Wednesday 7 May OFF TO NAPLES
After 2 nights in Bari we were off to Naples, continuing our adventure 2 days early. This was actually great because we had a day to spare in case of bad weather. Sometimes it’s not possible to get into the Blue grotto at Capri if the weather is bad or the tides are high, so we had an extra day up our sleeves. This also meant that we had another extra day to give us the opportunity to all be together to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum, something that under the original dates wasn’t going to happen. So off we went. Of course this is where the hotel hassles kicked in and again, eventually, it was easier to forego the money than argue – you’ll never win an argument with an Italian, unless you are prepared to spend a lot of time and energy on it – I wasn’t prepared to stress over this, I wanted a nice family holiday not arguments with hotels.
The train trip across Italy was once again uneventful and smooth (I have to say that long distance travel is just wonderful on Italian trains, as long as you go first class) until we got to Caserta for the transfer. As we were sauntering along the platform with all our luggage (luckily we hadn’t got far) one of the boys said ‘Who’s got Babi?’ Oh no! We had left Mum’s ashes on the train! Luckily Nick can run, and run he did, retrieved Mum and was back in almost no time. That was the 3rd time we’d almost lost her, there was a little more fun ahead for her ashes.
Being a day early in Naples I had to book us into a hotel for the first night. I had decided on one in Via Giuseppe Pica, nothing spectacular but nothing amazing either. After settling in, we went out for a walk to see what we could find. Nope, Naples wasn’t any cleaner than the first time, and certainly didn’t feel any safer either. Although, hold on, yes it was cleaner! My first visit there in 2006 was a week after the end of a major garbage strike and there were piles of putrid rubbish everywhere, this time it was just it’s normal dirty self. We persevered and kept walking, amongst other things we came across a pet shop that had baby porcupines for sale, really?!
Always take photos of everything! It’s the digital world and you can delete them if you find you don’t want them. I didn’t think to take photos of the porcupines and so can’t show any proof of this.
Here is a general streetscape instead.
Thursday 8 May
I had booked us into the Hostel of the Sun in Naples, even though not everyone was keen on hostels but I wanted to be close to the port for the day trip to Capri. Hotels for 4 people can get a little expensive after a while, so hostel it was. There we could cook our own food as well, which Grisha and I took advantage of later. It’s actually a fun hostel to stay in and if you are a hostelling type, give it a try.
Unfortunately Nick came face to face with the most infamous type of person in Naples, the pickpocket. As we were getting on the tram at the stop on Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi Nick had his hands full with bags and backpacks, there was a lot of jostling going on and then the boys laughed seeing that the fellow doing the jostling didn’t stay on the tram. I can’t remember if I said it out loud but my first thought was ‘check your pockets’ and when he did he found that his phone was gone, luckily that was all that went as he also had his camera and wallet in his pockets. Those guys steal then sell on that very same corner, so be careful. We actually had one of those thieves attempting to sell us an Ipad they had stolen!
Never, ever, ever carry anything of value in your pockets!
Gentlemen, I know you sometimes feel weird carrying a ‘man bag’ but better that than losing your belongings. ( By the way, never use ‘bum bags’) they are the easiest (after pockets) to steal from. I met a couple back in ’06 in Madrid who thought they were safe by wearing their bum bag in front, the man lost everything in a crush on the airport train, he didn’t notice that the bag had been unzipped and everything taken out until much later. The same applies to backpacks. Luckily these days you can get all sorts of bags which are strengthened with wire and other materials as well as lockable zips that make thieving more difficult. It’s worth spending the money for these. Also, thieves are very familiar with all the types of bags out there so they recognize the anti-theft ones and will ignore you and pick an easier target, Of course money belts are an excellent idea as well, I don’t like them much but they are a necessity in some countries.
I got a great tip later in my trip from a 71 year old solo female traveller (Barbara, who had been in all sorts of places) regarding money belts and women, always run string or something similar from your money belt to your bra strap and secure well at both ends, that way even if someone tampers with the money belt you are ahead of them. Doesn’t help the gentlemen much – sorry, you’ll have to figure out your own extra security.
