Our big trip of the year is looming closer and we are getting very excited, in fact painfully so at times. In just around 5 weeks time (it may be 6 but sod it) we’ll be heading for Gatwick at a crazy hour of the morning but I don’t care for the trip ahead is more than worth it. Our flight touches down in Naples around lunchtime and then we make our way along the Sorrentine coast to Sorrento. There we shall be based for 2 luxurious weeks. I will be taking my camera and a maximum of 3 lenses. Flight restrictions these days are difficult as you’ll know.
I thought I’d write a little about Sorrento for the benefit of those who may have not been there and even for those who have, who love the location as much as I do. So here goes my crash course on the Neopolitan holiday experience. This will lead onto numerous articles both here and on Journog. Many of which I will be writing whilst out there!
The journey begins…
Sorrento is a city on the Neopolitan coast in the region of Campania, about 16 miles from Naples as the crow flies but by road, is a different kind of distance altogether. Do not be deceived by the straight Autostrada that takes you from the airport along a fairly flat plain. The majesty of Vesuvius stands to one side and the visible poverty of outer Napoli to the other. Naples is a city of extreme contrasts and first impressions may make you feel uneasy and questioning your choice of travel destination. However as you pick up the start of the Sorrentine coast you are plucked from the industrial world and eased into one of sheer arresting beauty. The road becomes a windy coastal stretch with plenty of dips and turns. In places you pass through a number of tunnels as you venture into the Lattari (“Milky”) Mountains that rise sharply and plunge straight into the sea.
The real Italy quickly emerges around you and engulfs you, as you pass under viaducts and catch sight of mountain top shrines or chapels. Then you are rewarded with your first sighting of Sorrento as the road snakes around the clifftops and soon you find yourself negotiating through the busy streets of Piano di Sorrento, Meta, St Agnello and then Sorrento itself. I have made this sound fairly quick but believe me it’s not. The traffic is always busy in this region and you are limited to fairly slow speeds. Overtaking on bends may not be sensible but the local taxi drivers have a death wish! They ignore this and just overtake where they wish. If you are a coach passenger you may learn some colourful Italian from the driver!
The landscape around Sorrento is stunning in itself for the city has a rugged backdrop in the form of the aforementioned mountains, the Lattaris. Then at the foot of it’s towering cliffs that drop into the sea, is the Bay of Naples lined with bathing platforms and a couple of harbours. On the horizon Vesuvio is a prominent landmark and helps give you some perspective of where the earlier journey from Naples began and gives you a sense of place.
Since the geography (or should I say Geology?) of the area is very mountainous and as such transport routes are limited across land, to a single main arterial road and a train service that terminates in Sorrento. However excellent boats operate between Sorrento, Naples and Amalfi plus the islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida. It is possible to hop from Amalfi onto Salerno and further afield.
The Circumvesuviana train service operates between Sorrento and Naples via Castlemare di Stablia. It is one of the best options for access to Pompeii, Vesuvius and Herculaneum (Ercalano). It is also possible to join one of many excursions from the centre of Sorrento out to many of the famous historic sites and cities. The choice is yours and having been on some of these in the past, they are very good, safe, reasonably priced and many of the guides are very informative.
Ease into the Campanian way of life…
It is easy to get into the Italian groove, we leave our normal lives behind and slow right down. Italy is a great place for slow travel, allowing you to slow right down and appreciate the things that you see. There are a multitude of things that you can do or don’t have to do, as the case may be.
It is understandable why the Italians have a great legacy of artists, craftsmen, chefs, musicians and architects. They keep these arts alive with pure passion. Very little is done without a burst of passion. They take great pride in what they do. It must be in their blood. I feel that this is the big appeal for me and a trip there is always a real pleasure.
Sorrento is no exception to all of this. The pastel shaded buildings, many of which date back to medieval times, topped with terracotta tiled rooves and surrounded by lush green gardens, sprinkled with statues and waterfalls – really welcomes you into it’s arms and it doesn’t take long to appreciate it’s charms. In fact my wife and I liked it so much the first time we went back the following year.
This will be the third trip! More on the Blog soon, as I write more about the location.