Pompeii has become a major tourist destination, receiving an average of 2.5 million visitors per year. While fewer buildings are open for viewing today than several decades ago, many portions of the city are the center of tourism activities. As a result, Pompeii is suffering from the impacts caused by mass tourism.
Pompeii is located in Southern Italy, not far from the major city of Napoli (Naples). Looming Mt. Vesuvius is the perfect backdrop to this monumental location. You can get to the area in a few hours by bus (even less by train) from Rome. Once you’ve arrived at the site, you will just need your admissions ticket to be ready to explore!
The History of Pompeii
In 79 AD, the thriving city of Pompeii was buried in an ash storm when Mt. Vesuvius exploded. This storm lasted three days and three nights, covering everything in over 20 feet of volcanic ash. The initial discovery of the ruins occurred in 1748 and excavation work continues to this day.
Interesting facts about Pompeii
- It was a multi-racial port city where everything was broken into classes.
- The ash that covered the city was mineral-rich volcanic ash. When it was removed from the site, they plowed into the nearby farming fields, making the area lush.
- The streets in Pompeii run in direction from north to south and are smaller. Avenues, which are larger, run east to west and follow the direction of the sun.
- The concept of going to the spa started with bath houses here. Spa is an acronym for sanus per aquam, which means “health through water”.
- They used innovative techniques to create steam in the bath house.
Pompeii, Italy is a critical, and well known, part of Western cultural history and the entire world. Many efforts have gone into preserving Pompeii, which is also a UNESCO world heritage site. When visiting the site, workers are scattered about toiling away at preservation and protection efforts.
Like many historic places, Pompeii deals with a variety of conservation issues. They are working to lessen the impacts. Presently, there are six major conservation problems:
- ordinary decay
- inadequate water management
- damage from UV radiation
- overgrown vegetation
- incompatible conservation and restoration work from earlier generations
- visitors (tourists).
Work is being done to conserve the site and restore structures. Pompeii is at risk of being added to the List of World Heritage Sites in danger list.
There are ways you can make your time here have fewer negative impacts
The first thing you can do during time here is really, really easy. In fact, you should implement this easy step into all travel practices. All you have to do is watch the movements of the crowds! When visiting Pompeii, most visitors confine themselves to a small, popular area of the city. This causes overcrowding in certain places while some areas are overlooked and virtually empty. The average visitor spends only a few minutes in Pompeii seeing the “must-see” sights – primarily the bath houses and brothels. While it’s important not to miss the “must-see locations”, check out some of the other areas too to help ease congestion.
You can also visit in the off-season like we did! Not only will this help you avoid crowds, but you will also enjoy cooler temperatures in this highly exposed area.
It is really important though to stay in established areas when exploring. Don’t wander off the paths or go into closed areas! Just because you see footprints in “closed off areas” doesn’t mean it’s ok for you to go in there too. Staying on designated paths is key.
You may be tired, but try not to lean against the walls while you are here. If everyone who visits the site were to lean on the walls, it would only cause further deterioration. Also, be aware of leaning on walls when trying to take pictures from a certain angle. There is no need to climb on the ruins in attempts to get a better shot. You can still interact very closely with the ruins without actually touching things. Wearing good walking shoes is important. Not only are the streets very uneven but there are not many designated sitting areas. It is always a good idea to be weary of where you sit.
Traveling to a historical site like Pompeii? Remember these displays are very fragile, so don’t touch anything that is older than you. Click To Tweet
Do not splash water on a mosaic in attempts to freshen it up and try not to use your flash when photographing frescoes. Yes, it happens!
Be mindful of garbage. I cannot tell you how many pieces of spit-out gum I noticed on the ancient streets.
As a general rule, do not touch anything older than you! Tourists do this stuff every single day and it does have consequences!
What You Will See
Although many parts of Pompeii have not been excavated and other parts are now blocked off, there still is a lot to see here. The area is steeped in rich history. As you work your way through a small portion of the city, anticipate:
- Ancient city streets with indentations from the carriages
- Newly incorporated sculptures
- Bars, bakeries, and other businesses
- Brothels in the red light district with menus of services
- Plumbing systems
- Pottery, pillars, and casts
- Amazing views of Mt. Vesuvius
What You Won’t See
There is so much to explore! Its hard to believe that people can breeze through this site so quickly. Our visit here lasted over an hour and I feel there were many things we missed. My previous visit to Pompeii happened nearly 20 years prior. While I realized that was some time ago, there was one thing that really stood out to me on our recent visit. Where are the casts of all the bodies?! If my memory serves me, I recall the casts of several bodies located throughout the site. I simply did not see them this time. Don’t get me wrong, everything you see here is incredibly interesting. And, there are some things (the cast of the dog) which upset me. But, where is everything else from all those years ago? I just had to wonder about this. Several pieces are in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. But, seeing them in Pompeii many years ago was more impactful. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but I felt this was part of Pompeii’s history. Personally, I feel this may be a result of the deterioration this site is struggling with.
Generally, people are able to visit Pompeii without being required to be part of a guided tour and without limited admissions each day. Good behavior on every visitor’s part will help lessen our impact while there, and will inspire others to also be responsible. We can all help preserve this historical site for future generations to come.