From the very beginning I knew it would be a struggle to make this part of the trip as much fun as possible. Not one of us was keen on Naples. I didn’t like it back in 2006 and the kids didn’t like it from the moment we arrived, but I knew what I had planned! Capri!
But first…………………..Pompeii and Herculaneum
Now that was an interesting experience! The train going to Pompeii (which is the same train that goes on to the Amalfi coast, as far as I could gather) was most unpleasant, old, unkempt and covered with graffiti. It looked and felt awful! However don’t let that put you off, as it turned out it was a perfectly fine way to get to Pompeii and cheap. There are, of course, other ways of getting there including organized tours if that is your preferred method of sightseeing). On the way back the boys decided that, as no one cares about anything much on these trains they could use the overhead bars as gym equipment. They were right no one cared!
Pompeii itself was somewhere between WOW! And disappointing for me
From Wikipedia – Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. That eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ash and fumes to a height of 20.5 miles, spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima bombing. An estimated 16,000 people died due to hydrothermal pyroclastic flows. The only surviving eyewitness account of the event consists of two letters by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus.
One wow! At the entrance to Pompeii we found a lemon seller with giant lemons – Nick is demonstrating.
The line of various refreshment stalls, including the lemon place
I’m not sure what I was expecting but probably son #1 put it best with his question ‘Where are the dead people?’ Of course there are no ‘dead people’ they all turned to dust from the heat of the volcanic explosion, but what was left were the shapes of people going about their lives caught by the lava and ash. Apparently what they did after the excavations was fill the shapes with plaster and so got the semblances of the people who were there, we found a few of these in a caged storage area.
Of course anything of value has been removed and is now in museums. Would have been nice I think if they could create some home scenes using the moulds to give a more realistic aspect to the everyday life of ancient Pompeiians, I don’t know why archeological sites (in the main) don’t do that, particularly Pompeii, one of the rare places where the shapes of people were found, not just bones in graves..
My wonderful, fun tribe with Vesuvius in the background.
Keeping the streets of Pompeii clean.
The endless tourist groups
The other thing of course was that as Pompeii was so close to the volcano the destruction was massive, so you can’t really expect that anything much would have survived (except Pliny the Younger of course). It was interesting though to see what has been excavated and imagine how the people would have lived in the town and gone about their daily lives. Homes, markets, pubs, toilets, produce storage all excavated and, luckily, labeled very well so you could use your imagination. But it did have a very ‘dead’ feeling.
Herculaneum was somewhat different, smaller and further away from the main impact, it had a lot more detail preserved. I preferred Herculaneum mainly because there were almost whole buildings in places and even some of the wall decoration and floor mosaics are still visible. There is much more of Herculaneum but unfortunately part of Naples is standing on top of it, so excavation is impossible. Perhaps because of the decorations still preserved and a feeling of being inside peoples’ homes I think this place felt more alive and therefore we liked it better.
One edge of Herculaneum with some new buildings in the background
The remains of wall decorations
A mosaic floor
The day for Capri dawned bright and sunny, so there was hope that we would make it into the grotto. So off we trekked to the port for the ferry trip.
This time was rather different to my trip in 2006, (I don’t smoke anymore for one so there was no chatting to the crew out the back) and there were 4 of us so we did the group thing of roaming and taking photos , chatting etc. The crossing was smooth and we docked at Capri successfully. We’d noticed an ad from a boat hiring company on the ferry so went to check them out, hired a boat but had to wait a little while till one was available, so off we went exploring. I chose not to go up the very, very long set of stone steps that led to the top of Capri township, and the queue for the chairlift was too long so the kids went off up those steps while I found some lunch and roamed the port area. I was determined to find the wonderful Torta Caprese gelato that I had stumbled across back in ’06, but no one knew anything about it, I guess it has vanished in the last 8 years, they all tried to sell me the chocolate and almond gelato, perhaps the owner of the real one has moved on.
