One of the most prominent places to visit in Southern Italy is, of course, Pompeii. An ancient Roman city almost perfectly preserved from a horrific natural event, Pompeii is a ‘must do’ for most history buffs. For parents planning on taking any children with autism with them, there are some things and options to consider.
Pompeii is famous as an incredibly well-preserved ancient Roman city, not far from Naples , Italy. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried the entire city under ash in 79 A.D. However, casings of ash preserved the objects and bodies of the city’s inhabitants. Later, archaeologists used plaster to protect these ash layers further for study. The site is now on the UNESCO World Heritage list and a popular tourist destination.
Archaeologists believe the ancient Greeks founded the city in the sixth century B.C. Rome later took over Pompeii by the fourth century BC. Originally a port town, Pompeii featured a mixed medley of people all around the world from different social classes. Also, the city was well equipped with food venues, bars, public baths and brothels making it a favorite resting spot for sailors and traveling merchants. According to historians, Pompeii was a city where citizens rich and poor lived together with no division between the neighborhoods, so travelers might find it fascinating to see grand mansions next to modest homes.
The estimated population at the time of the eruption, 79 AD was about 11,000 people, though only 2,000 died that day. Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Younger, an ancient Roman author, described the destruction of the city and the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder in a letter to Tacitus.
For over 1500 years the site remained buried and unknown. Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre rediscovered the area in 1748. As the site was excavated, archaeologists covered the ash casings with plaster to fill in the voids where human bodies once stood, revealing the exact positions in which many of the Pompeii residents died.
How to Get There
To get to Pompeii, travelers can take a commuter train from Naples or Sorrento to the designated stop. Those interested in seeing Mt. Vesuvius can take a shuttle van up the volcano to the end of the road. From there it is a steep thirty-minute walk up the mountain. The view from the top is spectacular, allowing visitors to see all of Naples and Pompeii.
While Pompeii may have a chilling history, it is a fascinating place for anyone to visit. There are not many opportunities to see an ancient city as well maintained as Pompeii, and walking through the city is almost like walking through time. Also, the perseverance of archaeologists has allowed tourists to see the past in a more precise and accurate way.
For those who have the opportunity, we recommend stopping at the House of Vetti, the most preserved house in Pompeii. A fascinating representation of its time, the property is said to have belonged to an unknown wealthy merchant.
Pompeii boasts its very own Temple of Isis, an Egyptian god. Archeologists believe worshippers at this temple were members of a mysterious cult, typically women, freedmen, and slaves. Rumor has it that the famous Austrian composer, Mozart, visited at the age of thirteen, and received inspiration from its interior.
The House of the Tragic Poet is a moderately-sized Pompeii house featuring high quality, beautiful inner decor. The identity of the original owners is a mystery, as well as why their seemingly simple house boasted such vibrant decorations.
For a more adult oriented excursion, there’s the Suburban Baths. The baths feature rare erotic art not seen in similar Roman bathhouses. Naturally, this isn’t a child-friendly location, but teenagers and young adults might appreciate the historical value.
Visitors can buy one-day tickets for about €13, with discounts available for EU citizens between 18 – 24 and school teachers. However, EU citizens under 18 have free admission. Pompeii is open from 8:30 to 7:30 most days, and is closed on most holidays. The site offers free entrance on the first Sunday of the month.
Autism Travel Tips:
- When we visited Pompeii , our kids found it mostly interesting but complained about the length of the group tour which was three hours. Based on our experience we recommend getting a private tour and tailoring it to unique family needs so everyone will enjoy their visit.
- The city is a walking location built on uneven ground. Therefore, parents should make sure everyone wears comfortable closed-toe walking shoes and long pants if possible.
- Parents should make sure to get a map at the entrance. Many of the streets are blocked off due to on-going excavations, so it’s easy to become lost. Furthermore, it is imperative to instruct the kids not to wander off since they can fall and get injured in ruins.
- The landmark offers little shade which may become a problem in the hot summer months. Therefore, parents should pack plenty of sunscreens, bottled water, mini fans, and snacks.
- For those traveling with a disability, the best way to enter is through the Piazza Anfiteatro. Through this entrance, travelers can find suggested itineraries designed to meet the needs of visitors with reduced mobility.
- We highly recommend pre-purchasing tickets online to avoid the long lines on some days. The area can get easily crowded, especially during the summer, as the explorable area is not that large.
- Those traveling with temperature sensitive kids shouldn’t plan on visiting in the summer as it can get unbearably hot and there almost no spots to sit and rest.The best time to visit is around November or April.
- When we went, we saw a lot of stray dogs, which might be scary for some kids.
- Parents should advise kids to look where they’re going. This caution is because the roads have holes in them originally meant to catch horse and donkey feces, and they’re easy to trip over. Moreover, parents should bring a first aid kit with band-aids for minor mishaps.
- There are very few toilets, and most of them are at the entrance, so parents should advise kids to use the facilities ahead of time.
- Parents should bring their own food as the site does not offer food venues.