Saturday, 20 October 2007


I'm back in the UK catching up on these blog posts.

The train from Rome to Naples went smoothly. We had bought the ticket the day before which was a bit tedious. Whenever possible, we learned to avoid any kind of Italian bureacracy and queuing. It's very slow with tellers not working particularly hard and its easy to get in the wrong line and get sent to the back of another one.

From the station, it was easy to catch the Circumvesuviana train over to Sorrento. Public infrastructure in Italy attracts a great deal of graffiti and it seems to intensify the further south you travel. The train and the many stations were all well covered.

Our apartment at the Coultur Suites was excellent. It had a view of the (grande) harbour and was fitted out to a high standard. It's only drawback was that it was a bit small and the kitchen was underequiped. The kids are always excited when we get to a new place and immediately loved it.

Sorrento is tremendously touristy and was packed with many elderly travellers. Many of them are day trippers from cruise ships that drop anchor in the bay. It didn't feel like shoulder season so it must be horrendous in high season. If I was to go again, I would stay up in the Massa Lubrense but then you would also need a car and its less convenient than being near all the public transport.

We did all the typical sights in the area. Luckily the weather stayed very good except for a couple of bouts of heavy rain.

We took the cable car from Castellammare di Stabia up to the top of Mount Montesanto. Unfortunately, the last car down was at 4:30 and we got there late so we only got about an hour up at the top. Fantastic views and a great place to go for a walk. Well worth it but you need to go early.

We took a fast catamaran out to Capri. It does live up to its reputation as a beautiful island but it swarms with tourists even at this time of year. Jenny took the kids to see the Blue Grotto while I hiked by myself to Villa Jovi. Ceasar Augustus acquired Capri and started the building of the villa. Tiberius lived there for the last 10 years of his reign. The views from the remains of the villa are absolutely fantastic - especially from the cliff that Tiberius supposedly threw his victims. If you're into sun and fashion shopping, Capri would be a good holiday.

The highlight of the area was visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum. They are very well worth it and the kids were really well engaged in discovering what was there. We spent six hours exploring Pompeii and didn't cover it all. We're sorry that we missed the Villa of Mysteries. It's a huge place. Herculaneum is much smaller but we spent about four hours there too. Both sites really allow you to image what the Roman world might have been like. It's particulary interesting seeing all the mosaics and wall fresco's in place. Herculaneum even has two story buildings and the remains of carbonised wood.

We also took a fast catamaran across the bay to Naples and visited the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. This is a "must do" since all the best finds from Pompei and Herculaneum are there on display.

Naples itself I found to be a very intimidating city and I've traveled through some pretty scummy places in my life. We had dinner in Naples and walked through the streets to the train station in the evening and I certainly didn't feel safe. It's a jumbled, noisy, decrepid, intense city. That said, the shopping and restaurants offer much better value for money. I'm sure there must be nice parts of Naples and there's plenty more to see. I'd like to explore it but without any valuables and without children in tow.

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