Visit Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius in a Day with Kids
As a young 6th grader I devoured books about Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. I was completely fascinated by this Roman town that was buried under 20 feet of rock and ash when Mount Vesuvius unleashed its powerful fury in 79 AD. I read how the town was essentially frozen in time and provided a glimpse into Roman life nearly 2,000 years ago. I knew someday I would have to visit.
My dream came true during a recent week-long holiday in Italy. I was thrilled to learn Pompeii is only 150 miles south of Rome, so it’s easy to visit in a day. Because we had our young children with us, I wanted to make the day as easy as possible yet educational at the same time. In the end, our visit to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius was the highlight of our vacation.
Tips to make a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius from Rome
Private vs. self-guided tour
There are various ways you can get to Pompeii from Rome but with young children and limited time, we decided a private tour would be our family’s best option. Truth be told, I have an unfounded phobia of driving in Italy, so hiring a driver was worth its weight in gold in my opinion.
Also, professional guides in Italy get priority in queues minimizing the wait times to enter an attraction. Nothing can be worse than standing in a long line with a young child having an epic meltdown. Makes me shudder at the thought. I will do anything to get through lines faster. Also, I was thrilled with our guide because she knew all these little secrets and tidbits about Pompeii we never would have known about otherwise.
Look for a family-friendly tour company with good reviews
After hours of internet research looking for the right family-friendly tour company to make my childhood dream come to fruition, I decided that Best of Rome Tours ultimately met my strict criteria. Specifically I was looking for a reputable company that would not only (safely) drive us to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius but provide a guide that would give extra attention to the children. I wanted them to be engaged and included in discussions so a guide that worked well with kids was top priority. Best of Rome Tours came through and provided excellent service at a reasonable price.
Leave early in the morning
We were picked up at our lodging by our driver Alex. He arrived on time early in the morning so we could avoid rush-hour traffic. Our transportation was a clean Mercedes van stocked with bottled waters for all of us. I admit, I was so excited that I hardly slept the night before thus having a driver became even more important.
Alex was friendly and provided great commentary about the region we were driving through. He also prepped us for our visit to Pompeii and explained exactly how the day would unfold. I appreciated leaving the logistics to a pro so I could sit back and relax.
Tip: If you have elementary school children, I highly recommend reading Magic Treehouse books about Pompeii before visiting. These books provided a great history lesson and background so the children had an appreciation of the significance of that area.
Insist your guide speaks your language
We have taken tours where the guide barely speaks English. This caused a lot of frustration and we didn’t get out of the tour what we expected. I have learned to insist on a guide with a good command of English. Both our driver and city guide had an excellent command of English which enabled us to understand everything being said and questions getting answered properly.
What to expect when you arrive in Pompeii
What I really appreciated about having a driver is that we didn’t have to drive around looking for a parking place once we arrived in Pompeii. Alex dropped us off right in town and had a special parking space reserved for guides. We could leave things in the van such as jackets so we didn’t have to carry everything all day. We also bought a few souvenirs which we also left in the van.
Arriving in Pompeii was amazing but also emotionally overwhelming. Near the official entrance to Pompeii there are stands set up selling everything from lemons to postcards. Men dressed up in Gladiator costumes will try to fight you or your child (playfully of course) but they do expect a tip. Our Pompeii guide, Mimma met us quickly and ushered us to the entrance so we could bypass a bit of the mayhem.
If you are fulfilling a life-long dream to visit Pompeii, you will be overcome with emotion as it is such a spectacular feeling to be standing there surrounded by such history. Mt. Vesuvius looms over Pompeii as an ever present reminder of what happened in 79 AD. It is currently a dormant volcano that last erupted in 1944 and poses a great threat of eruption at any time which is why is it constantly being monitored for seismic activity.
We spent a good three hours exploring Pompeii and were amazed to realize only about a third of it has been uncovered and available for visitors. It is phenomenal how the ash and dust preserved this city in its moment and 2,000 years later we can observe all of this. Walking around you will be amazed how the city was laid out with many neighborhoods, stores and bathhouses that were the focus of daily life. Many homes still have wonderful paintings and artwork visible on the walls and floors.
What is truly humbling are the mummified bodies on display: people frozen in the moment. You can see how many of them were trying to cover their faces, protecting themselves from the ash. You feel like you are there with them. My children found it so fascinating and not scary at all. There are even functional water fountains, where you can get potable water to drink and it’s quite good!
You can explore Pompeii for days and days, but we only had a few hours which was really satisfying. Mimma stayed with us for a good three hours, and after that we found a little pizzeria right in town to grab lunch. Make sure to also order a limoncello! This delicious liquor is a perfect drink to compliment lunch and is incredible in this area!
Hiking Mount Vesuvius
The base of Mount Vesuvius is only about five miles from Pompeii. You are allowed to drive part way up the volcano to an upper parking lot leaving the remaining 660 feet to the crater accessible only by foot. The road is quite curvy but the views are spectacular on a clear day. Parking is a bit chaotic and another reason we were happy to have a driver.
Mount Vesuvius is located within the boundaries of Mount Vesuvius National Park and offers visitors hiking, biking and museums to explore. The hike to the crater from the upper parking lot is not too difficult, and anyone in reasonable shape will have no problems.
I do recommend a good pair of sneakers and a light jacket because the trail is dusty and rocky with cool breezes at the top. There are even places to grab a souvenir and overpriced snack. I do recommend bringing your own water as you will pay a premium for a bottle of water!
The path up to the crater is somewhat primitive and dusty, but there are wooden rails to help prevent someone from slipping over the side. It took us about 20 minutes to reach the top, and my young children had no problem walking by themselves. Once you reach the top, you can see the island of Capri and the surrounding area.
What was more fascinating was observing steam coming from vents, which reminds you that the volcano is dormant at the moment but very much alive under the surface. That certainly piqued my kids’ interests and got them asking all kinds of questions about the volcano.
We spent a good 20 minutes at the top looking around. It was quite windy though and slightly breezy so we were glad for our light jackets. The hike back down actually took a little longer because it’s a bit slippery due to the dusty trail, but again our young kids were troopers and navigated the entire way on their own.
Once we reached the parking lot, our driver was there and ready to head back to Rome. We were exhausted and so glad to leave the driving to someone else, especially since we found ourselves in the middle of rush hour. I believe we all fell asleep on the way back to Rome and arrived just in time to enjoy a pizza dinner!
Don’t forget to tip your guides at the end of your tour!
You may also enjoy:
- Our Gourmet Guide to Italian Gelato
- Roma Checklist: Top Things to do in Rome, Italy with Kids
- Read about all of our family vacations to Italy
- If you’re looking for hotel in Rome, consider Hilton Rome Airport with a regular shuttle to downtown or one of the other Hilton hotels in Rome.
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
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