Those who have followed me over the last few years will know that we have almost always spent our annual vacation in Italy.
So it comes that we have seen south of Bologna now almost all of Italy. Only one small area eluded our attention the last years: The Gulf of Naples - until now.
Preface: This blogpost differs a bit from the previous posts. This is due to the not insignificant participation of my girlfriend in its creation.
Camping in Campania
If you like sandy beaches, then you are definitely wrong in Campania. If you like a large selection of perfectly equipped campsites, then also.
No matter which campsite you look at, you have to accept some disadvantage. The campsite near Sorrento is on the mountain and above a sewage treatment plant, south on the peninsula the sites are quite nice, but also nice and far away from everything. This is quite inconvenient if you want to use public transport.
We then decided on a camping site near Vico Equense, two towns before Sorrento. The campground is in the harbor, after all, with a small pebble beach nearby. Shopping? Mini-market or by bus to the main town. Walking up the stairs is not a good idea, the town is 100 meters higher up the cliff.
Instead, a bus runs regularly to the Circumvesuviana station - a rail line between Sorrento and Naples, passing Vesuvius and Pompei. Some trains air-conditioned and relatively modern, others not so. According to reports, always extremely crowded and you have to be afraid. We had the former on one of four trips, the latter not at all. It's just a local train. And many tourists use the train for arrival and departure.
Driving along the highway, you don't miss the mountain and you know pretty quickly that it must be Vesuvius. The first thing Exe said was "I imagined it to be more imposing". This attitude did not change with him after we climbed the mountain. But that it is exhausting to march up there was nevertheless certain - at 34°C without a refreshing breeze. The volcano can't be compared with Etna, but it's still exciting to see the crater and the view of the Gulf of Naples.
A smart decision on our part was to buy tickets with bus shuttle to the entrance. And until the bus picked us up again we had 2 hours to walk once up there and back. The guidebook said something about a 25 minute climb...Well, we must be the slower sort. With breaks we have been up in about 45 minutes. But it has to be said that the two hours are manageable for the average runner and you don't have to be afraid of missing the bus. If in doubt, just take the next one.
The climb is exhausting. There are hardly any shady places. But you have a great view and look forward to the shower.
Pompei, like most ancient ruins, can be described in three words: lots of old stones.
Unlike most ruins, Pompei offers considerably more, due to preservation by volcanic ash. Murals are still visible and the walls of the buildings are also higher than most other ruins.
We did not book a guided tour, which turned out to be a good thing during our walk. Most of it is so well preserved that you don't need an explanation - you can recognize a flour mill and an oven without an explanation. Most of the other things with a little power of deduction, too. You almost feel like Justus Jonas.
But July is not an ideal time to visit. If you do - seek shade regularly and bring plenty to drink. It is definitely worth a visit - the condition is, as written above, much better than other ruins.
What did my parents say about Naples? Don't go there, it's an ugly city. The guidebook gave a different picture. The last few years Napoli has been spruced up with pedestrian zones and renovations.
Our impression is something in between. The city is beautiful and it has its own charisma. If you are not pushed to your limit by the heat, there is a lot to discover and explore. You don't really feel unsafe, but you don't really feel safe either.
Napoli is big, Napoli is lively, Napoli is chaotic, Napoli is dirty, but somehow also with its own charisma and beautiful. Buses are 40 minutes late and so full that we were pushed out one stop further - good for us. Subway stations are completely closed and the traffic runs according to the motto: The main thing is that it flows somehow, at least for the scooters.
Amalfi Coast and its pearls
The Amalfi Coast stands for La dolce vita - the sweet life - like no other region in Italy. Funny, when you consider that lemons are an important economic factor in addition to tourism.
You can either explore the coast by boat or drive along the infamous Amalfitana - a small winding coastal road along the cliffs. We did both.
With an excursion boat we left in the morning, along the coast through various bays. In between a small bathing break in a bay and off to Amalfi. The city, which gave the coast its name, was full of tourists and it was warm. There is roughly one street for tourists and the church. Two hours was easily enough for us and we were glad to be back on the boat.
Second stop was Positano - the little sister of Amalfi. We liked the town better, but it was just as crowded. And hot, which is why I threw myself into the sea for another 10 minutes before we got back on the boat after a total of an hour and headed home, with another swim break along the way.
On the Amalfitana, the perspective is different, but no less beautiful. As a driver, I didn't have quite as much time for the view. The traffic was quiet, but especially in towns you always have to keep an eye on the scooters, left and right of the car.
Amalfi and Positano we drove this time only through. Instead, we went to Ravello on a hill - a beautiful little town with a fantastic view. Definitely worth a stop.
After the two trips, I can understand why the Amalfi Coast has its reputation, even if it's not for me. It was too warm and especially it was way too crowded.
Capri - one island and many boats
Typical we thought on a Saturday: let's go to Capri. In our defense. We first put in two days of relaxing days, saw a bunch of sights and the boat excursion was already fully booked. So we thought: let's get on the ferry and visit Capri. We got on the first bus at 7:40 am and wanted to get to Capri from Sorrento as early as possible. All the others wanted to do the same. Unfortunately, the ferry was a little late, so we had to wait in the heat.
Arrived on Capri we thought about the said boat trip around the island and the blue grotto to visit. This idea had also the others, so we decided against it, because we had hoped for shorter queue times around noon. The small island is pretty, but also simply overcrowded. Visitors come every hour. We wanted to save ourselves the climb to the center of town and chose the bus for transportation. First we waited certainly 30 minutes, although the buses should come every few minutes, then the bus was so crowded that we virtually could not fall over. Once we reached the top, we threw our plans overboard and decided to take a look at the famous rocks from above and then leave the island again relatively quickly. The view was fantastic, the way to the viewpoint was also super nice. It is not surprising why tourists like to come to Capri.
We did not do the boat tour - simply because it takes 2 hours and you had to plan extra time for the blue grotto. We just didn't feel like it anymore, bought a ticket back as soon as possible and Arrivederci Capri.
The Sorrento Peninsula
In a nutshell, Sorrento is great. Very touristy, but also sweet and warm. It's just fun to stroll through the alleys, eat ice cream, get offered limoncello and have that vacation feeling.
The city is not very big and it is easy to get from the train station to the port or into the city. It offers a great view and also a good starting point for various excursions by boat - Amalfi Coast, Capri, Ischia or Naples.
Conclusion and final words
La dolce vita - the sweet life. That's what you're promised in the Gulf of Naples. Unfortunately, I could not find it for me. The reason for this is the heat in combination with extreme tourist crowds. Capri, Naples, Amalfi and Positano were completely overcrowded. So there is simply no joy. Relaxed strolling? Missing.
Eventually we will come back, but then definitely not in the summer. The spring with lower temperatures and fewer tourists seems to us to be better suited. Approaches to "la dolce vita" were visible and I would have liked to pursue them more.... Limoncello, granita, pizza and pasta, ...
I didn't think that these few days would be soo exhausting. Possibly it's because we are simply getting older - but possibly also because our view of the vacation has changed. Nevertheless, I am very happy to have visited the Gulf of Naples. Often you need the car to be able to reach the individual sights. Here, however, we could just walk off, didn't need to look for parking, always got everywhere. You have to get involved with Naples and its surroundings - then it's fun, despite the heat, sweat and lots of thirst. If you choose a tight program, you hardly have time to see the beauty. On and on. This is also noticeable in the fact that the tourists stayed on average three days at the campsite - we did not. And the owners of the campsite noticed that directly and were happy. It is a beautiful spot and always worth a visit when the temperatures are milder. If only for the culinary delights and the view.