There are four main reasons why people visit Naples, Italy – at least from what I’ve figured out. In my favorite order, they are:
- gateway to Herculaneum (Ercolano Scavi)
- gateway to Pompeii (Pompeii Scavi Villa dei Misteri)
- birthplace of pizza and the best pizza in the world (argue, please!)
- gateway to Sorrento / Amalfi Coast
Circumvesuviana is the rail line which connects Naples to Amalfi Coast (Sorrento), among other routes. But this is the one we are interested in. Why? Because it takes travelers from Naples Garibaldi to Hercolano Scavi, Pompeii Scavi and Sorrento.
The train station
You need to take the Circumvesuviana trains from Naples Garibaldi, which is inside Naples Central (Napoli Centrale). Once you get to Naples Central, follow the signs to Garibaldi Station, located literally below the main train station.
In (September) 2014 when we visited both Pompeii and Herculaneum on a single day, we had the option to get a day ticket photo below).
The cost was 8.40 euros per adult and can be used for that day and you just needed to validate it when you started the journey.
Fast forward to 2017 and things have changed. Gone is the “unico” and now the tickets have various validity times. If you plan to get to Pompeii, the cost is 3.50 euros one way and the ticket is valid for 140 minutes after validation. A trip to Herculaneum costs 2.70 euros and the ticket is valid for 120 minutes.
REMEMBER: all Circumvesuviana tickets need to be validated to be used! Failure to do so results in hefty fines!
Can I visit both sites in a day?
Yes, you can. Yes, you’ll walk a lot and hate yourself after that. But, my God, was it worth it!
If you are after a tip, I’d suggest to start with Ercolano and then go to Pompeii. We, of course, did it the other way around because…well, I didn’t think it through. I’ve figured we would stay a couple of hours in Pompeii and then go to Erconalo. WRONG! We stayed more than 4 hours in Pompeii and then went to Ercolano…but loved the latter better!
Ercolano is closer to Naples (about 15 min by express train), and Pompeii is a bit further way (about 1/2 h by express train and close to 45 min by the regular ones).
What are the stops and how do I find the correct train?
After you get your ticket and validate it, you need to go to the platforms (binario). Look for Binario Sorrento. That’s the line you need to be on. Further more, there are two trains running on this line, but both would get you to Ercolano.
One of them, at one point, would divert on another route (terminating at Poggiomarino), but even so, it stops in Pompei (but the new village, not the old historical site, so you need to walk further to get to the site).
If you are on the train to Sorrento , you want the following stops:
- Ercolano Scavi for Herculaneum; get off the train, down the stairs, then follow the main street all the way to its end (where it splits); that’s the entrance to the site
- Pompeii Scavi -Villa dei Misteri for Pompeii; get off the train, take a left and walk for about 10 mins
- Napoli Garibaldi for the stop back in Naples; the train terminates at Porta Nolana but you’d want to get off at Garibaldi
The trains run until 9:30 p.m. (last departure from Naples Garibaldi and Sorrento). You’d want to get in the city while it’s still light outside so plan your stay around the time it gets dark. No, it has not worked for us and ended up in the ill-famed Garibaldi Station when it was dark and lived to tell the story.
How bad is, really, Naples Central / Garibaldi?
When I researched going to Naples, absolutely everyone I told about our plans warned us about pickpockets and how many security problems would be in the city and especially in the train station area.
We did not have any problems. However, we are more than used to “shady” areas and even at home, I am careful with my belongings. In other words, I never keep my wallet and my cell in “plain sight” and the camera is in its rucksack unless I take photos.
>>check out these tips about staying safe in crowded places
And, contrary to how chaotic Italy may seem to non-Latin peoples, Naples Central is a really well-organized train station. Napoli Garibadli is also well signed and you can find your way.
It helps to speak Italian but I found that the people working the info booth do speak English as well.
Note: the article was written in 2014; it was edited and republished in Aug 2017