Sunday, April 8, 2012

Campania Region of Italy

Italy for spring break was wonderful. Getting to Sorrento took some time and I must say I was not too pleased with the amount of sick people traveling by plane and train on the way to and during our visit. As much as I cursed the fools for exposing us to their illnesses, for not just staying the heck home when they are coughing and sneezing, what did we do at the end of our trip? Of course, we got on that plane home with S and K coughing and sneezing.

But, at least before we started getting sick, we were able to enjoy our time in Italy. We stayed in Sorrento, which is a great place to base yourself if you want to see the sites in the Campania region. We arrived into Naples on a Saturday night and had a car and driver take us into Sorrento. I am so glad we did, as future experience with the train would prove it was the best decision.

On Sunday, we went to the Isle of Capri. I think this was my favorite part of the trip. As we got off the ferry, we were approched by someone offering us a boat ride to the Green Grotto. "Just like the Blue Grotto, but no wait, less crowded." He explained how he offered a much cheaper, private service and the Green Grotto was just as good. But, we came to see the Blue Grotto, not the fake Blue Grotto. So, we decided to check-out the boats that were supposedly "crowded and expensive" and are so glad we did. The price was cheaper than what the guy at the dock was offering, the boat was bigger and had life vests (under the seats, but they were there), and there really was no waiting at all. We went to the Blue Grotto. Once there you transfer to a small row boat to enter the Grotto. Our row boat captain was new on the job. Apparently, he hadn't quite figured out how to not get a big splash of water in the boat upon entering the grotto. I have some choice pictures of me in my white jeans with my derriere all wet. Dear husband was so kind to capture it on film, which we did not and will not be sharing. After the Grotto, we went into Capri and enjoyed our time there very much! So beautiful!!! Expensive, but beautiful!!!

Our next day, we went to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. We downloaded the free audio-guide from Rick Steves and it was a great little tour. It is quite hot when walking the ruins. At the end, we had some fresh lemon juice, a snack and were on our way to Mt. Vesuvius. After walking around Pompeii for hours in the sun, the 800 meters from the bus parking lot to the crater were a lot more tiring than we expected, well at least than I expected. It was pretty cool to see. T is learning about volcanoes at school, so it was a very fitting site to see. That night we ate at Il Ristorante Lionne Rosse and found it was right next door to David's gelaterria - now officially our favorite gelato place! Gelato - yummm!

Day 3 we planned to stay in Sorrento as K really really wanted to swim at the hotel and Sorrento is quite pretty to see. However, at the last second we thought, let's try to get the ferry to Ischia and go swimming in thermal springs we just found out about. Only, then, I realized I couldn't find my phone. And, unfortantely I had turned off the volume the night before so I wouldn't have to hear it ding every time I got a message. After searching and searching the hotel (I had it at breakfast) to no avail, I started changing passwords and canceling accounts, while S took the boys swimming at the hotel pool. Where, I understand, "heated" is still really really cold. At this point, I was cursing myself for not downloading the "find my phone" application, which also allows you to remotely erase your phone. Panic, panic, panic. After checking the hotel and our room a half dozen times, I decided to do one more check. I found it!!! It was in our room. It had fallen between the back of the suitcase and the wall. What a relief, but it meant Ischia would not be in the cards after all. It wasn't our original plan, so it was OK. And, I have to say, that perhaps working in a day with no real plan to the vacation is a very worthwhile thing to do. We did a tour of Sorrento via horse drawn carriage, had lovely meals and, of course some David's Gelato. We also took a little tour bus to see a local lemon grove and see a beautiful view of the bay and Mt. Vesuvius. There are definitely better tours than the one we took, but with the time we had it worked out just fine.

On Day 4, we went to Caserta to see the Palace. This was the point of our whole trip for the boys, as the palace was used in Star Wars films as the Palace on Naboo. The Palace was very cool to see and had a wonderful big garden. And we had a local pizza that was so delicious, but huge. We had no idea that it would be a 1/2 meter in size - yikes!!!

We were one week too early for the tour buses to take you to Caserta, so we went by train. Let me just say the town of Caserta is, well let's just say gritty. Of course, we only saw the section of town near the train station and it does seem that many towns are gritty near their train stations. The train to and from Caserta from Naples was fine. However, the train to and from Naples from Sorrento is a nightmare. It only runs every 1/2 hour. Sorrento was the first/last stop. So on the way in, you can get a seat if you are lucky. The train seats completely fill at the first stop and then some. And, with each stop more and more people keep getting on. On the way back, you can be sure you will be standing and packed like sardines. Whoa!!! Definitely, avoid the local Naples-Sorrento train if you can. We did use the same train for Pompeii, but it is not nearly as long of a ride with two little ones.

The next day, we took a car to Naples airport. We could just not imagine going in by train with our luggage and the boys - no way!!! And, then off to home via Rome. It was a short trip. I would've liked two more days, one for Ischia and one for a little town on the Almalfi coast, that would've been just perfect. But, even still, it was a great trip and I highly recommend it!!!