I have yet to visit Pompei city despite accidentally buying a ticket to it, one of those absurd tourist moments when faced with various ticket machines, but did make it to Pompeii. We were recommended two places to go and see, Pompeii and Herculaneum. In fact many said Herculaneum was the better of the two to visit, but unfortunately I don’t know whether this is true having only time to visit the one. Perhaps Herculaneum is better for not being the main tourist place, but in fact that is why I chose Pompeii. For the same reason people enjoy pictures of themselves outside Big Ben (or why I would take a cheesey selfie by a yellow cab in New York) it feels like stepping into an iconic place. One of the TV landscapes that suddenly you find yourself standing in. Unfortunately I did not run into David Tenant or Peter Capaldi (yes, they were in an episode together), but I did enjoy walking around the ruins.
For a place mainly of sandy coloured stone, I remember the colours being prettiest. We were there on a hot day – of course – and the sky was bright blue next to the sandy yellow. This was broken at times by sudden vibrant greens and bright, bright pinks. Flowers flourishing amongst the ruins. We followed the main street up from the entrance as everyone seemed to, and then wandered freely about. Sometimes we over-heard bits of a tour, and took advantage of the free snippets of information to look out for a recognisable part of a room. Stone blocks that we saw, if I heard correctly, were bars from food places (like cafés I think) that were common.
The building with the casts in is an odd place. It is a suddenly modern building, triangular in shape. Sobering, obviously, but also cool. Very relaxing to sit in during the heat of the day, and filled along the seated edge with chattering people. The casts lie in the middle, out of place against the tour groups and pale wood. I think I would like to see that room empty, as I’m sure has been said by many a tourist. To view the casts in silence would be as quietening as I’m sure first intended. It is amazing to see people preserved at the point of death, and the person with the child was the most dis-quietening. That and the person slightly crouched, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was against the heat suddenly surrounding them.
If planning a visit yourself, and going via Naples, we found by train was a good way (though I’m sure there are coaches/tours). You don’t buy your ticket from the main station, but go downstairs and keep following a long wide corridor until you reach another ticket area. This is the smaller rail network (and is hard to find online). We ended up on a different platform almost on our way to Pompei city when a kind gentleman explained our mistake. At the time I was annoyed the ticket person was not more helpful (we had somehow been turned away from the correct place) however now, less hot and grumpy, I have sympathy what with the busy crowds all trying to speak anything other than Italian.
We stood on a small, crowded train until an announcement made everyone run from that train to an empty one a platform across from us. We followed and managed to get seats. I asked a friendly American girl sat across from us, who had far superior Italian, if she understood if we were on the correct train. She said no. She also said the locals she had asked weren’t sure either. For some reason that was reassuring.
It turned out we were on the correct train, and we managed to get off at the correct stop. It is very close to the ruins, you just turn right (as far as I remember) past a few stalls and up hill. We bought tickets at the entrance and were on our way, finally site seeing after a slightly problematic journey. For a few tips on walking around I would say be well-covered (there is very little shade) and bring your own refreshments – especially water. We found an ice cream place in the centre, very expensive obviously, but other than that there was little nourishment available that we saw. You get given a map and so can plan a route, we did not really plan much until the end (veering right on the way back to try and take in more of the ruins). It is a big place and will probably take some organising to see everything, we were content with seeing a lot.
Our train ride back was also problematic. The platform was incredibly crowded when we arrived and we still had a reasonably long wait (the train must have been very delayed). We were crammed onto the train, sardines would have been an understatement, and my friend saw someone take advantage of the frantically busy conditions to pick-pocket as they shoved people further onto the carriage. I was busy grabbing her hand and running to a carriage further along before the train left. We stood for the journey, of course, and made it back without being too flattened. It was not far, but it was a definite relief to be back in Naples.
My favourite part, odd as it may be for such a place, was the flowers. The sudden vibrant colours were so unexpected after rows of dusty stone that they stood out beautifully.