When I was in first grade my mom took me to an amazing exhibit about Pompeii. That experience is still engraved in my mind. It totally shaped me. So, my choice for one day in Naples is very easy: I recommend a visit to Pompeii or Herculaneum.
The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried in a volcanic eruption in 79 AD – freezing and preserving a slice of Roman life in vivid detail. The excavations of both cities are remarkable places to visit, and Herculaneum tends to be less crowded than Pompeii.
The archaeological parks, Soprintenza Archeologica di Napoli i Pompeii, aren’t too far from the cruise ships and are accessible by train. The website has information about how to do this depending on where your ship docks. The trip is a day-long event. Be sure to plan for the heat as the park is large and largely out of doors.
For your visit to Pompeii, you might consider hiring a guide. This doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition – generally under €100 per hour for a family-sized group, and an experienced guide can make navigating an unfamiliar city much easier. Indeed, they can also make the ruins like those a Pompeii or Herculaneum come alive in a way that even the best guidebook can’t.
A note about guides:
In Italy as in most European countries, professional guides must be licensed. They take extensive university-level coursework in Italian history and must pass rigorous exams proving their competency before being granted a license. Sadly, there are lots of people out there who masquerade as licensed guides accosting overwhelmed travelers and offering them guided tours of the Colosseum, the Forum, etc. They often gather as travelers disembark from cruise ships or stand in lines at places like the Vatican Museums.
Please do not hire them.
First, they aren’t licensed, so you are taking away business from the people who have worked really hard to become tour guides. I have listened to some of them speak and the “history” they are schilling is pathetically incorrect. But more importantly, you are risking your safety. There are reports of tourists being robbed and worse by criminals who offer to show them around the city. If you want a guided tour (and I highly recommend it), contract with a licensed guide.
If you want to hire a guide:
When I take groups of travelers to Italy, I work exclusively with Experience Italy. They only plan travel in Italy, and they are fantastic! Be sure to tell Dick and Lori that I sent you. They will take good care of you.
I’ve included a few other sites on the map of Naples that may be of interest to you including:
- Church of San Francesco di Paola
- Il Duomo
- Cappella Sansevero
View Cruise Week: Italy in a larger map
- Italylogue.com recently ran a series about visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum on your own. They have great advice about both locations and some general tips as well:
- A Traveller's History of Italy by Valerio Lintner: my favorite series of easy-to-read histories. I think the Italy volume is particularly good, and it will give you a clear understanding of the political, geographical, and cultural differences of each Italian region.
- And for more restaurant recommendations, check out Cellar Tours' list of the 10 Best Pizzerias in Naples.
Questions about Naples? Post them here!
Tomorrow: on to Rome!
All photos courtesy of Erick Photomurals.