Life in London has been a bit busy of late and I’m finally getting round to finishing off the last instalment of our Italian summer break. It all seems like a distant memory now. After Rome, Capri, Amalfi and the Path of the Gods we left the Amalfi Coast and headed to Sorrento.
Now we had always planned to visit Pompeii but actually ended up there sooner than expected. We hopped on a train thinking it was destined for Sorrento but after a few stops we found ourselves at Pompeii. Oh well, we took our fuck up in our stride, dropped our bags off at the train station and booked onto the next tour. I had done a little bit of research into the logistics of visiting Pompeii with and without a guided tour – most reviews were split saying that you can easily navigate the huge site by yourself with the map they provide but others said a tour is an absolute must. Our two-hour tour was very insightful and led us through the significant parts of this ancient city, providing a great history lesson we would’ve missed if we had tried doing it diy style.
Quick history lesson… Pompeii is about 8 km away from Mt Vesuvius, which destroyed and buried the city in AD 79. The eruption killed thousands of the cities residents and buried them beneath metres of ash. Even today they are still excavating the city, but resources are limited and progress has slowed while focus has been put towards restoring and maintaining the sites already excavated.
Stepping back in time, the ruins of Pompeii are both haunting and fascinating. Some of the most popular attractions to the site are the human remains. These are not actually bodies but casts made from pouring plaster into the cavities left around the skeletons (still pretty creepy!).
After our accidental trip to Pompeii we had two nights/two days to enjoy some r&r in Sorrento. We had heard great things about Sorrento, but we weren’t overly impressed. Many people base themselves in Sorrento for day trips to Capri/Amalfi/Pompeii etc, though we had already done that so maybe we had planned it wrong?! Sorrento lacks a proper beach, as it is in a harbour the ‘beaches’ are man-made platforms with sun chairs – and of course you have to pay! Lucky for us we were staying slightly out of town at a campground which had its own private beach (this ‘beach’ was a huge flat rock which you sunbathe on as well as a small pebbled part too.). The water here had nothing on Capri and often had rubbish floating in it, argh. Still we enjoyed our relaxing time and had amazing views from our cabin at Villaggio Santa Fortunata.
We decided to try find out why people love this place so much. We ventured back into the town on our second full day to visit some of the keys sites – walking from our accommodation offered amazing views across Sorrento, Pompei and Naples. What I did like was the cool lanes which offered an endless selection of bars, restaurants, souvenirs and clothing shops. The vibe around here was lovely and a great location for an afternoon apéritif.
Sorrento was once completely surrounded by defence walls and some of these are still in tact around the town. Another cool site is the Abandoned Valley of the Mills, Valle dei Mulini, nestled in the deep valley floor of Sorrento now covered with overgrowth. You might just miss it if you don’t know where to look down.
As I mentioned before most people leave Sorrento during the day so it was actually quite nice not being so busy and touristy – it does have some appeal! We checked out the ‘beaches’, well as far as we could get without having to pay, and admired the grand buildings sitting atop of the towering cliffs. While it may have been my least favourite destination of this trip, I wouldn’t put other people off going, perhaps to just to do it differently.
Our final stop on our trip was Naples. Many people skip Naples due to its “grittiness” but that’s what I loved about it. My booking.com guide said “Naples is edgier than the Godfather’s Rubik’s cube – but that’s half the fun!” We did only have about 24 hours in the city but we made the most of it, being surprised by its charm and character. Our hotel was right in the heart of Naples Historical Centre. On our doorstep was the San Lorenzo Maggiore which was being set up for some kind of theatre event and the narrow lane, Via San Gregorio Armeno, which is lined with artisan workshops making the most amazing handicrafts.
Naples is the home of pizza. Wherever you are in the city, you’re never far from a restaurant serving up fresh, authentic wood fired pizza. Apparently there are guidelines for a pizza to be considered authentically “Neapolitan” – including the type of tomatoes and mozzarella that must be used. The pizza definitely did not disappoint and we tried two local places for lunch and dinner. The food in Naples was top notch and probably the cheapest we had on our trip! Pizza’s here start from about €3.00 for the classics like marinara and margherita.
During the afternoon we got ourselves a bit lost exploring the streets of Naples. Some parts of the city are indeed rough but there are still amazing sights to see, from street art to decrepit churches and truly beautiful architecture.
So that sums up our 10-day trip in Italy! We had the most amazing time checking out the infamous attractions in Rome, boating around the Island of Capri, hiking the Amalfi Coast, swimming in the amazingly blue water, and indulging in all of the pizza, pasta and red wine our stomachs could handle! Italy is a truly captivating destination and we can’t wait to go back to explore more.