A bit delayed, I know.
The Amalfi Coast is the perfect weekend trip. It’s only a two to three hour train ride from Rome and it’s very easy (and cheap) to navigate throughout the coast line. Our trip began with an early Friday morning train ride from Rome. After a quick two hours, we arrived in Napoli Centrale (Naples’ train station). We paid €5 for our small luggage to be safely checked in within the train station for 5 hours (It’s an additional €2 for every hour after that)–checking our luggage was hands down the best decision, it was such a relief to not schlep our stuff everywhere.
After our luggage drop off, we went to a small tourist booth that gave us a free Map of Naples as well as some tourist hot spots with the metro lines indicated. I had done some research and if there’s one thing you do in Naples, it’s get the Napoli Pizza, but we’ll get to that later. We only had the day in Naples, so we decided to take some quick tours of two churches, one that was large, but simple (Duomo of Naples):
And one that was mind-blowing, with intricate marble sculptures that were truly breathtaking
San Paolo Maggiore
Entry fee was €10, but with a student i.d. is €7.
Note, the pictures above are not mine, only the one below is–a small miracle in itself because the security there is watching you like a HAWK. The second you shift your camera strap, they yell at you. I’m not sure if they don’t want you to take pictures for religious purposes or if Kodak owns the video/photo rights, which wouldn’t be the first time…cough, Sistine Chapel, cough.
Overall an incredible place to stop, and also very small. It is really only one large main room with all of the sculptures and won’t take more than an hour to look through. I highly recommend a look inside.
We attempted to go to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale Naples–which was highly recommended by our teachers and peers alike. However, the day we went there almost half of the exhibits were either not open to the public or under repair. As I recall, tickets were around €10 and really didn’t seem worth it to the clan (especially since the most interesting sections of the museum weren’t open). We continued our adventures to the relatively unknown castle of Naples…
Quite the hike to get up to this castle (not surprising since it’s at one of the highest points of Napoli). I suggest hopping the metro for €3 for a day pass (your legs will thank you, though you will not be saved from the inevitable full incline walk to get up there–luckily there is plenty of gelato stops you can make along the way).
Hands down the best lookout spot in Naples, with a 360 degree view of the entire city and coastline.
Pizzerria di Matteo or Pizzeria da Michele
Originally, we were going to go to Matteo–overall it seemed that it was the preferred place to go and all the locals told us Matteo was just a tiny bit better. However, when we went (around 3 in the afternoon), they were closed. A small tear dropped in the name of pizza. Luckily our grumbling tummies wouldn’t let us wallow for too long, and we were on the move again–Michele’s it is! The great thing about Michele’s is that it’s extremely close to the train station, making it a great ending to our day in Naples.
We waited about twenty minutes (you pick a number as if you’re in a deli and tell them how many are in your party). I should mention that this is also the very same pizzeria where Julia Robert’s had a pizza-gasm in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.
I’m sure you’re worried that since this is such a tourist hot-spot, the pizzas must be through the roof expensive. On the contrary, you have two choices of pizza–pizza marinara (only sauce) or pizza napoli (cheese and sauce), three choices of size (small, medium, or large)–I ordered a ‘small’ Napoli for €4.
After our hardy meal, which was absolutely fantastic, and a bit of shoe shopping, trinket buying, luggage retrieval; we were on our way to Sorrento!
If you are worried about commuting throughout the Amalfi Coast–DON’T BE. Circumvesuviana is a very convenient, cheap, (though lengthy) way to get to Pompeii, Herculaneum, or Sorrento. The train itself is located below the Napoli Centrale station and the price of your ticket depends on where you go. Since we were going to the last stop, Sorrento, it was €6. Be wary though: Naples is well known for its mafia, corruption, and high drug consumption and sales–I wasn’t surprised when I realized the two men sitting diagonal from us who were nodding off from heroin use. Another reason why we did all of our traveling during the day–though the men were harmless, it’s not worth the risk.
After catching a cab from the train station to our hostel, we popped open some wine, walked around to get ourselves oriented, and soon after passed out.
We began Saturday morning with our hostel’s breakfast that was provided, packed our things, and began our walk back to the bus/train station. We purchased a bus ticket to take us to Positano, a nearby city that was too South for the Circumvesuviana train. Unfortunately the first bus was too packed for us to get on, so we walked around the downtown Sorrento area for an hour until the next bus. I’m pretty sure the bus ticket was around €15 roundtrip.
I’m not sure if it was the hour long bus ride that was filled with turn after turn, the bus driver repeatedly slamming on the brakes, or the feeling every seven seconds that we were about to drive off the cliff, but Positano did not impress me in the least. You have to walk down a mountain to get there (the bus stop is at the halfway point in the mountain, off the highway), all of the shops with cool trinkets, pottery, and other common sea port goods (i.e.- limencello, soaps, candles) were extremely overpriced and the walkway you need to take down to the beach is very narrow, crowded, and overall very unpleasant.
It was pretty for what it was, but I felt like Positano was just trying to mimic Cinque Terre and failing miserably. After an hour or two of laying out on the beach, we knew we wanted to get back to Sorrento before it got dark (and we had no idea when the bus was supposed to swing by). We packed our things, made the hike back up the mountain, and waited about 45 minutes for the bus to take us back through the windy road that almost made me throw up both times.
We had Saturday night and Sunday morning to explore Sorrento and spared no time in asking our hostel concierge for advice on a great dinner restaurant.
I Giardini di Tasso
‘Tell Mario that Michele sent you!” — the greatest thing ever said to us. Mario, the owner, was welcoming and generous to say the least. We had a liter of red wine (which was brought out after our first liter), appetizers, and our own desserts on the house–not to mention three rounds of complimentary ‘digestifs’ (liqueur shots to aid the digestion of your food); the first shot was a chocolate liqueur, the next was a blue, minty liqueur, and finally an apple liqueur (but since I’m allergic to apples, I opted for limoncello). The food was impeccable, the company was wonderful, the scenery was relaxing and beautiful, but ending up with 26 mosquito bites from sitting outside was definitely not worth it. If you go during the summertime (especially anytime from dusk to late at night), make sure to layer on the bug spray OR a new trick I’ve heard about is putting a dryer sheet in your pocket.
Fauno Notte Club
After quite a bit of walking/digesting from our three hour dining experience, we stumbled upon a Harley Davidson showing/festival in downtown Sorrento. Bizzare? Yes. I used trip advisor to find a nightclub that was nearby and voila! Fauno Notte was right by us. The club was fun, good music, relatively cheap drinks, and a bit of an older crowd (early 30s-40s), which was awesome to say the least.
I also regret having those final rounds of liqueur (turns out you CAN have too much of a good thing)–those would be coming up to remind me what a bad idea they were around 5 a.m. the next morning. PARTY TIME!
It was a pretty hectic weekend trip. Next time I would probably x-out Positano from the travel plans and spend more time in Sorrento. On our way back to Naples on Sunday, we stopped at Ercolano (Herculaneum), which will be my next blog post!