Well, we finally got here, and we can see Vesuvius from our hotel bedroom!
After I was unexpectedly hospitalised the day before our originally planned trip in July, we decided to rebook for September. Besides, if we had gone anywhere else, we would always have been thinking ‘I could be in Pompeii now’.
After a flight to Rome and an overnight stay, we travelled in style on the Frecciarossa train from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale. Premium class, leather seats and air-conditioned comfort – Bliss! Then the holiday slapstick of the Circumvesuviana train service from Naples to our hotel near the town of Castellammare Di Stabiae. A platform chock-full of tourists and suitcases somehow managed the impossible task of squeezing into the little regional train destined for Sorrento. We got off at Castellammare not realising that the hotel was a further mile out of town, and just a short walk from the Pozzano station on the same line, accessible via a long tunnel deep into the mountainside.
And what a hotel! Modern, air-conditioned rooms, with glorious views across the Bay of Naples to Vesuvius in the distance. Taking full advantage of the view, a sun-trap terrace with an outdoor swimming pool, and an outdoor section to the restaurant for a candlelit evening meal.
The next morning, we travelled most of the distance back to Naples on the Circumvesuviana line, to the modern day town of Ercolano. The archaeological site of Herculaneum is just a short walk down the hill from the station.
Day Two, we travelled the short distance from our hotel to Pompeii Scavi station on the Circumvesuviana line – maybe half a dozen stops. Breakfast was quite pricey at the Crowne Plaza where we were staying, so we headed out early and had a nice breakfast open-air at a cafe near Pompeii station. Best coffee ever!
Which reminds me of another oddity about the Crowne Plaza breakfast. On Day One we sat down with our buffet selection, and the waiter came over to ask if we would like tea or coffee. ‘Yes please, I’ll have a latte, and my wife will have a tea thanks’. A minute or two later the waiter returns with two empty cups and saucers, plonks them on the table and says ‘The machine is over there…’ which kind of left me speechless for a moment! What he should have said was ‘Do you want a cup?’
The main entrance to Pompeii is just a short stroll from the station. We had already downloaded some excellent audio guides to our mobiles, from the Rick Steves website. The Pompeii guide picked out a route through the most interesting features, and added some real value to our visit.
Just our luck that having travelled a thousand miles to see Pompeii, many of the plaster casts of the victims were actually back in the UK at the exhibition at the British Museum.
We spent around three or four hours looking around Pompeii. Since we had nothing planned for the afternoon, and the weather was so beautiful, we decided to carry on past our usual train stop, and see what Sorrento had to offer.
Only a few stops further along the line from our hotel, Sorrento is a perfect tourist destination on the Amalfi coast. Narrow shopping streets running parallel to the coast, with all manner of local goods on sale. Although I have to say, that means predominantly Limoncello and leather bags!
Where else in the world could you get an authentic Quattro Stagioni pizza washed down by a glass of Birra Moretti? Perfect end to a glorious day on the Bay of Naples! And we still have Rome to look forward to when we return on the train in the morning.