Back to the hired boat and off we went. The boys had a wonderful time driving it all around the island, it was awesome! You do have to be somewhat careful though and there is a good reason they tell you to stow your stuff in the cupboard. However, you can’t keep your camera stowed away when there is so much to photograph. Unfortunately we got a little swamped by another boat’s wake, and Grisha’s camera got wet, that caused some consternation, luckily it turned out that it wasn’t affected, he did get onto drying it out very quickly, so I guess that the moisture didn’t reach the inner parts. So I guess the tip is to keep your camera around your neck or have someone else protect it as much as possible.
It is a delight to be able to see all of Capri from the sea. It is a beautiful island and there is plenty to photograph and lots of little surprises, certainly is a jewel, I’d love to do it again with more time, there is so much more to explore.
The yellow building part way up the hill is the Hotel Ambassador Webber, I stayed there in 2006, wonderful hotel with a great view.
Sons in control
We were getting a little concerned about the weather as clouds started gathering and bad weather can mean no going into the grotto or at the very least no beautiful blue in the grotto as the blue is created by how the light enters the cave. However, all was well. Getting into the grotto is quite a process, you can’t go in on your own (that would be a disaster). Entry into the grotto is by rowboat, operated by local boatmen. You pay, you climb in (they organize you in order) you get down as low as possible, preferably almost lying down as the entrance can be very low depending on the height of the water. And, oh! What a reward when you are inside and you turn around to look back towards the entrance!
Photos can’t do it justice, if you can go and have a look yourself, it is stunning. You are rowed around the grotto and then back to your boat, lying down again as you exit.
That done it was back to the boat hire and then there was only one thing left to do. So we hopped on one of the little yellow buses and went up the winding road to Anacapri at the top of the hill. I like tthis little village even though it is very touristy. I opted out of going on the chairlift (in recent years my ‘thing’ with heights has increased so it’s hard to enjoy an experience when you are shaking in your boots). I’m so glad I did as the report from the kids was enough to make me shrink. I hadn’t realised that they are open one-seater chairs. So if you are an intrepid adventurer and like heights I can recommend the experience as the photos they took are just wonderful!
The Faraglioni rocks from above
So while they were traversing the heights I hung around the village and talked to the lazy cats and found charming and pretty things to look at and photograph. It’s difficult to photograph much in the way of touristy shops in Italy. Unfortunately the Italians haven’t yet realized that word of mouth and social media is a great form of advertising, so they have signs in the windows saying no photography. Those who don’t have signs come out and either yell at you or whine about photographers. So it’s much easier to just not do it, unless you can succeed with a long distance lens.
And so my life dream had come true, and I managed to achieve it in the company of my wonderful tribe, what a bonus!
With that it was sadly back to Naples leaving the pristine waters behind.
The lazy cat, pretty much how it is on Capri
A hotel at Anacapri
Friday Night, Nick and Kirra stayed in a hotel on the waterfront on Via Partenope. They needed a good nights sleep before flying home the next day, we all had dinner together by the water. This part of Naples is of course much cleaner and nicer, mostly 4 star hotels and of course kept more presentable for the tourists.
My original plan was for all of us to leave on the same day but I discovered that it wasn’t going to be quite so easy for Grisha and me. We had Nick and Kirra organised a they were flying to London to connect with their flight home and Easyjet flies direct. Grisha and I on the other hand were going on to Belgrade and that proved to be a challenge. There are no direct flights from Naples to Belgrade. We could have gone to Rome and then on to Belgrade but that would have meant staying the night in Rome as there was no easy way to get to Rome and then fly out on the same day. Seriously, if you have to go to Rome then it is just not right to not spend a little time there. The easiest and cheapest way was to fly Turksh airlines via Istanbul but that meant staying 2 extra days in Naples. Being in a hostel that was our cheapest option.
So we killed a couple of extra days by going to the National Museum on Sunday to see the items they had taken out of Pompeii and Herculaneum. I found the displays amazing and needless to say many photos were taken.
Here is one of them.
Monday we did the hop on hop off and found the rich, clean area up the hill with wonderful views of the Bay and Vesuvius.
However, I still can’t say that I like Naples.
And so on Tuesday 14 May Grisha and I flew Turkish airlines via Istanbul to Belgrade. And THAT is a whole different episode!