Travel series #2: Pompeii, Herculaneum and Sorrento

Each an easy train ride away from Naples.

But first, why do I write about travel on a stress and gut health website?? I enjoy traveling very much and many people with gut issues don’t get to, or really, don’t dare to travel because of their gut symptoms. It’s important for me to lower that threshold by writing about the places I visit so that people can be more informed of places they might choose to visit, and to plan for their trips better – good planning reduces stress, which reduces the chances of having gut issues. And what’s really important, I believe traveling increases quality of life, which is often much decreased when having difficult gut issues. But now, onto the subject matter.

Here’s the real reason we traveled to Naples: to see the ancient roman cities Pompeii and Herculaneum! I really love places like these and could (and did) spend hours there. I love imagining what they would’ve looked like in their heyday with streets bustling with people and horse carts, food stalls offering local food and theaters showing plays of the day. In Pompeii and Herculaneum you can imagine this perhaps better than anywhere else, as they are quite literally frozen, or should I say, burnt, in time in the year 79 AD. These places really should be on everyone’s bucket list – at least in my opinion. 


Vesuvius in the background
Roman street with horse carriage tracks visible on the stone

Let’s start with Pompeii. This is the bigger of the two ancient cities buried by the volcano Vesuvius and about a 30-minute train ride from Naples. It is very convenient using the Circumvesuviana line and it costs only a few euros one way. The trains go relatively often, but it’s a good idea to check the schedule ahead of time so you don’t have to wait for a half an hour for the next train (like we did) and test your patience. You won’t be the only one going – the train is likely to be full. Thankfully, even then it wasn’t a difficult ride, nothing like BART in the San Francisco Bay Area during commute hour.

My tips for a smooth visit at Pompeii

  • When you exit the train, don’t buy your entrance tickets at the train station. The official ticket booth is at the entrance to the complex not far from the station. I assume that they sell real tickets that will get you into the complex, but likely at a higher price than what you pay at the entrance. Just follow the signs and in a few minutes you’ll be there.
  • Food: pack well! There’s a little store inside the complex and according to the map a restaurant, but I don’t think the restaurant was open when we visited. I believe you can exit the complex to go eat in town surrounding the place and come back with the same ticket, but we didn’t do that as we wanted to maximize our time there (we take our time in the mornings and got there a bit later than planned). There is at least one official picnic area near an exit, but we just sat on the “sidewalk” and ate when we needed it. I recommend bringing lots of water, a good lunch and snacks, as at least we found that we were getting hungry fast. Perhaps part of the reason is that we brought 2 small pizzas from a café at the Garibaldi station, which were excellent for their cost (2 euro each!), but they didn’t hold us for very long perhaps because it was a lot of white dough. Whole grains and protein are a must to stay satiated longer! Pompeii is an actual roman city, so it’s big and you’ll be walking a lot if you want to see a lot of the place in one day. And, by the way, you probably can’t see everything in one day, like we couldn’t. 
  • Because of the point above, plan your visit and be a little bit aware of the must-see places in Pompeii you don’t want to miss. The first time we visited, I didn’t do that and we missed the best place (in my opinion), the Villa of the Mysteries (Villa dei Misteri). The frescoes in this villa are so beautiful and vibrant that it was very much worth going back to see them. The villa is out of the way and you need to know about it to see it; you won’t likely stumble upon it accidentally, as it’s not on the way to anywhere.
A fresco at the Villa of the Mysteries, probably depicting a Dionysian cult initiation
  • The toilets: there is one at the entrance where you buy the tickets. There are also a few toilets around the complex but sometimes the nearest one is quite far, so be mindful of this. has a handy map that shows all the toilets, and for that matter, restaurants etc. They are not the best toilets, so pack toilet paper along. 
  • Visit during off-season. The place is very popular and if you don’t like crowds, it’s especially important to visit November-March rather than other times of the year. Even then, I doubt there is a single day that you’ll have Pompeii to yourself. But, Pompeii is very big so even if there are a lot of people in certain areas, you’ll find places where there’s no one else there, though perhaps not much to see there either. It’s quieter soon after opening and before closing. 
Men’s baths
Courtyard of one of the fancy homes in Pompeii
A bakery – they milled their own flour with the contraptions on the right with the help of donkeys


