On leaving Siena, our next main stop was Naples/the Amalfi Coast. At around 500 km at first we looked at breaking up the journey by stopping somewhere about halfway. However, this seemed like a waste of a day, so Marcello took on the task of a long day of driving to get us there in one go (Karen’s insurance for Charlie doesn’t kick in until the end of the month). This was well worth it as it gave us a day to catch our breath before seeing what Naples had to offer.
As we mentioned in our previous post, we were starting to get a bit “citied-out”, partly as we were trying to fit so much in. Don’t worry, we’re very aware that this makes us sound spoilt and we only have ourselves to blame, but it was a good learning point for us that perhaps we were trying to see/do too much. We’d already realised that, with all the unpacking and packing up again, to stay somewhere for just one night was something that we should try and avoid where possible. This gave us something else to think about in terms of our itinerary and whether we might need to make a cut or two. In a similar vein, we also realised the importance of including a chill/catch up day every week or so to do those necessary tasks like washing, finding places for those newly purchased items, looking at what hadn’t been used yet and perhaps isn’t really necessary, keeping track of costs/spending and not forgetting sorting photos and writing these updates!
Anyway, back to Naples. We took the ferry from Sorrento to Naples, which was refreshingly cool and a good opportunity to take in the coast line – not quite as nice as going in the other direction along the Amalfi Coast, but still pretty. As with most Italian cities, Naples has some lovely cobbled streets, with impressive monuments, churches and a beautiful cathedral: this one effectively having three churches in one. Having had a wander around, it was soon time for lunch. Being on the coast we wanted to go somewhere that was known for seafood, so headed to a place mentioned in our guidebook. We found ourselves walking further and further out of town and once we finally got to the right street, discovered that the restaurant had changed hands (and name). However it looked nice, despite there being no one else in there, so we decided to give it a try. Boy were we pleased we did. Not only did Marcello get to try the local dish he’d been so keen to find – what are known as chips and are similar to whitebait – but we had what we both considered one of the best plates of pasta we’d ever had. As with most Italian dishes, it had fairly simple ingredients, but it blew our socks off with the flavour. Essentially mussels and clams with grated courgette, basil, a touch of white wine and some grated parmesan. Wow. Something we’re definitely going to try and recreate! (www.lacasadininetta.com if you have the chance.)
The following day we had another early start and got the train to Pompeii. We won’t go into the history as we’re sure you all know what happened. It doesn’t really matter how much you read about it, or what other people tell you, it’s still astounding when you’re faced with the sheer size of the site of the ruins. It’s also a reminder of the force of nature when you see Vesuvius and how far away it seems. It goes without saying it’s pretty incredible to walk around the city and get some idea of how people used to live so long ago, only possible from how well preserved it is.
The rest of our time in the area was spent chilling in Sorrento, a pretty town at the start of the Amalfi Coast. Here we enjoyed some time on the beach (very hot black sand and lovely warm water), having drinks overlooking the sea and watching the boats come and go, checking out the shops along the side streets, and of course, doing those all important jobs mentioned above.
From here we were to do an about-turn and head back further north to Rome. However before hitting the city again, we took a drive along the coast as far as Amalfi to absorb the views: hairpin bends, sheer cliff drops, sailing boats and the deep blue of the sea. Nice.