When I decided to travel back to Rome for the second time, I had a clear idea in mind: this time I couldn't miss out the ruins of Pompeii. I didn't have the time on my last visit, and Pompeii has been on my bucket list since then.
I spent a long time researching how to arrive from Rome to Pompeii, and it really wasn't worth the hassle getting there by public transport. I decided to take a day trip with City Wonders, and it was a great decision!
City Wonders is a tour operator based in Dublin, Ireland and they've been in the business for over 10 years. We chose City Wonders thanks to their wonderful reviews (they have Certificate of Excellence in Tripadvisor) and the VIP Pompeii and Sorrento tour from Rome was one of the highlights of our trip.
The tour meets at 7am just outside Termini station for a 7:15am sharp departure. The first leg of the trip is a 1h30m ride in high-speed train from Rome to Naples. This will save an incredible amount of time compared to the almost 4h that it can take by bus! The coordinators accommodated us on the train and we would later be picked up by our guide in Naples.
We arrived in Naples central station around 9am, where our guide was already waiting for us. From there, we boarded a private coach for a quick 20 minutes drive to the ruins of Pompeii.
On our way to Pompeii, we learnt about the almighty Mount Vesuvius, always visible no matter where you look. In ancient times, it was believed to be only a mountain, so the inhabitants of Pompeii were not aware that it was an active volcano. This is the reason why it caught everyone by surprise when it erupted in AD 79, burying and destroying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Fabian, our guide, would accompany us throughout our trip. He was born in Capri (an island just off the coast of Naples) but raised in the UK with, of course, an excellent English and an endless amount of knowledge.
At arrival in Pompeii, we started our guided visit with Stefano, a Pompeii local guide. Guided tours in Pompeii are only allowed with one of their official guides, which guarantees they will be absolute experts on the history of the city. The tour lasted roughly two hours, which I'd say is enough to discover all the main highlights.
We were very lucky to have access to some of the domus, the houses of the Roman aristocrats that have recently been open to the public. Their interiors are just beautiful and you can still enjoy the paintings with their original colours and pigments.
Our guide taught us some very interesting facts that we could've never figured out ourselves, from how to identify the richest houses thanks to the colours they used to paint their walls, to where the brothel of the city was located (although the signs on the floor pointing to it were quite explicit!).
Did you also know that Pompeii used to be a port town, but the sea moved over 2 km away after the volcano erupted? Amazing, right?
The tour ended in the main square, with the silhouette of Mt. Vesuvius as the background. Here, you will also find the body casts. The story of how they were created is rather incredible. When archaeologists were excavating Pompeii, they found hollow pockets in the ash that they believed were filled with human bones. Instead of excavating further down, they decided to pour plaster into the hollows, getting back the shape of bodies from citizens of Pompeii that died after the volcano erupted and had been buried by the ashes. The bodies are so realistic that I'm sure you won't stay indifferent.
The ruins of Pompeii are a lot larger than I expected, with hectares of land still un-excavated. I've been to countless ancient cities, but Pompeii was just astonishing. When the Vesuvius erupted almost 2000 years ago, the city was completely covered in ash, which helped to preserve the lower part of most buildings, remaining almost intact until today in an excellent state.
If you're a history lover, Pompeii clearly doesn't disappoint and is a must for any traveller.
After a short break and some free time to wander around the ruins, we said goodbye to the Pompeii local guide and continued our trip with Fabian. The views of the Costiera Sorrentina were just spectacular: from houses on the cliffs to beaches with crystalline water surrounded by green mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea. You'll have plenty of photo opportunities on the way.
In Sorrento, we had a small walking tour just to get familiar with the city and make sure we found our way back after our free time.
After a long day, our first stop was for lunch. We followed our guide's recommendation and went for a restaurant with amazing views of Sorrento and the sea. They had set menus as well as à la carte options, all at a very reasonable price considering the location.
After lunch, we got to experience the typical limoncello, an Italian lemon liquor produced in the Sorrentine Peninsula. You can find pretty much anything made with limoncello, from pure liquor to cookies and candy, all delicious! We also saw a live demonstration of cameo carving, which although it's not something that I would buy myself, I have to admit it's absolutely incredible the masterpieces they can create with the gems. You have to see it yourself if you've got the chance!
After a good two hours of free time in Sorrento, we headed back to Naples central train station in our private coach, followed by another 1h30m ride by high-speed train.
All in all, even though it was a rather long day (over 12h in total), it wasn't as tiring as it sounds. Saving over 3h travel time each way thanks to the high-speed train is highly appreciated and gives you an important amount of time that you can spend enjoying Pompeii or Sorrento instead. Organising this tour on your own can be a bit of a nightmare due to the unreliable and scarce public transport between Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento. If you want to have a comfortable and stress-free experience with knowledgeable guides, you might want to check City Wonder's tour!
Price: €219 per adult
Inclusions: high-speed train tickets from Rome to Naples, private couch for the rest of the itinerary. 2h guided tour in Pompeii with a local guide, guided stroll in Sorrento. Limoncello tasting. Groups of up to 15 people. Entrance fees.
All opinions are my own.
Have you visited the ruins of Pompeii or Sorrento? Let me know what you thought of them in the comments below.
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