The last leg of the trip!
We departed Florence relatively early, and headed to Naples via train. After we checked into the hotel (Marriott Renaissance in Naples) we returned to the train station to attempt to get to Pompeii.
NO ONE could tell us how to get there. Each agent sent us to another and it felt nearly impossible. Eventually, we found the Circumvesuviana, a commuter rail, that would take us directly to the ruins in Pompeii. I did a lot of digging after the ordeal, to figure out why it was so complicated.
For one, Naples is a lot rougher than most of the northern cities we visited previously. All of the historic buildings were defaced with graffiti, and the city is still run by gangs, and they definitely aren’t as welcoming to tourists.
Second, a few years ago, the city made a separate line of the Circumvesuviana especially for tourists going to the Pompeii ruins. However, few employees were brought up to speed, and the line was poorly marketed, so few tourists knew how to access it. Add my family to the list.
Regardless, we found our way onto the train. This was the first spot on our trip where I was also sure there were pickpocketers. It was (what I imagine) it would be like to be on a NYC subway in the 70’s or 80’s. Several times, a guy tried to get between my family and I and separate us.
The trip out to Pompeii was about 30 minutes, and the train drops you off right at the gate. For this one, we opted to all download Rick Steves’ podcast episode of Pompeii, which gave us a good overview of the important areas. I loved Pompeii for a few reasons.
Obviously, I loved how old it was, and that you could pretty much go inside or climb on top of anything I wanted. To see this town as it was thousands of years ago, as it came to a screeching halt. The area around Pompeii was also stunning. The views of Mount Vesuvius and beyond stretched for miles.
It was also wild to see this place that I had been reading about in history classes for years, and walk among the ruins and history. I felt really immersed in it.
This was also one of the few times on the trip I wore actual gym shoes and workout clothes and I’m glad I did. Not only was I kind of sore from all the walking we had already done on the trip, but the ground was rough and uneven, so I was definitely thankful to my Nikes. Also, it was very dusty, so it was nice to not feel like I was ruining some of my street clothes. Plus, it was so hot I was thankful to be wearing some moisture-wicking Lululemon.
After we returned to Naples, we showered off the Pompeii dust and headed out for dinner at Valu’, a few blocks from our hotel. I had this amazing risotto with speck and radicchio, and these amazing fried blossoms stuffed with cheese. As I write this, I’m reminded to find somewhere I can get stuffed squash blossoms here in New York.
While Naples wasn’t my parents cup of tea (or cup of espresso, rather, since we were in Italy), I do think I would have a lot of fun there with Andrew. In its grittiness, Naples reminded me of Glasglow. And if Glasgow taught me anything, it’s that there’s tons of really great food, drink, and culture in these rough blue-collar cities. Naples is definitely on my list for the eventual Italy trip I’m going to make Andrew take in the future.
A note about our hotel in Naples: it was the Mariott Renaissance and it was amazing. My dad is a loyal Mariott customer, and while we stayed in smaller, boutique hotels for most of the trip, I’m glad he decided to book with Mariott there. Since the city was less-welcoming to tourists, I was thankful to have a hotel with a nice bed and that serves a whole breakfast.
Speaking of breakfast, the traditional Italian breakfast is mainly coffee and a croissant, or maybe some meats and cheeses. Some places offered an “American breakfast,” consisting of eggs, bacon, etc. If you’ve ever stayed at a Mariott, you can imagine the spread available. I was thrilled to see a waffle-machine, after a week of eating toast with jam and being hungry in an hour.
Also, this Mariott served breakfast on the rooftop, with sweeping views of the city and nearby port. After I inhaled a waffle, I took my coffee out into the sun to finish. It was at this breakfast by the sea that my dad announced he “finally feels like he’s on vacation.” While we understood, we also wondered — where did he think he was for the preceding week?
That morning, we took a train for about an hour to Salerno, a really cute vacation town on the coast. From there, we boarded a bus to Amalfi. While the bus tickets were cheap, I would NOT recommend. The roads are incredibly narrow and winding. At some points before coming around a curb, the bus would just beep in case there was a car coming. My whole family got motion sickness, and the precariousness of the whole thing gave me incredible anxiety. We all agreed that we would not be taking the bus back to Salerno. Instead, we took a ferry that was absolutely delightful. It was only 30 minutes, and smooth sailing, literally.
But Amalfi. Amalfi. If I could go back to just one place in Italy, it would be Amalfi. The city is built up into the mountainside, overlooking the Mediterranean. It was absolutely beautiful and relaxing. Everywhere we looked, we saw the ocean. My dad even sprung for ocean-view rooms in the hotel. We stayed at the Hotel La Bussola, walking distance from the center of town. There was also a beautiful solarium, where we spent much of our second day, soaking up the sun after breakfast.
There is also an amazing pastry shop in the center of town, Savoia (which was ironic because there’s a bakery by the same name in my hometown), and they had the most amazing gelato, cookies, tiramisu, everything. We bought up as much as we could in there, so much, that they started just feeding us samples of gelato while we checked out. I’d go back there just for their lemon cookies. But everything was truly amazing.
One of the best restaurants we ate at in Amalfi was Stella Maris, which I was drawn to because it shared a name with the summer camp I grew up going to. The restaurant was right on the water and had it’s own private beach. I had an unreal pizza there, and a lemon spritz that changed my life.
I spent most of the trip avoiding spritzes, because Aperol tastes like chemicals to me. But the spritz in Amalfi — which is famous for its lemons — was prosecco with limoncello and a scoop of lemon sorbetto. I could have sat there and drank those on the porch all day.
Amalfi was the most beautiful way to end our trip. As I said in my first post, I feel incredibly lucky to have had this trip with my family. I would highly recommend all of these stops to everyone thinking of travelling to Italy. It was hands down the best vacation ever. Ever since, I’ve been trying to find a way to get back to Europe and just experience more.