A Weekend In Naples: Vesuvio & Pompeii

Welcome to part 2.

I have previously spoken about my experience of travelling during COVID-19 and last time, wrote about my first impressions and experience of Naples in part 1. On day 2, I headed out for a jam-packed day of walking, hiking and little did I realise at the time – burning and not knowing it.

On longer trips, unless there is something time-specific, I normally take my time and leave where I’m staying around 9am, get back to get ready for dinner at 5pm, go eat and head back to bed. I only had two full days in Naples so it was important I fit in as much as I could. Instead of 6-7 hours of sightseeing a day, I was aiming for 12 hours each day. My feet would soon hate me for that – It was worth it.

Sunday 6th September

On Sunday morning I woke up at 6:30am to get ready as I needed to leave the apartment by 7:15am. I was aiming to get the Circumvesuviana train from Stazione di Napoli Centrale which is the easiest train for you to get as a tourist. When you reach the train station, keep your belongings close, hidden and be confident, especially if you are a solo female traveller. Nothing extremely awful will happen but it is a known hotspot for targetting tourists for pickpocketing. I always recommend using an anti-theft bag. Mine for example packs from the back so no-one can reach into my pockets while both straps are on my shoulders (find my recommended items for safer travel here.)

Once at the central station, the Circumvesuviana train line is downstairs, there are plenty of signs so you can’t get lost. As I was heading to Pompeii Scavi Station, I got the Sorrento train from platform 3. I understand these trains run 2 or 3 times an hour and only costs €2.80. I was really surprised to see the trains covered top to bottom in bright graffiti, not in a bad way though. Whether they are like that intentionally or not, who knows.

So i got the train from Napoli Centrale at about 08:15am and arrived at Pompeii Scavi around 25 minutes later. My ticket for Mount Vesuvius was for 11am so I stopped for coffee and breakfast at one of the little cafés not far from the train station first. You will also find little shops for water, snacks etc.

Mount Vesuvius

Due to the pandemic, you currently have to book your tickets to Mount Vesuvius in advance via Viva Ticket. You choose a time slot, and this slot allows you to enter during a 60-minute window which is 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after your slot. However, you can stay there as long as you like. This is just to limit how many people enter at any one time.

The easiest way to get to Vesuvius is to get the EAV bus from outside Pompeii Scavi station for €3.10 each way and takes about 50 minutes. You get the same bus from where it drops you off on the way back down too. This takes you up to the car park that is up the side of the volcano. I got the bus at 9:40am and was up at Vesuvius by 10:30am. They ask you to wear your mask and take your temperature before you enter the path to the crater, however, in 28 degrees Celcius heat and hiking up a steep volcano, once out of sight of the entrance gate everyone removed their masks and just kept apart from one another.

Although the hike up to the edge of the crater isn’t a particularly long walk, it was harder than I was expecting. The ground is so loose and steep that for each step forward you take, you slide back half a step. The views certainly make up for that. Once you make the first corner on the main path you are greeted with the most stunning views of Vesuvio Archaeological Park and Naples.

Halfway up the path is a place to stop and buy water. Being so exposed on the walk up, I recommend you take a full bottle up with you and buy a spare before you start walking. The walk was breathtaking. Not only because little asthmatic me was panting away in need of her inhaler, but as all the towns came into view, with the ocean behind them, it was just absolutely beautiful.

The best moment for me was not realising I had reached the crater. I stepped up onto a path to see Pompeii, the sea, Riserva Statale Valle delle Ferriere ahead of me and then the huge volcanic crater to the left. You can then take your time walking around it. I think this is where I really caught the sun as it’s cooler due to how high up you are, but you are so exposed and there’s no shade. I explored and then sat down and took it all in, just happy to get to finally tick it off of my bucket list.

Pompeii

Once I got back to Pompei at around 2pm, I headed to the Pompeii Archaeological Ruins. You need to buy your ticket ahead for this too, I recommend the site I used for a ‘skip the line’ – Tiqets. The EAV bus drops you back off outside Pompeii Scavi which is a 2-minute walk, max, from the entrance to the ruins.

I was pre-warned about Pompeii ruins before I went. So many people told me about how it was a tourist trap and that it can be so busy it could ruin the experience. Due to the pandemic, the site was absolutely dead. It was so quiet that I have so many photos and videos in which not one other person is in them.

The way that the city has been frozen in time is hauntingly beautiful. How you can make out the facial expressions of people from the casts made from their final moments, how some of the belongings that were found are still in amazing condition. The history there was one of the most fascinating and best things I have ever seen. You can visit old bars, bakeries, houses and villas. You can walk the streets in which they used to walk themselves and push their carts – which you can tell by the grooves in the road.

My favourite moment was sitting in the ampitheatre where they used to watch Gladiators fight before Vesuvius buried it in 79AD along with the rest of the city. The site was so quiet I got to sit on the floor for 10 minutes, with noone else in there, listening to Pink Floyd being played quietely in the background from their performance at the ampitheatre in 1972.

I know people have their views about travelling during a pandemic, but that experience right there made it worth it for me. I expect I will never have the opportunity again to experience the ruins the way I did that day.

All you need is traditional pizza and great company

After leaving the Pompeii ruins, I walked through the modern side of Pompei in search of food. I found a lovely little pizza restaurant where I was able to sit outside and watch the world go by while I tucked into traditional Neapolitan Pizza and Peroni. You can’t visit the Compania region and not eat a traditional pizza.

10 minutes in I was joined by two travellers from Amsterdam. Complete strangers, but the most fascinating pair I have ever met. Both had been travelling throughout the pandemic except for when they got stuck during a lockdown. Meeting them and sharing experiences over dinner was one of the highlights of my trip.

A lot of people ask me whether travelling on my own ever gets lonely. It really doesn’t. I love that I have more opportunities to meet new people and speak to locals, which you definitely don’t do as much when you have someone with you. But also, it gives me the opportunity to spend time with me, myself and I. Learning to love your own company and having a good relationship with yourself is something we all can learn to do a little more of.

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