Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

After just one perfectly beautiful day in Rome we were on our way to Naples. When our Rome tour guide found out Naples was our next stop, he told us even Italians are scared to visit there and tourists will be pickpocketed to the bone…so that was super encouraging. Admittedly, Naples was the sketchiest place we went but from everything we had been told we were half expecting to be mobbed by savages—and it wasn’t quite that bad :]

People kept warning us about pick pockets everywhere we went and I’m sure it can be a problem but we found the people in each and every city to be kind and helpful. Being in a foreign place where you don’t know the language or where anything is or how things are done can make you feel very vulnerable and finding that people are willing to stop and help you find what you’re looking for was one of the best parts of the trip.

There is a lot of immigration here on the east coast where I live and the cities around us (like Boston and New York) are major cultural melting pots. I never thought too much about what it’s like for people moving here and trying to find their way around but I hope I will be more sensitive and helpful now that I know what it’s like to be in a foreign place myself.

The first thing we wanted to see in Naples was the Amalfi Coast so we took off on foot to find the train. We walked what felt like a really long way trying to find the station and were starting to think we were lost right before we found it. The attendant at the station was actually really friendly and helpful (unlike the other train stations) and we were quickly on our way to Sorrento where we could get a bus up the coast.

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I loved riding the trains around Italy because it allowed us to see all the little places in between the big cities and we got to immerse ourselves in the culture for a few minutes. There were lots of kids and teenagers on the trains dressed in beach clothes. They were so different from American young people. Here on the trains young (and old) people put in ear buds and stare at the book in our lap so we don’t have to talk to people.  Most Americans also have a pretty large “my space” zone meaning we don’t like people standing too close or touching us. People in Italy seemed to touch each other a lot. If anyone touches me they can just stand back and wait for the popo because I’ll be screaming for my life :] Ok, it’s not quite that bad.

In Italy though, the young people came on and the train was booming with noise. They talked (loudly). They sang (louder). They sat on each other’s laps and clapped to the songs they were shouting. I stared at them in amazement :] I loved them though—they were so full of life and wildly connected to everything going on around them. They didn’t close out the world with ear buds and “personal space”—they just let the world come gushing in and it was really beautiful to watch them having such a good time.

The transformation in the landscape from Naples to Sorrento was incredible. We went from a big black and gray city to a the lush and colorful countryside that felt almost tropical. We rode by all sorts of little towns built right into the sides of the mountain and zipped by pretty little stucco houses and bright lemon groves.

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In Sorrento we bought our bus tickets then ran in a little café for another sweet and tangy cappuccino. We asked for a to-go coffee so the barista put it in a plastic cup with tinfoil on top—I guess Italians don’t really get coffee to go like Americans do ;]

There was a very long line for the bus so we tucked ourselves under an umbrella to get out of the sun and waited our turn. The bus was supposed to come every 15 minutes but it took at least 30. By the time we got to the front of the line, the bus was packed full with standing room only so we had to decide if we wanted to wait another 30 minutes or however long it took for the next bus or just get on and stand in the aisle. We didn’t want to waste time so we decided to stand.

We figured people would get off at some of the stops along the way and we would eventually get a seat but instead more and more people kept getting on at each stop. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t any more room, people were going to get on no matter what.

We wound up, up, up the mountain around sharp bends that I never imagined a bus could make. We kept stopping and adding more people and working our way higher and higher up the mountain. And then we popped up around a bend and I found out exactly why everyone says you must see the Amalfi coast.

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It is so, so beautiful. None of the pictures I took do it justice because they were taken out of the window of a moving bus. That line running along the side of the mountain is part of the road we had just driven. Our path snaked right along the side of the mountain and sometimes cut right through the mountain by way of tunnel. When I looked out the bus window all I could see below us was water…I felt like I was on a roller coaster hanging off the edge of a cliff. Sometimes I was pretty sure the bus was going to roll off the mountain but it didn’t matter because I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my life.

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That zig zaggy thing is part of the road we were on.

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I couldn’t believe all the color—from the crisp, clear blue sky to the turquoise and sapphire water. The pink, orange, and purple flowers hanging off of everything and the bright yellow lemon groves dotted between the cypress trees. It was stunning. The Amalfi Coast is one of those places that’s hard to share because you really just have to see it with your own eyes to understand what it looks like.

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Because we were standing in the aisle holding on for dear life, I didn’t really take many pictures on the way up…I just stood there and ate up all the color and beauty accosting my senses. Sometimes, to really appreciate something, you just have to put the camera down and see the world with your eyes instead of your lens. On this trip, I didn’t want to spend so much time getting the perfect shot that I looked back and realized I didn’t actually see anything.

