Pompeii is one of those places that I feel that I’ve always known about, and have always wanted to visit. We’ve just been staying in Naples and I really couldn’t let the wheelchair get in the way of a visit to the ancient ruins.
We had read that there was an accessible route round Pompeii. To reach it, on leaving the railway station you need to avoid being guided with everyone else towards the nearest entrance of the site. The start of the accessible route is at the far end, the southeast entrance. It’s nearly a mile from the station but worth the effort as you enter by the amphitheatre, and there were no queues when we were there. Also, you travel along flat pavements rather than potentially getting there and back via the roman streets inside.
Then we were in! – the place is huge! Just the amphitheatre is huge! I made it inside the amphitheatre but it was down a fairly steep slope so I decided to walk (and gratefully accepted a bumpy push back up in the chair!).
Then we headed down the Via dell’Abbondanza, which has a flat pavement at the side of the roman cobbled street and for part of the way has a helpful raised metal platform when needed. You can wander along and see the rows and rows of houses and shops and get a feel for the bustling liveliness that there must have been along these streets all that time ago.
There are still some pieces of mosaic to be seen and roman signs on the walls. The pools where the Romans collected water at the front of their homes are clearly visible.
Eventually, you come to the forum. Coming to it after travelling along the streets crowded with houses you get a real sense of its spaciousness and how splendid and imposing it must have been.
The surface is rougher round this section and to fully explore the far edges of the area I needed to get up periodically to negotiate steps. Several times, as I was about to stand up, people kindly offered to lift me (and the chair) up, though I was able to manage. Mainly Americans – very friendly. This way, with many bumps, we negotiated some way up the Via del Foro – worth it for the (reasonably priced!) cafe and also to be able to peer into more, clearly elegant, homes, some complete with fountains.
Eventually, we had to give in to the roman stones and head back. I didn’t make it round the Basilica, situated next to the Forum. I had no more energy to get up and down, which I would have had to do repeatedly – and we had spent about four hours at the site, exploring and taking our time, and just enjoying being there.
Of course, you’ve got to get there in the first place! That was an adventure in itself! We braved the circumvesuviana train system from Naples. Be warned – it is very busy! However, I was grateful for the wheelchair in providing me with a seat – the only way I was ever going to get one! A note – to get to the platform at Naples we could see only a flight of steps, not a lift – not accessible if you are unable to walk at all.
A couple of days later we went to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. Oh the bliss of smooth floors! There are amazing bronze and marble statues taken from Pompeii and other Vesuvian sites. On upper floors there are frescoes and stunning moaiscs. In your mind’s eye you can place them in the houses of Pompeii.
A worthwhile and easier visit than to the ruins of Pompeii itself! Also, we were pleasantly surprised that neither of us was charged an entrance fee at either place. Lovely Italians!
All in all, Pompeii was quite an adventure and required a certain amount of determination – not least from Pete – to negotiate the bumps and kerbs of the ancient city. You certainly need to be able to get up and walk here and there, even on the accessible route. And be prepared to feel a little battered by the end of the day! However, the effort was definitely worthwhile.