Frozen in time, Pompeii, Italy is photographically intriguing. Lauren Bishop, of the blog Global Locavore, beautifully presents her experience photographing Pompeii and shares her advice. Let’s see how she explored this fascinating place.
Why Visit Pompeii?
Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage site and fascinating destination for history buffs, architecture aficionados and budding photographers alike. Located on the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy, this ancient Roman town was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Mount Vesuvius erupted without warning in 79AD, and the area was buried under several feet of ash and pumice preserving Pompeii instantly. The city has remained unchanged and largely intact for 2,000 years.
Today, large areas of the city have been excavated and are open to the public. Visitors observe the streets, homes, markets and public squares just as they once were. Visiting Pompeii is a photographers dream as it is a step back in time.
Planning Your Pompeii Visit
Pompeii is a very popular tourist attraction. Photographing Pompeii without hordes or tourists can be challenging.
Located a mere 25 km south of Naples, it is an excellent day trip from the city. Additionally, many cruise ships dock in Naples, so large tour groups arrive daily. Typically, these crowds intensify between 11am and 4pm. If you are keen on avoiding crowds, arrive when the site opens at 9am. If you are extremely crowd-averse, plan a visit in the off-season, as Pompeii is open year round.
Check the weather before heading out for the day, as the vast majority of the site is outdoors. Summer temperatures can be extremely hot and there is little shade. Over 40 hectares of excavation is open for exploration, so comfortable walking shoes are a must.
Bathrooms are onsite and there are a few food vendors outside of the park. Bring plenty of water and a few snacks and make the most of your time in the park. As there is no place to recharge, bring spare camera batteries.
My Favorite Part
My favorite part about visiting Pompeii was imagining the day-to-day life of a city in ancient times. This is reflected in my photography style throughout my time in Europe. I am fascinated by both the large, well-maintained buildings and the small, impressively preserved details. I love the contrast of white structures against the blue skies, similar to what I encountered in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Challenges & Tips for Photographing Pompeii
The light was my largest photography challenge. By the time my tour finished and I focused on photography, the midday sun was very strong. Many of my photos have harsh shadows or are very blown out. Although Pompeii is closed during dawn and dusk, I’d advise using the morning and late afternoon light.
I used a mirrorless camera with a 14-42mm lens. I would have loved a wide angle lens to capture the true scale of the town. Lastly, I also wished I had a tripod. While I generally travel alone and don’t take many self-portraits, a few mementos of my time in Pompeii would have been nice. However, as I look back on my photographs, my favorite images are those that showcase the beauty of the ancient city of Pompeii.
Entrance Costs + Guides
Adult non-EU citizen tickets are €13 and tickets for youth and EU citizens are less. Should you have the time, it is possible to visit four other nearby sites for only €22. While I didn’t visit, I heard these locations are less crowded and equally interesting: Herculaneum, Oplontis, Boscoreale & Stabiae.
Upon arriving at Pompeii, I purchased my own ticket and entered the grounds. I found a guide once inside, as I was cautioned that unlicensed scammers are at the train station. The reputable guides have ID cards and requested payment only when the tour was complete. I chose one group with about 15 people and immediately liked my guide as he was organized, friendly and funny.
We set off exploring the huge, complex site and I was so happy that I’d decided to visit with a guide. He effortlessly painted an incredibly rich picture of life in 79AD Pompeii as well as the devastating outcome of the volcanic eruption.
Should I Get a Guide?
My guide pointed out many interesting elements to our group, which I would have missed. This made my overall experience at Pompeii more enjoyable, since I learned the complex, colorful history through his fascinating stories. I concentrated on the wonderful views and my photography, instead of constantly looking at a map or guidebook. Also, the tour included amazing less visited parts of the town with fewer crowds.
My only complaint was the crowds. I found it difficult to grab really interesting shots while people took dozens of selfies. Therefore, I used my time on the tour to scout the best, least occupied areas. Afterwards I spent several hours on my own taking photos in my favorite locations. I’d recommend getting a personal guide who could take you farther afield.
Driving from Naples or any town along the Amalfi coast is very straightforward by car.
The Circumvesuviana Railway connects both Naples and Sorrento to Pompeii by train in approximately thirty minutes.
Summary of Details
- Open hours: 9 am – 5 pm / 7:30 pm depending on time of year.
- Entrance Cost: €13 for non-EU adult, €22 for 5 sites over 3 days. Students and teachers half price.
- Restrooms are available inside and snacks are sold outside the site
- No bags allowed larger than 30cm x 30cm x 15cm
- Site maps
Packing List for Pompeii
- Wide angle lens to capture the scale of Pompeii. Olloclip and Moment lenses are great for phones, since the lenses are high quality and they stay in place, unlike those that clip on like a clothes-pin.
- Tripod for your phone or camera or selfie stick for self-portraits (if you’re into that sort of thing). Selfie sticks are perfect for high- and low-angle phone photography.
- Joby Action Jib Kit allows phone or GoPro to be angled while on the end of the stick– great for high and low-angle photo and video shots. The How-To video is here. If using a phone, also buy this attachment (choose option ‘phone’).
- If you want something to hold your phone without a big selfie stick, check out this new Joby GripTight POV product as of September 2016! Comfortably hold your phone in one hand, and click the shutter with a remote with the same hand or remove the clicker and click with your other hand.
- If you plan on shooting video, I suggest a gimbal, which stabilizes your phone. The action is smooth. Jolting video while you walk or even from shaky hands is hard to watch!
- Water bottle (folds flat when not in use) and snacks
- Spare batteries for all electronic devices and cameras
- Hat, sunscreen, umbrella, since majority of site is outdoors with no shade or shelter
- Comfortable walking shoes
Want More Information?
A guidebook can be so helpful, since they include sample itineraries by city, region, and the entire country. Try a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, if you would like to get off the beaten track.
Lauren is on a mission to change the world through the power of food. Global Locavore is a sustainable food tourism website dedicated to connecting travelers to local food experiences. Keep up with her as she chronicles her journey around the globe through stories about growing, sharing and eating really good food. Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest. You can also view her photographic encounter with Dubrovnik, Croatia.
What Do you Think?
Are you planning or considering photographing Pompeii and found this article useful or have additional questions? Or, maybe you’ve already visited and have additional advice for photographers? Or, perhaps you’re an armchair traveler? Chat with us. We love hearing from all our readers!
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