That wild two-hour ride up the coast is one of my favorite memories from our trip. I loved everything about it—standing in the aisle holding on for dear life while our bus seemed to hang over cliffs, listening to Italian swirl all around us, and laughing with and at the other tourists on the bus who were as startled and enamored as we were by this wild, free place built between the rocks and the ocean. Did I mention I loved it? Love, love, loved it.

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 I wish we could have spent the whole day exploring the coast but we only had one day in the area and wanted to see Pompeii too. So we hopped on a different bus and took the two-hour ride right back down the coast. This time we got seats and sometimes, I admit, I closed my eyes around the bends because I thought I was going to die by plunging into the Mediterranean and I had already seen everything on the way up anyway :]

We accidentally got off the bus at the wrong train station but it didn’t matter because we were still able to get to Pompeii from there. While waiting for the train we met a college kid from Colorado who was backpacking through Europe for the summer—backpacking through Europe is the stuff dreams are made of. He was sort of lost and confused like we were and was also trying to get to Pompeii. He seemed very happy to have met someone else who spoke English. It seems like when you are in a foreign place, you become instant friends with anyone who speaks your language. When normally you would push pass strangers without taking notice, you suddenly are very happy to talk and tell them all about yourself—just because they can understand what you’re saying. So we talked to the backpacking college kid from Colorado and we all knew each other’s life stories by the time we made it to Pompeii :]

Pompeii is huge…and we only had an hour or two before we had to leave. If we ever make it back I’m going to leave a whole day just for Pompeii and do an audio tour so I know what I’m looking at. Here are some pictures:

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{Cart tracks worn into the streets from the days when Pompeii was populated}

I used to want to be an archeologist thanks to Indiana Jones so Pompeii was like eye candy for me. So sad and yet so fascinating.

So that was our day in the Naples area. Next we were off to the beautiful island of Sicily…and I will tell you all about it on Monday.

Thanks for reading along. Ciao! ;]

If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series about Europe you can still read them here: Barcelona, Spain; Marseilles, France; Florence & Pisa; Rome, Italy.

23 thoughts on “Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

  1. What an adventure 🙂 Most pictures of the pillars are from the Forum, a central place where food stalls, money lenders and other sellers would meet. Temples and gathering areas took place here in the heart of the city.
    Thanks for sharing. CTB 😀

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  2. It is a great pleasure to read your impressions of Italy and the social view as well. And enhanced by the pictures you took along the way. Yes, it’s hard to get really good pictures through a bus window, but we got a good view of what you were seeing, and that is a pleasure too.

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  3. Kari, your pictures are so beautiful and so is your description. I’ve seen your other posts about Europe in my reader and I look so forward to reading them when I have a reading moment. Thanks for including the links.
    I spent an entire day at Pompeii. Saw Sorrento from a distance. So beautiful. Pompeii was fascinating but sad to due to the extreme paradox–deep immorality and extensive beauty. I can’t describe the feelings I felt when I was there. Solemn is the only word that comes to mind.
    If you don’t mind me asking, what camera do you use? The photos are excellent.
    Keep us posted. So interesting!
    Peace,
    Alexandria

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    • I use a Nikon D3200. It’s a beginner level for DSLR photography and it’s nice because you can use it as a point and shoot on auto or you can play with the settings and take more advanced photos. It was great for the Amalfi Coast because I put it on the freeze motion setting and I was able to get non-blurry photos even though they were taken out of the window of a moving bus.

      Pompeii is an interesting place like you said….sad, intriguing, and beautiful all mixed together somehow.

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  4. Great post. I love your commentary and the photos take me into a world I have never been. Your insight into the teens on the train was eye opening and I could feel their passion for life. Thanks for sharing.

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    • The teens on the train were so fascinating…I love people watching and interacting with different cultures because it allows me to see myself and the way I live in a different light. Thanks for reading :]

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  5. Hubby and I watched a documentary on Pompeii a couple months ago, so fascinating! The photos are beautiful and I am so glad you got to ride a bus like a local, holding on for dear life! I once got caught at a private train station during a public train strike. People were pushed onto the train with a bar, literally! My feet didn’t touch the ground for the first 40 minutes of travel, and I am 5’7″! Such wonderful experiences. I have heard the Mediterranean is a beautiful sea. So thrilled for you, I am loving these posts. DAF

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    • Yes, the local transportation definitely helps transport you into a different world…we had lots of fun exploring that way :] The Mediterranean is really gorgeous…we even got to jump in it for a minute (just a minute though because it was ice cold!).

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