Italy, Pompeii, Vesuvius & Sorrento

Following the coast south again we took the hills in our stride but were still impressed by the views and rugged coastline,

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with all of this to occupy us we seemed to arrive very quickly in Pompeii. The campsite was only about 100 metres from the entrance to the original city which had been there for over 600 years before being covered by the eruption from Vesuvious. We hadn’t planned a day off here so it was lucky we’d arrived early, it gave us the opportunity to take the bus up to Vesuvious and then see Pompeii in the morning. The bus up was a hair raising ride, the tour guide jokingly introduced our driver as Enzo Ferrari, that should have been warning enough !! Still we did arrive in one piece, we were told we had one hour to climb the rest of the way up to the crater, take photos and return back to the bus. Thijs and myself set off at a good rate and stopped to take plenty of photos, we followed the path around the crater as far as your allowed to go and were on our way back when we met up with Naomi.

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The view from the top, note the lava trail !

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It’s really just a very big hole !

Naomi’s footwear had slowed her down on the loose gravel path and getting back down would be equally tricky, it was quite steep in places !
We arrived back with time to spare and even had time for a quick drink before we were back on the bus, and if we thought it was fun going up it was even more so going back down !!
The bus stopped on the way back down at a vineyard and as part of the tour price we got to sample the produce, neither Thijs, Naomi or myself liked the wine so no sale here then ! We arrived back in Pompeii none the worse for wear after our speedy ride and went in search of food. We were amazed to find that most of the cafe’s, bars and restaurants we’d seen open earlier were now closed. Apparently as soon as the last train leaves they all shut up shop as the campsites are then the only real tourists left and they rarely venture out in numbers great enough to make it worth staying open ! After some walking and asking we did find one place still open and managed to get some food, it was average but at least it was food.
Morning came all to soon and we packed up ready to leave, just leaving our tent up until we’d had a look round the ruins. We were some of the first in the queue, something we’d be grateful for on several occasions, we paid our money and entered. It’s an odd feeling at first, a bit like being on a film set, you know it was a real city and I suppose you keep expecting it to still be one, after all most of its still there, just empty !

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Our first look at Pompeii, I was already impressed !

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A few random photos, did you spot the worlds first zebra crossing, 2nd to last photos 😉

We walked about for several hours looking into this villa and that ruin until finally we decided to just go and see the big things. We made our way to the amphitheatre which was stunning, hard to believe it was so old. We then walked through the gardens to yet another amphitheatre, this one was smaller but none the less impressive, from the top steps you had a great view over Pompeii.

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Walking down the tunnel into the amphitheatre.

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The amphitheatre.

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Underneath the amphitheatre.

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The amphitheatre from outside.

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On our way to the second amphitheatre through the gardens.

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Amphitheatre No 2.

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And the views across Pompeii.

That done we’d had enough, we’d taken hundreds of photos, walked for what seemed like miles and endured the blistering heat. We were hungry, thirsty and ready to leave, next stop Sorrento. Pompeii and Vesuvious hadn’t been part of our original plans but I think we would all agree that it was certainly worth the effort !
We were nearly on the Amalfi coast and already you could see how dramatic the coastline was becoming,

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lovely twisting roads that cut back around ravines before heading back up and around the next headland. Beautiful beaches below all dotted with umbrellas and sun loungers, the sea a bright blue twinkling under a perfect azure sky and to our left steep hills faced with olive trees. We were loving it, this was why we’d come to Italy, well this and to see my dad of course !!
A few more twists and turns and there was Sorrento, a perfect little town, lovely little side streets filled with cafe’s and bars, piazza’s where you could sit and watch the world go by, fabulous beaches, great ice cream shops, a Dali exhibit and of course shops filled with objects of desire….well for some people !
We stopped long enough to take a few quick photos, knowing that we had plenty of time to go back in the morning for a good mooch about. Our campsite was about three km out of town, very nice and with all the usual facilities. We quickly sorted ourselves out before taking the stairs down to the fishing village directly below the camp. It was picture postcard perfect, quaint little bars with chairs and tables on the pavement, people just passing the time of day with a coffee or wine. Fishing boats in a variety of colours all lined up on the beach ready for the next day, people just sunbathing on the harbour wall and fishing off the rocks. After a short walk we were soon relaxing in the shade with a cold beer, perfect !

