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Travel: Naples Italy Area

(Napoli, Italia)

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Limoncello - Make your own lemon-based liquor

Arriving at the Naples airport, driving through the city to Sorrento, and later taking the train from Sorrento to Rome does not constitute a complete visit to Naples.  This means we will have to go back to catch the sights we didn't have time to see on our first visit.  No problem.  Nancy



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Naples Area - October 2003

By Nancy Kamp

Photos by Cary Kamp


click on the photos to enlarge them

Amalfi Coast

There is said to be no drive on earth as spectacular as the one on the Amalfi Coast of Italy.  We took the inexpensive bus trip from Sorrento to Amalfi and back to Sorrento and totally agree. 

You can pick up a pick up a bus at the centrally located Sorrento train station, buying tickets at the newsstand (tabacchi or tobacco shop).  If you sit on the right side of the bus (not behind the driver) when you leave Sorrento, you'll find yourself looking over cliff edges just inches from the edge - reverse this when you head back to Sorrento.  Even if you've rented a car for your trip, take the bus so you don't miss anything.

You can also take a ferry for a different view of the scenery.

For reasons best not explored (Nancy screwed up), we got off the bus on the road above what we think was Positano, an expensive resort town.  After a long walk to the next bus stop, we got on another bus and completed the drive to Amalfi. 

The bus stop in Amalfi for the return to Sorrento is on the west side of the bus parking lot in Piazza Flavio Gioia - not the east side where you were dropped off.  Apparently, the east side is for buses heading east toward Ravello and Salerno.  We didn't know this and missed several buses before we figured it out.


views from the bus on the Amalfi Coast - homes, towns and gardens are built up and down the cliffs




(we think)


Amalfi, the town, was once important because of its harbor.  In the 11th and 12th centuries, it was known as the Amalfi Maritime Republic. 

map of the Mediterranean Sea when Amalfi was a major power


 sunset view of the statue of Flavio Gioia of Amalfi who is credited with inventing the compass

To explore, walk up from the harbor.  We found a good buy on decorative plates - the area is known for its ceramics - and the weirdest customer service we've seen.

Hungry, we chose the Stella Mar restaurant for a late lunch because it was open in the middle of the afternoon and located right on the beach just next to the bus stop. 

We ordered by pointing on the menu to pizza (what else?) with mushrooms.  We were served a pineapple pizza and said (in polite, but broken Italian) that there was a mistake.  Silently, the waiter removed the pineapple pizza and disappeared.  Neither he nor the manager looked at us for at least 10 minutes though we noticed the cook when she came out of the kitchen and ate our pizza.

As we were about to leave, the manager brought us a mushroom pizza and a check.  We ate, paid and left feeling as though we had done something wrong.  The pizza wasn't worth it.   

Stella Mar restaurant


Amalfi shops - note plates on the wall of the shop behind the woman in black and white

Nancy's 6 1/2" diameter plates with holes on the back for hanging


Amalfi Cathedral, Duomo di Sant'Andrea - 9th century origins + 13th century Arab-Norman style





Pronounced CAW-pree with the accent on the first syllable (not ca-PREE), the isle of Capri has been a resort since the days of the Emperor Augustus. 


Capri Town harbor

We took the ferry from Sorrento to Marina Grande in Capri Town in hopes of catching a boat tour to the Blue Grotto, perhaps the most famous sea cave in the world.  Sadly, weather conditions we couldn't pinpoint forced the cancellation of Blue Grotto tours that day so we set off to explore on foot.

Emperor Tiberius built villas all over the island, but the most famous is Villa Jovis, which our Rick Steve's guidebook described as "a scenic 45 minute walk from Capri Town."  The plan was to stroll to Villa Jovis and then amuse ourselves as opportunities arose.

We headed up through the city, following unusually clear signage.  Shops gave way to homes and gardens with lovely little restaurants here and there.       


"Dancing is illegal" behind these doors - we don't know why

sign on the House of Love and Music - many of the homes on Capri are named


gardens views- cultivated and otherwise




inviting restaurants

Hours, perhaps 5000 or so, later we arrived at Villa Jovis on top of Capri and understood why Tiberius was reluctant to leave - the views, the beauty, the climb - even with litter bearers to carry him, it wouldn't have been fun going up and down.  Perhaps this was why the emperor occasionally had people who annoyed him thrown off a cliff.


cliff at Villa Jovis





the Roman Catholic Church built a chapel atop the hill at Villa Jovis in the 18th century - the statue of Madonna and Child was airlifted to the site by the US military

On the way back down to Capri Town, we discovered a funicular that transports you through the city portion of the climb and descent.  They also sell gelato, which you will need whether you walk or ride because, well, we all need gelato.

