Sorrento Travel Blog
Bay of Naples and Amalfi Coast By Julie Webb.
No one likes to get up at 3am, but when you know later that morning you will be looking out at the Bay of Naples from the infamous Mount Vesuvius, the early start didn’t seem so bad!
After flying into Naples airport we headed straight to Mount Vesuvius National Park. We drove up what seemed to be a never ending winding road to reach the visitor car park. After buying tickets we then proceeded to walk up the 1km path to the crater. The path is quite steep but a fairly easy walk overall and with just a quick cheeky photo stop to catch our breath, we reached the top in about 20 minutes. At the crater there were volcanological guides waiting to greet visitors to provide a guided walk of the perimeter. Vesuvius looked very serene as we walked the perimeter and peered at opportune places into the crater below. The only evidence of its potential destructive power came from some vapours rising from a few cracks in the walls of the lower chamber. The panoramic views of Bay of Naples were quite breathtaking and allowed us to really comprehend the sheer number of people living in the shadows of this ticking time bomb. After lots of photo ops, we then headed back to the car park and on to our base in Sorrento. On the journey over to Sorrento we could really feel the sense of the scale of this amazing volcano, which remains a dominant feature of the landscape for the whole region.
Rain clouds gathered overnight and a stormy Saturday was predicted, I very much hoped that the forecast would be wrong as the weather is so changeable in this region. No, this time the weatherman was correct! Sorrento was engulfed with heavy rain and we had to abandon our plans for Capri. Determined not to let the rain get the better of us with rainmacks and umbrellas in hand, that afternoon we took the circumvesuviana train to Pompeii. The circumvesuviana is a great asset in the area, it is a train which runs along the coast all the way from Sorrento to Naples. There are stops at all of the main villages and towns including Pompeii and Herculaneum, making these places easy to visit.
Pompeii was amazing and especially atmospheric in a thunderstorm. The thunder claps sounded like Vesuvius was erupting and it made me think of the people from 79AD and what they would have heard from Vesuvius. Pompeii really has to be seen to be believed, it literally is like walking back in time in a Roman town, complete with amphitheater, red light district and public baths. We used the audio tour and made our way around the vast site using our maps. We did have to find shelter a few times from the rain showers, which was difficult as most of the building are without roofs. We managed to get over to the area which displayed the body casts of the people engulfed in ash during the 79AD eruption. They were very moving and it again brought home the power of Vesuvius. When the rain got too much we headed back to Sorrento.
That night I sat on our balcony and watched the most amazing electrical storm light up the bay. In the morning the sun had finally come out to play! The fast ferries over to Capri weren’t running due to high winds left over from the storm, so we decided to do the Amalfi drive. We brought tickets for the City Sightseeing bus tour which runs a regular service during the main tourist season. The bus departed from Sorrento station and headed off along the coastal road to Amalfi. It made a stop at Positano but we decided to spend our time in Amalfi. The coastal drive is simply stunning and the highlight of my trip. It is such a unique experience and is arguably one of the best coastal drive in the world. The limestone cliffs are dramatic and wild and it is a wonder of engineering how humans have conquered the cliffs to build roads and villages. Positano is especially magical, as its buildings cling to the cliffs like they are a natural extension of them. On route to Amalfi there are also key features such as the so called “Madonna with flower”, where the rock has weathered into the shape of the Virgin Mary. The cave of Smeraldo can also be visited from the coastal road, and is a great example of a submerged cave with stalagmitic structures. Theses features actually would have formed on dry land then local bradyseism caused the lower part of the cavern to subside into the sea to become a sea cave.
We arrived at the final destination of Amalfi, which is a real tourist honeypot, even in October it was packed with people. I can’t imagine what it would be like in August! After exploring the sites of Amalfi, we then decided to take a local bus up to Ravello, a mountain village with breathtaking views that has earned it a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site. We also passed the beautiful village of Atrani. After heading back down the winding road from Ravello, we then took the bus back to Sorrento. We timed our journey back to coincide with sunset, and we were indeed lucky enough to catch the beautiful sunset over Capri from Priana. I managed to capture some interesting photos from the bus. These photos also highlight Capri’s famous three sea stacks (Stella, Mezzo, and Scopolo) which jut out from the Mediterranean just off the island's coast.
On our final day, we spent time in Sorrento – took the lift down to the harbour and had lunch watching the Capri ferries coming and going. We did some shopping and sightseeing with an interesting photography exhibition on in the town. We then set off for the airport passing Vesuvius once again, and I managed to take some great photos of a cloudy topped Vesuvius on the back drop of pure blue skies. Yes the weather that day was typically gorgeous, just as we were leaving! I really enjoyed my whistle-stop visit to the Bay of Naples and Amalfi Coast. I was just disappointed that, due to the weather, we didn’t manage to get over to Capri, but least this just gives me an excuse to go back someday!