Of course, I was itching again to travel somewhere since Bali, and with the kids on half term, it just made sense for us to go somewhere in Europe together. But where?
Funnily enough I looked for my next holiday by searching for Easy jet destinations on their website. Everyone I mention Easy jet to seem to recoil in horror but I’ve always had good experiences, and for any destination three hours or less, it’s more than adequate (especially with speedy boarding and extra leg room seats).
So, it was decided we go to Italy, but where? We didn’t want a city break and I didn’t fancy Rome again as amazing as it is. We decided on a day and a half in Napoli (Naples) and 5 days a little further south in Sorrento. Perfecto!
We arrived in Naples and got straight in to a taxi to our Air bnb, and this is when I realised what people mean about drivers in Naples. They are fucking crazy!! There are no rules. Technically they drive on the right hand side, but there’s a story I heard which says Neapolitans don’t drive on the right or left they drive in the shade! Many drive too fast, overtake on blind bends, tailgate at 100mph until the car in front moves. I just closed my eyes and said a quick prayer every time I was in the car. In a weird way it made me feel alive, and admire the Italians. Courageous they were, and I suppose skilled drivers, if very precarious.
I now realise that personally I much prefer staying in hotels to renting villas or houses, I just like being looked after and not having to cook and clean when we are on holiday. I know that sounds precious but us folk with cancer have a limited amount of energy and I want to spend that on seeing the sights. Our house in Naples was in a gritty part of town a little far from the centre but it was ok.
Now I don’t think Naples is as touristy as Rome at least not with British tourists which is a shame. Also barring tour guides and taxi drivers, I found people didn’t really speak much English if any; particularly in restaurants which was tricky and made me feel a tad embarrassed. I know very little Italian. Parts of Naples are, shall we say, a little worn out, but it doesn’t deserve the harsh travel reviews and reputation it often gets. I found the historic quarter to be beautiful and around the bay with views across to mount Vesuvius just breathtaking. We decided to take a tour bus to rest our feet which was scenic but dont expect the landmarks like Rome-although people love the archeological museum for history with artefacts from Pompeii which by the way is very close by, and definitely worth a trip.
I stupidly didn’t try pizza in Naples- what an idiot, but I did have a very nice panini the tomatoes are to die for in Italy.
We arranged a driver to take us on to Sorrento from Naples and it took just over an hour which was around 70 euros, but you can easily get a train or bus for a lot cheaper. When arriving I was amazed at all the orange and lemon trees and flowers everywhere but the cliff top drive up to our hotel was just jaw dropping looking over the sea. There are loads of hotels in Sorrento, but my tip is to go up high for the best views and don’t stay in the centre. I’ve travelled to many beautiful places around the world and I can say hand on heart that the views here are very special, and there’s this sweet smell in the air, one I couldn’t quite distinguish but if it could be bottled it would surely make millions.
We made the trip to neighbouring town Positano where I was told only 4000 people reside and all know each other. A popular hit with tourists during May-October, deserted out of season. You can reach Positano by car, it’s around 20 minutes from Sorrento.
“Positano is the coast’s most picturesque and photogenic town, with vertiginous houses tumbling down to the sea in a cascade of sun-bleached peach, pink and terracotta colours. No less colourful are its steep streets and steps lined with wisteria-draped hotels, smart restaurants and fashionable boutiques” -lonely planet.
Unfortunately the day we went the sky was overcast, but nonetheless beautiful. We had fish by the sea, not much of a beach really but there was definitely a class system here. 17 euros for a sunbed “in the front row” I wasn’t tempted (this time).
My favourite place in Italy we visited had to be Capri. Unfortunately you can only reach the island by boat, and me and boats do not get on. There was a fair amount of rocking going on at sea and I was desperate to get off the whole time. We hired a boat with a skipper and tour guide, for 100 euros each and it was worth it but you can get a public ferry from Sorrento which takes less than an hour. We went in to the famous blue grotto which is a sea cave inside of a mountain, with beautiful crystal blue waters below you.
We were dropped off in the marina picolla (which means small harbour) on the South of the island (and said to be the most pretty side). WOW, the beautiful waters and surroundings were worth feeling seasick, my photos were lovely even on an iPhone but didn’t do this place justice. We decided to have lunch overlooking the beach and then have a lazy afternoon swimming and sleeping on the beach. Now Italy is expensive but boy Capri is even more so. There was a public beach which was crowded I presume was free to lie on the Sand, but damn cancer costs money when travelling- so 18 euros each for a sunbed yes 18 euros!! Believe me I wish I could lie down on the ground like a normal woman of my age, but I need comfort for my poor bones so it’s just not possible to rough it anymore. I didn’t explore Capri or Ana Capri which is higher up but told it was designer shops galore and I wasn’t missing much plus and we’d already spent a lot of money getting here (sorry Prada)!
We certainly packed activities in during our stay and I’ve arrived home to aching legs and torrential rain and a few messages asking me about my holiday as they are interested from seeing my photos online. Brilliant! Anyway hopefully you’ll find this blog useful, but here’s a quick list of things to remember if you want to holiday in any of these places.
- Naples is worth visiting for a couple of days. Yes there’s rubbish and graffiti around and some of it is a little scruffy but you get a sense that this is real Italy and I found the adrenaline was pumping walking the streets- it felt exciting! it mostly seems safe but have your wits about you.
- Don’t take taxis from Naples to sorrento and other towns because taxis are very very expensive. We booked private cars in advance which were much cheaper but you can use public transport. Do not drive in Naples unless you have a death wish it’s not safe unless you’re used to it. There’s no rules and don’t presume anyone will stop for you on a zebra crossing because they won’t and you’ll be flattened like a Napoli pizza!
- Try to learn some basic Italian if you visit Naples because many people do not speak English and it will be appreciated if you try.
- In Sorrento, if you want beautiful views, choose a hotel further up the costal road. You will need to get the bus down in to town but it’s worth it.
- Limoncello- you will not find any other limoncello superior than in Sorrento, but beware it may be sweet but it’s very strong! I made a tit of myself one lunchtime but you could say it looked like I was having fun to the passer by.
- Sorrento Capri and Positano are expensive. If you’re on a budget this may not be the place for you. Hotels are expensive, but I’m sure you could find cheaper accommodation on air bnb type sites. In high summer you’re looking at anywhere from 1500 euros to 10,000 euros upwards for a hotel room for a week! However you can eat cheaply. Huge pizzas were around 5 euros each, and you could probably eat a good meal for two with wine for 70 euros or so maybe less.
- Take your cameras. Southern Italy is a Photographers dream. Your photos will look like picture postcards even if you’re not a professional. The sunsets are as beautiful as the Italian language itself.
And so Italy…