If you have the time and your feet aren't sore, Capri is a magical place.  We caught the ferry back to Sorrento.



We based our stay in Sorrento because of the free, frequent traveler room we scored at the Sorrento Hilton.  It was beyond marvelous to lie in bed and look at Mt. Vesuvius.

Sorrento itself is a great tourist center and a good hub for seeing sights in the Naples area with ferries and hydrofoils for direct travel as well as trains and buses departing from the train station that's located several blocks above the harbor.  We walked everywhere and enjoyed the bustle as well as the complimentary glass of limoncello that seemed to be served with every meal.   

Mt. Vesuvius as seen from the Sorrento Hilton

Sorrento harbor


Sorrento cafe

old intriguing something on the walk from the harbor to the train station


October flowers in Sorrento



Other Highlights - Naples Area

Caserta - We planned our trip so we could take the train from Naples to Caserta and then to Rome in order to visit the major palace of the Bourbon kings located just across the street from the Caserta train station. 

Caserta Palace, said to rival Versailles, has a much more imposing fa├žade than London's Buckingham Palace, but all we could do was stare hungrily - it's across the street from the train station - because we arrived on a Sunday and the luggage locker room was closed!


Caserta's train station is not warm and welcoming.  We saw groups of young men getting on and off our train and others to no visible purpose.  Just in case, we kept our mound of luggage looped together with a camera strap.

The only good thing about the milk train (with a stop at every town) we took from Caserta to Rome was a view of Monte Cassino Abbey from the right side of the train.  It has a long history capped by a savage battle fought in World War II.



Mount Vesuvius / Vesuvio - You can take a car, bus or taxi to the top of Mt. Vesuvius.


Paestum - A train or bus ride from Salerno takes you to the 5th century BC (BCE) Greek temples at Paestum.




Pompeii - In 79 AD (CE) Pompeii got a nasty surprise when Mt. Vesuvius erupted and took out the town with poisonous gases and enough lava to preserve the whole place and nearby Herculaneum as well.





Naples / Napoli - Naples is a big city so there's lots to see.  The highlights on my wish list are:

  • Archaeological Museum / Museo Archeologico - This is where they keep all the jewelry and artifacts they found in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

  • Royal Palace

  • Cappella Sansevero - Once I saw photos of Giuseppe Sammartino's Veiled Christ, I've wanted to see this statue.

Salerno - Now an industrial center, Salerno was the sight of a major battle in World War II.



Hotels - We loved our stay at the Sorrento Hilton.  (Details in Traveling with Miles and Points.) 


Shopping - Italy is full of good stuff to buy.  The Naples region is famous for its beautiful but pricey ceramics that are often decorated with lemons.  A decorative bottle of limoncello, a lemon-based liquor, makes a good gift.



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Dare to go Bear



If you enjoy history or historical fiction, you may have indulged in the time travel game.  You pretend you can go back in time and have great adventures based on your superior knowledge and skills and your ability to "predict" events in your hosts' future.

The reality of such a trip might be bit more unpleasant than your dreams or mine, so it was with great fascination that I read Rebecca East's A.D. 62: Pompeii in one sitting.

East's style is simple first person narrative.  After a while, it's compelling.  I did not want the story of a modern woman reduced to slavery in Nero's Roman Empire to end.  I suspect my fellow daydreamers won't either.  Nancy


PS  The Associate Press Stylebook clearly states, "The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks."  East apparently used a different authority, and it drove me nuts.



Robert Harris managed to come up with a fresh, readable approach to history in Pompeii by linking aqueduct engineering and one of the best known natural disasters with a good story.  Nancy

If a book you're looking for is out of print, click on any link to Amazon Books Home Page to find out if it is available as a used book.

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I though Matt Damon was deserving of one of those awards actors are always giving themselves for his work in The Talented Mr. Ripley.  The rest of the cast (Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law) is darn good, too.  And I understand this 1999 psychological drama was shot on Capri, which also looked pretty great.  Nancy






The first* Frederick the Great was Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily as well as an expert on falconry.  He was known as "Stupor Mundi," wonder of the world, and lived a life well-suited to fiction. 

To judge by the readability of The Falcon of Palermo, the first novel by Maria R. Bourdain, we are in for more good writing in the future.  Nancy


*The second Frederick the Great was king of Prussia.


 Tom Tierney paper dolls for the collector in all of us.





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