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Lovely place, very peaceful 😉

Sorrento was everything our guide book said it would be and more, we spent several hours just wandering about, happily taking photos. We had ice cream from a fantastic gelateria with over 50 flavours, talk about spoilt. We visited the Dali exhibition and marvelled at the mans creativity, still not sure whether he was mad or a genius, the juries still out ! We wandered around the quaint side streets and piazzas, photographed them all and finally we sat down for coffee and pastries. Just sitting there in the middle of Sorrento, surrounded by all this beauty while drinking a great cup of coffee and eating a fabulously rich chocolate croissant was a perfect moment, but soon it was time to leave.

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Sorrento and Dali, a perfect union !!

Another short ride would take us to a campsite called Nettuno, not sure of its exact location but about halfway between Sorentto and Minori. Now camp Nettuno ranks as one of my least favorite places, it was really crowded, there was no shade, no grass, very expensive and not really very helpful. Thankfully we were only there for one night, it boasted a beach on its web page, we went for a walk and found it….they obviously got the picture from google !! Not impressed so very happy to leave in the morning, a steep ride back up their drive had us back on the coast road heading south. The coastline becoming more dramatic with each passing mile, the cliffs steeper, the amount of steps down to the beach greater, the hotels bigger and clinging to the edge of the cliffs and the amount of times we needed to stop and take photos greater still !!

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Some of the glorious scenery on our way down the coast.

We stopped in Amalfi for lunch, we wheeled our bikes out along the harbour wall, found a place to sit and had a picnic, brilliant. The view was fantastic, all around there is something to look at, behind the town it gets steep and the hills become green with trees and shrubs, the foreground is full of expensive watercraft bobbing about, in the middle is a shoppers paradise. Whether its expensive luxury clothes or good restaurants and bars, it’s all there, a proper little paradise !
From our picnic spot we could also see our route winding back up the hill from the seafront, we’d need some fuel for that so we kept eating.

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Amalfi, beautiful place, and finally looking back as we climb the hill out.

It looked worse than it actually was and very soon we were at the top and on our way to Minori, our stop would be at an Agritourismo, basically a farm that also let’s rooms or has camping facilities. The rooms are normally quite basic but that doesn’t mean there not good, there normally rustic but with everything you need and no frills. We rode into Minori and decided to grab a drink and an ice cream before heading up the hill to our campsite.
The campsite was about 4km up some of the steepest roads we’d been on, then you need to push your bike up an even steeper drive, then along a path for about 40m, then carry it up about 100 steps until your through the lockable gate. At this point you can leave your bike and just carry your kit up the remaining 100 or so steps until you reach the terraced area reserved for tents. Only the brave or really stupid need apply for this campsite, but oh the view makes it so worth the effort and as the sun dipped lower in the sky the view changed and became even more amazing !!

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Some of the scenery on our way to Minori.

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Our tents and the view, the view at night and finally the view in daylight and unobstructed !!

Sadly we made all this effort for just one night and would need to be up at 5.30am to get packed up and on our way to the train station at Salerno. In the meantime we indulged in some homemade Limoncello, red wine, white wine and home grown fruits before retiring for and early night.
5.30am and as per normal I’m first up, packed and ready to leave. I carry all my kit down to the gate, unlock it then carry all my kit down the steps to the top of the drive. I go back and help Thijs and Naomi carry all there kit then finally help with the bikes. I lock the gate, hide the key where I was instructed and look at my watch, were right on schedule, it’s 6.00am and were on our way to Salerno. The ride was brilliant, as we climbed out of Minori the sun was just coming up and as the rays hit the water it looked superb, the road just seemed to cling to the cliffs or wind through tunnels, nothing was boring. Then we climbed again before the road took us through yet another tunnel, as we came out of the tunnel the road swung left and as it did the view across the water to Salerno was stunning. The sun was rising higher now and it’s rays were catching the sea making it sparkle while in the background the mountains and hills were softened into silhouette, layers and layers of them, what a great way to finish our run down the Amalfi coast 😉

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It really was a special moment !!

As I said earlier we were to catch a train from here, it would take us across to the east coast to a place called Bari, we would need to change at Potenza and Foggia before finally arriving at about 9.00pm. The journey itself posed no problems and although we needed to change twice we had no trouble getting our bikes on or off the trains.
In my next blog we take a ride south down the east coast, our final destination will be San Foca, in the meantime, take care 😉
JC

About John Chevis

I'm a forty something single guy who spent far to long depressed, but luckily for me I found an answer in the form of exercise !! I started running and cycling on a regular basis and now two and a half years later I'm cycling the world !!
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