I was going to achieve the impossible: Paestum, Pompeii and Herculaneum, all in one day. It worked, although I did make a minor error… but now you don’t have to! Isn’t blogging great.
This is a day where all the credit goes to my Campania artecard. It was only €25 and it’s awesome. I think it gets less awesome if you are over 25 or not an EU citizen (dammit Brexit) so sorry about that
The basic idea is that you get to go to a whole bunch of places for free, and also use all the trains for free, and roll around in your free-ness feeling free and awesome.
Ready? Let’s begin.
Step One: activate your artecard
i.e. write the time and date of your first train on the back of your artecard. You now have 72 hours to make the most of it. The time you write should be…
Step Two: train to Paestum
…the 7.25 from Garibaldi station in Naples. Yes, I know it’s early, but it’s fine. Grow up. The train will be a REG train towards Sapri and will leave from one of the main platforms in the station. It takes about 1h15 and you can have a little nap.
Step Three: arrive in Paestum
When you leave the station in Paestum you just need to walk straight ahead. It’s a beautiful walk, through fields and old walls. You have 20 minutes so take your time, it’s only a 10 minute walk at full pelt. At the end of the long road, take a right and walk down the street. There should be hotels and gift shops and the museum on your right before you see the entrance to the site on your left.
You have to get your ticket in the museum: just show them your artecard and they give you a ticket for free. This is the first time you’ve used your artecard so feel free to be nervous and then happy when it works.
Step Four: beautiful Greek ruins
Congratulations! You have arrived and it’s only just opened. You’re the only person here, it’s still quite cool, and you have three incredible old temples all to yourself. You have two hours so knock yourself out. I spent a while over on the far side of the site playing in an old wall.
You could also check our the museum, which I did because I needed to steal some phone charge. There was a lovely exhibition at the back about different types of dye used in ancient times.
Step Five: leave Pasestum
It’s 11 o’clock, go go go! Back down the street, back down the road, arrive at the station, get on the 11.20 to Salerno. It’s the near platform and it’s very important. If you miss this train there isn’t another train until 14.00. Not good.
(You may have guessed that I missed the 11.20 to Salerno and it was not good, although I did go to the beach in the meantime. It’s not a great beach but it was better than sitting on a platform).
At Salerno, you change onto any train to Pompeii (not Pompeii Scavi, since you are on the wrong line for this). If you have a little wait you should buy some snacks since what’s about to happen will not be pretty.
Step Six: walk to Pompeii
I did not take an efficient route to Pompeii Scavi (i.e. the archeological site). Unfortunately I was being pursued by an enthusiastic Italian youth who later tried to steal my phone, but that’s a story for a different day… anyway, in running away from the youth I got lost and confused and took a really long route.
Just walk straight ahead out of Pompeii station, across the square, left on the via Roma and continue until people in yellow T shirts start trying to sell you tickets. Do not buy their tickets: you already have a ticket. Well…
Step Seven: …buy a ticket
So Pompeii are playing this trick that although the actual entrance to the site is free (with an artecard), you have to pay extra for the ‘special exhibition’. You say, “oh, it’s fine, I don’t want to go to the special exhibition”. Unfortunately, it’s not optional. I think the extra was around €5 and obviously it’s annoying but Italy. You buy this ticket from the booth on the right hand side of the main entrance. They will give you a map for your trouble, which is very kind I guess.
Step Eight: Pompeii
Here’s the deal: it’s big, it’s very impressive, it’s famous…. it’s also crowded, hot, and kinda overwhelming. A lot of the stuff looks the same, but then you remember that it’s all around 2,000 years old and it goes back to being very big and impressive.
I’ve drawn you a map of the route I took (ok, the route I would have taken: by this point I’m three hours behind you guys so I didn’t have time to go up into the left hand corner) but honestly wondering around is also swell. Find a shady spot to have your lunch. Hell, go into the special exhibition you so kindly paid for if you like. It’s great, you have ages. Just make sure you leave by the other exit, which gets you to the right train station in order to…
Step Nine: …go to Herculaneum
Every train that leaves from Pompeii Scavi will take you to Ercolano (NB Herculaneum is Ercolano) but unfortunately those trains can be rather sporadic. My advice is to work backwards:
- Herculaneum lets the last visitors in at 6pm between April and October (it shuts at 7.30pm)
- It takes 25 minutes to walk down from the station (just go straight down the hill from the station, Herculaneum is in the wooded area where the main road turns to the left)
- The train takes 50 minutes
Therefore, you want to be getting on a train at the very latest at 4.30pm. According to this timetable there is a train at 4.16pm but I ended up waiting on the platform for at least 40 minutes and I’m not the only one.
In real life, I didn’t get in to Ercolano station until 5.45pm, so I ran down the hill and did my best puppy eyes + ‘prego’ for the security guard. The happy outcome was that the site was almost deserted: it was just me, a cat, and this beautiful evening sun that cast sensational soft light over the whole site. Oh yeah, and massive 2,000 year old frescos, wooden doors and marble pools. I loved this part of the day and really treasure the memory. I also met a cat.
Step Ten: Go home
Look at your photos. Drink beer. You deserve it.