Nearly 2000 years ago the citizens of the Roman city of Pompeii came to face their destiny, which was the volcano to the north. Ash rained on rich and poor alike, and few were able to escape the fate that is now etched in history. Their misfortune was a boon to modern archaeologists, because the rapid burial preserved a snapshot of one day in the life of Pompeii.
Pompeii is today an active archaeological site, along with adjacent Herculaneum. Round out your visit to southern Italy with a tour of the archeological park, and make an entire day of it. A full day is required to take in the whole of the ancient ruins, and park accommodations include a substantial restaurant and a souvenir shop.
Ancient Pompeii is long dead, but the town lives on as a modern city adjacent to the ruins. What is remarkable is to stand in the restored amphitheater and gaze at the modern world a short distance away. Contemplate the chain of history that transpired from that day in the year 79 up to today, all the while ancient Pompeii stood frozen in time.
The local train from Naples to Sorrento stops across the road from the park entrance, but you must take the Pompeii Scavi train. This train is run by a private company that does not accept the Eurail Pass, however the fare is just a few Euros. Between Naples and Sorrento the rail line splits, and the other train bypasses the ruins. Purchase your ticket to the park at the entrance and pick up your copy of the guide map before entering the park. The guide comes with your ticket, but they don’t hand them out inside the park.
Learn from my experience. If you take the east exit (Porta di Stabia) you will find yourself taking an arduous hike along a street with no shoulders to get back to the train platform. Exit near where you came in, at Porta Marina across the street from the station.
You can finish your day dining at one of the restaurants along Via Plinio (if you exit Porta di Stabia), or you can catch the train on into Sorrento and make a night of it. This is highly recommended.