We really enjoyed this post for a couple of reasons. It brought back fond memories of our visit, and it reinforced what we think should have been reinforced at the park somehow: The ruins are ancient and susceptible to damage and erosion. Please treat them well! We were surprised that tourists were allowed to run pretty much unsupervised. While most did stay on the paths and treat the ruins with respect, there are always a few bad apples. Great post, Jenn!
There’s always a few bad apples! It’s really interested because I know all those years ago, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should, but there’s things I remembered about it. On this visit, those things seemed to be MIA and it’s a mystery as to why. So glad you enjoyed the post and the memories it brought you!
I can’t believe you can’t see the casts anymore! I have never been to Pompeii (although I really want to) but I thought this was one of the main things to see. Don’t get me wrong, seeing 2000 year old buildings is impressive but there are a couple of places where this can be seen. Where else can we see humans naturally preserved? Very strange…
It was strange. I remember walking throughout the area and passing by them in the places there were originally discovered when I visited nearly 20 years ago.
Great advice for respectful travel. It is such a shame to see people not adhering to the rules. Great post. #feetdotravel
It’s so easy… I can’t imagine why people behave otherwise.
Pompeii is the top of my Italy bucket list as it wasn’t included in my tour when I visited. It’s so full of history and I’m a sucker for a tragic story (goodness knows why!). Excellent informative post, not just about Pompeii but what we can do to minimise our impact; just simple suggestions but ones we all need to be reminded of (so sad about the gum though, darn chewing gum!!). Thanks for sharing #feetdotravel
Glad you enjoyed the post! Seriously could not believe all the gum I saw. Even worse, I can’t believe how many people have scratched their names into the walls at the Colloseum! 😔
Thanks for sharing and some really good points about how to enjoy the site that could be applied to many places around the world. As travellers, we are privileged to be able to visit some of these incredible places and should show them and the people in them the utmost respect. Preserving these sites is important so that future generations of explorers can enjoy them as well!
Absolutely! There’s many easy things traveler’s can do to help protect the areas for others!
Good advice Jenn, these ancient sites are so precious. I hope to make it to Pompeii one day!
Glad you liked it! You’ll love it when you do make it to Pompeii!
Lots of great tips here. I really enjoyed our visits to Pompeii and it is important to try as a tourist to lessen our impact. The last time I was there all the casts of the bodies were in one open fronted shed type building – quite a disturbing sight I felt.
The sheds mostly had cases and stuff like that on our visit. Just 3 casts…
I was at Pompeii a couple of years ago and wondered where the cast were, too. My favorite part was seeing the grooves in the roads made from carts thousands of years ago.
Ok, I’m glad it’s not just me! We even went to the National Archaeological Museum in Napoli and they weren’t there either! Weren’t the ruts amazing?!?
once again I’ve realized just how important it it is to preserve the great masterpieces of the past for future generations and eventually for eternity.
Yes, it’s very important that we respect the places we visit!
Oh wow, I wish I had gone in 2013. We almost made it but had to turn around because of a bad traffic accident that day. I’m going to put this higher up on my bucketlist now. Awesome post. 🙂
Oh no! I’m sure you will make it there some day. The bucket lists just continue to grow, don’t they?!
We loved Pompeii! It was so much larger than I imagined. We were there for 4 hours and still only managed to see about 1/4 of the entire city. I like to take my time and look at every nook, cranny, and room and imagine what life was like back then. I’m glad we didn’t spot any tourist being disrespectful to the ruins and preserved history during our time there.
I wish we could have spent more time there. I think that’s part of why we maybe didn’t see some things.
So much history! Thanks for all the advice. We hope we get a chance to visit soon.
It is such a cool place! And they are still doing excavation work there!
Great post, preserving the ancient sites is really important and everyone can contribute to it. I hope I can make it to Pompeii one day. Thanks for sharing.
You’ll love it when you get there! It is such an important historical place – very cool indeed!
The casts of the bodies have been moved to the Museum of Naples and placed under climate controlled conditions as they were deteriorating due to weather conditions. This had been done to preserve them and for ethical reasons.
Really good post! I wish more people would consider this kind of thing when they are visiting ancient sites.
I also find it interesting to hear how many parallels there are with visiting hiking spots – people always seem to cram into the same few trails, plus littering/walking off the official trails can cause issues. I wonder if they will ever limit the numbers to pompei or pay staff to watch over the most popular sights to help guide people/protect the city.
These are great tips for anyone visiting Pompeii! It is so important to preserve this incredible site! Pompeii is somewhere I’d love to visit one day, so I’ll be sure to keep your tips in mind. Thanks for the great guide!
I loved visiting Pompeii, but I saw a lot of tourist climbing on things and really not being respectful of the site. It’s one place you definitely need to be sustainable minded when you visit.
Great information. Pompeii is a very interesting site and, I agree, it is over visited. I spent several hours there, and still didn’t see everything. I loved seeing the lush frescos and the mosaics in the villas.
I’d love to visit Italy someday and hopefully make it to Pompeii. Loved reading about the history and seeing your pictures! Forever wishing everyone would be responsible tourists.