Saturday 20 October 2007

Around Naples

For the last three days of our trip, we rented a car in Sorrento drove back to Rome.

Driving is a bit of a nightmare in Italy but you just learn to keep cool, expect the unexpected and make slow deliberate maneuvers. And you don't expect anyone to stick to any rules. You don't even get lines on motorways sometimes!

But I really wanted to drive the Amalfi coast myself. It's just one of those things. In fact, I'm starting to hatch an ambition to drive all the famous roads I can think of.

By the time I managed to drive from the rental car office back to our apartment, I was already a stressed out wreck. I got stuck blocking traffic because I couldn't figure out how to get the Renault Scenic into reverse and instead had to push the car out of the way while I had some Italian yelling at me. It was a bad start. And it took me ages to figure out how to get to the apartment to pick up the family. French cars and Italian roads; what a nightmare.

We got on our way and I drove around the Massa Lubrense, Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi and on to Positano and Amalfi. Yes, it's a beautiful part of the world and the driving can be crazy. At one point, I drove through a wedding congregation. It wasn't my fault; they were all over the road. I would have liked to explore Amalfi but we didn't have time. Minori looked like a good place to have a family holiday. It has a beach and isn't as famous as the other coastal towns.

We stopped in Vietri sul Mare for lunch, gelati and so Jenny could buy some pottery for which they're famous.

By sunset, we made it down to Paestum to see the famous Greek temple down there. Unfortuantely, the archeological park had closed by 3:30 so we could only look at it from the fence. It's the second largest next to the Parthenon.

We then drove all the way up to Pompei and found a place to stay so that we could get to Vesuvius the next morning.

The next day, we soon found our way to the Vesuvius parking lot and hiked up the last few hundred meters. It's one of the best things we did. It is quite inspiring to look into the throat of an active volcano. There's even a little bit a steam and the smell of sulphur to go with the fantastic views. No, I wouldn't want to live with fifty miles of it.

Next stop was the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) at Caserta - a "me too Versailles". The place was used in Star Wars Episode II as the Theed Palace on Naboo. We had to take a bus inside the grounds to get to the gardens its so big. It has a famous botanical garden that was nice to wander around. We didn't go inside.

Then it was back on the road to Rome.

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