Pompeii – with or without children

Years after my first and only visit to Pompeii, I am still in awe.

Ancient kitchen

Ancient kitchen

Many of the excavations at Pompeii have been well-preserved – some better than others – so it’s not difficult to really get an idea of what life might have been like. I remember standing in what was a residence, looking at a cooking area, and thinking, “This was someone’s kitchen.” Mind = blown. Then there is the craftsmanship, how well everything was built, from the roads to the amphitheaters. So many of the frescoes are still intact and are absolutely vibrant. They’re like windows to the past, through which visitors can get a glimpse of how people, especially the wealthy, lived.

My daughter was two years old when we visited Pompeii. Based on my experience there with her, I suggest the following for families:

  • If visiting Pompeii with infants and younger children, ditch the stroller and consider using a child carrier backpack. Navigating the ancient, cobblestone streets of Pompeii with a stroller would be difficult, bumpy, and uncomfortable for you and your child.
  • Bring snacks, drinks, and possibly even a sack lunch. I’d read ahead of time that dining options inside and outside the gates are not plentiful. We bought some sandwiches at a shop near our hotel in Naples to bring with. It worked out perfectly; we had a nice little picnic lunch near l’anfiteatro.
  • Please understand the significance of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and realize how fragile it is. For these reasons and for the safety of your children, please DO NOT allow them to climb or play on the ruins. I witnessed, with my own eyes, children climbing on and therefore damaging the excavations, and their parents said and did nothing to stop them. The family spoke a language I didn’t recognize but it didn’t stop me from saying something to them. I’m not sure they understood the words I spoke, but I think my tone and body language did well enough to convey the message.

191417_10150145938355869_7793145_oThese next suggestions apply to everyone visiting Pompeii, with or without children:

  • Spend the extra 5€ or so for the audio guide. It’s one thing to view the ruins on your own and say, “Oh, that’s cool,” but it’s an entirely different experience when you can hear the history of the individual sites.
  • If you’re staying in Naples, take the Circumvesuviana to Pompeii. It’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to get there. And it’s another excuse to ride the train, something my daughter still loves to do!
  • If you can’t get enough of Pompeii, or it just didn’t make your Italy trip itinerary, be sure to check out the Naples National Archaeological Museum. It houses a large collection of artifacts and mosaics from Pompeii and it is absolutely fascinating.

I’m so glad we didn’t skip Pompeii just because our daughter was so young. It’s definitely doable with children, so long as you’re prepared.

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18 Responses to Pompeii – with or without children

  1. Ana Silva O'Reilly (@mrsoaroundworld) November 22, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    I have never been to this part of Italy. Now I may have to! Thanks for this! And Happy Thanksgiving

    • Francesca November 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      Thanks, Ana. Our Thanksgiving was wonderful! I can’t speak highly enough about visiting Pompeii. It really is something.

  2. Raul (@ilivetotravel) November 23, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Francesca, those kids running around the ruins would have TICKED ME OFF too but more towards the parents – how ignorant and irresponsible!! Also, seeing Pompeii and not hiring a guide or getting the audioguide borders also on ignorance (not to say cheap) – the place is a treasure trove of fascinating insights into a world long lost that most who go, only visit once. You advice on this, the stroller, etc. is spot on!!!

    • Francesca November 23, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

      Raul, I was furious – not with the kids, but with the parents, as you say. We kept trying to get away from them but it was like they were following us. Ugh. A guide is a must, you’re right – whether it’s a live person or the audio guide. We went with the latter because it fit better in our budget. Have to be sensible when traveling with the little ones 🙂

  3. Traveling Ted (@travelingted) November 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Great tips for the family crowd in Pompeii. I guess another one would be not to climb the volcano with young kids, but that is probably a no brainer..

    • Francesca November 28, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      How did I forget that one, Ted?!

  4. The World Wanderer (@TheWrldWanderer) November 24, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Pompeii is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, but never been. You, Leah, and Lola are convincing me it’s time to get there already!

    • Francesca November 28, 2012 at 11:37 am #

      Yeah, it’s time 🙂

  5. Lazy Travelers (@lazytravelers) November 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    we didn’t make it to pompeii when it italy, but it’s definitely on our list for our (hopefully soon) next trip!

    • Francesca November 28, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      For sure. Don’t miss it!

  6. D.J. - The World of Deej November 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    Hope to make it to Pompeii, and Italy as a whole for that matter, really soon. Good to know the little ones can enjoy it too, although that won’t apply too much to me:)

    • Francesca November 28, 2012 at 11:45 am #

      Ya never know, Deej 🙂 Your nephew might want to go there in a few years.

  7. Pola (@jettingaround) November 26, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    I remember that kitchen!! 🙂 I had a great time visiting Pompeii and it’s definitely worth a trip. Nice photo of you and good tips!

    • Francesca November 28, 2012 at 11:45 am #

      Thanks, Pola! You seriously remember that kitchen?! How awesome!

  8. Lisa November 26, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    We visited Pompeii with our kids just over a year ago and were also blown away by just how well-preserved the city is. Mine were 15 and 8 but your advice about snacks/drinks still applies. We were there in August and even though we arrived first thing in the morning the heat was soon unbearable. We ran out of water very quickly and had to stop at a little snack shop to rest for a few minutes, have a snack and buy more water.

    • Francesca November 28, 2012 at 11:47 am #

      Oh yes, Lisa, I imagine the heat and sun are unbearable. There is no shade. We were there in March so it was still a bit cool. Definitely pack plenty of water and, if going in the warmer/summer months, lots of sunscreen.

  9. craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) November 28, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Ah, there is such a lure to Pompeii to see what was….someday I hope to make it there when I return to Italy… great tips.
    stay adventurous, Craig

    • Francesca November 28, 2012 at 11:48 am #

      Thanks, Craig. Visiting a place like Pompeii is the next best thing to having a time machine.

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