Wall mosaic and frescoes in Herculaneum

Herculaneum is the same idea as Pompeii. It’s only 15 minutes by train (the stop is Ercolano Scavi), so it’s closer to Naples than Pompeii. It’s way smaller (less overwhelming) but better preserved than Pompeii, as a thicker layer of ash and lava flowed here. Unlike Pompeii, it is possible to see everything in Herculaneum in one day, except potentially some buildings that are open only on some days of the week. It’s likely also that it’ll be less crowded here as compared to Pompeii, which is very much a plus. In Herculaneum, you can see charred wood and even furniture, which wasn’t the case in Pompeii. Even though Herculaneum is smaller, it’s not a place to be missed.


  • Bring some snacks: you won’t need as substantial snacks as for Pompeii, but if you are like me and like to look at everything, you may get hungry. Water is important. There are no restaurants or shops in Herculaneum inside the complex. Knowing this, we had lunch before entering the site – a nice sandwich shop down the street seemed to fit the bill, and the sandwiches turned out to be the hugest I’ve ever seen or eaten! And only 6,5 euros each.
  • Toilets: there are no toilets inside the complex itself. There is one at the entrance where you buy your tickets, one at the museum, and one next to the entry point into the complex itself. It takes some minutes to walk from the farthest point inside Herculaneum to the nearest toilet, so plan accordingly. The toilets were again nothing special – no toilet seats. 
A shop and storage for food and drink
The floor mosaics were exquisite!

Even though Herculaneum is smaller and less known than Pompeii, it’s still very much worth the visit! I loved the charred wood furniture you could see in one of the houses, and the baths were really well preserved! It’s easy to imagine how life was like here 2000 years ago. Only 10% of Herculaneum is excavated, so it’s fascinating to imagine what still lies beneath the many feet of volcanic soil under the town of Ercolano. 


To do something different, for our last day in Naples we decided to visit Sorrento, the last stop on the circumvesuviana train route. The train ride takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Naples and it’s very affordable – less than 5 euros per person one way. The train is often pretty full up until Pompeii and then it’s easy to find a seat and travel more comfortably. The circumvesuviana is not a new or very nice train, but it gets the job done well enough.

The vibe in Sorrento is very different from Naples. It feels like Carmel in California – very posh and sophisticated. All the streets are clean and the numerous shops lining the old streets sell nice, high-quality products such as bags, shoes, clothing, pottery, and local food and drink. There were of course also many cute restaurants and cafes to choose from when needing refreshment, so snacks are not a must, unless you prefer them. What was different, was that the restaurants seemed to offer many more menu options than in Naples, and some of them were luring customers in by not charging any cover charge.

We ended up having lunch at this tiny sandwich shop with multiple vegan and vegetarian sandwich choices and salads – very delicious and also more balanced in terms of the protein, carb and vegetables. Of course, the bread is white, but I don’t expect to see whole grain sandwiches in shops like these in many places in the world.

When it comes to toilets, the restaurants and cafes had good facilities, so you’re close to one most of the time. I believe there are some public toilets, but I didn’t even bother with them since the restaurants typically have nice toilets.

We didn’t have anything in particular in mind when coming to Sorrento, just wanted to see what it’s about and walk its streets. And that’s just what we did and were very happy doing it! The streets were lovely and at points you would get a great view of the sea, of the harbor and Vesuvius. In just a few hours we saw the entire town, so a day trip is perfect from Naples. 

Overall Sorrento was a nice change of pace from the chaos of Naples. It’s also a good jumping-off point for the Amalfi coast which is just over the hill.

Our week in Naples was just what we needed – a respite from the end of winter coldness in Finland. Many world-class sights to see, and delicious and mostly affordable food. Getting to know Naples a little bit is useful before heading over, and packing some patience along will be helpful also. I’m not sure if I’d go to Naples again, but I’d definitely visit Pompeii and Herculaneum time and time again.

Much love,


PS. Follow me on Instagram @ibsandstressdietitian to get tips on stress release and gut health! And don’t forget my free ebook “Secret solution for IBS (without giving up your favorite foods)” and the free gut health checklist!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *