with such a young bambino.
Now my daughter has married a European, lives in Croatia and is expecting her first baby this year. We have to travel to see her so after reading your post, POMPEII HERE WE COME. Maybe Christmas in Napoli?
Love reading your stuff.
Oh wow, wasn’t expecting the brothels. Good warning in case I take my kids!