Rome was a whirlwind and I can’t say we were very sad to leave. It was very busy and we were touring like it was our job. So after 2 full days in the Eternal City, we re-packed our bags and hopped a train to Naples.
Just over an hour later we arrived at Napoli Centrale. We decided that since timing was tight and our sightseeing needs were great, to arrange to have someone pick us up from the station and take us straight to Pompeii for a guided tour. Antonio picked up all 6 of us (GG & Pops were still along for the ride having changed their plans to stick with us for one more week) and off we went to Pompeii. There we met our guide and straight into Pompeii.
First things first. Do not attempt to visit Pompeii without a guide. Its massive. I couldn’t quite believe how vast this site is. Secondly, bring water and a hat. Its hot and there’s no gift shop inside. Lastly, pee before you go in. There’s no toilet or coffee shop either.
We were very grateful for our guide who over two hours took us through the ”greatest hits” of Pompeii and showed us the most important locations. She also expertly explained how the volcanic eruption froze the city of Pompeii in time (briefly – it was first buried in several metres of ash/ pumice followed by a lahar mud flow) and then explained the years of excavation to dig it out. Its still under excavation today and only a fraction of this important ancient city has been excavated.
We were worried it might be creepy for the kids, but it actually was very interesting. I expected to see more of the bodies that you see in National Geographic, but its actually not all that different than the Roman Forum.
From there, Antonio shepherded us to a pizza place in the modern town of Pompeii. This would be the beginning of our weeks long pizza eating contest. While we weren’t right in Naples, the restaurant claimed to have the best Neopolitan Pizza. It wasn’t bad at all.
From Pompeii, we made the mad dash back to the Port of Naples to catch the hydroplane ferry over to Capri. Antonio was the boss of us and he was bound and determined to get us to the 4:30pm ferry. Arriving at the Port we met a woman who instructed two porters to take all of our bags to the boat. No tags, no instructions for us. Then she speed walked us to the dock and deposited us on the ferry.
This was the beginning of my learning to trust that people were taking care of us.
A few minutes later, our bags were piled on the back of the boat and we were off. Forty five minutes later, we weaved around all the anchored super yachts and pulled into the Capri Marina. Chaos ensued, but we went with the flow. On the dock, we explained to the new woman taking care of us which bags went to which hotel (GG and Pops had to stay in a different place since our hotel was sold out). She then walked us up to the street and pointed to one of the many absolutely unique Capri taxis. A sort of convertible station wagon with no trunk and two rows of seats in the back. We crammed in.
Heading up the hill towards Capri town, we dropped GG and Pops on the side of the road just above the Marina. A lovely little hotel overlooking the Marina. Our driver then carried on the winding climb up the hill. The street is only wide enough for one vehicle, for two to pass there’s a clearance of only centimetres. Add into this scooters and e-bikes and the odd bananas tourists that are trying to walk. After a few gasps, we hit the end of the road at the main Piazzetta of Capri. The driver explains that we need to continue our journey on foot, he can’t go any further. Its only another 5 or maybe 15 minutes walk from here. ”Just go up there and turn right at the bell tower and then you go left and then you will be there.”
So there we are. At the top of Capri. With our backpacks and our other bags somewhere on the dock with some guy. Walking aimlessly through the alleyways of Capri Town navigating our way to our hotel. We walk for what seems like ages and ages. We turn a corner on what appears to be the Rodeo Drive of the Island. At least it wasn’t the rough part! Dodging piles of tourists and the tiny scooter trucks onward we walk until we find (with the help of Google Maps) our little hotel nestled into the hillside. ”Buongiorno” says Luigi, our front desk man/ concierge as he welcomes us in with open arms like we’re old long lost friends. Within 30 minutes our bags arrived in our room like magic. See, in Italy, they’ve got you covered.
GG and Pops were pooped and decided not to make the trip up the crazy Island roads to meet us in town so the four of us had dinner on our own. Luigi recommended Villa Verde. ”You will love it!” He said. We found our way back through the maze of tiny alleyways and found the restaurant. As we walked in the walls were lined with photographs of Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, you name it. The Little Kid says ”Well, it MUST be good if J. Lo ate here.” We’ll see kid, we’ll see. Villa Verde makes up for their land locked location on the island (aka No View) with great food and great service. Every 40 minutes or so, the playlist turns to ”That’s Amore” and from the first chords and the lyric ”In Napoli…” everyone stops and sings along. Like its church. It was hilarious. We liked this place so much, we brought GG and Pops back two nights later.
With 4 plates of pasta and a couple of tiramisus in our bellies, we were starting to fall in love with Capri. Its like a movie set. A 1950’s movie sure, but a movie set nonetheless. The yachts lit up on the water below us in the Piccolo Marina (on the southern shore of Capri), bobbing on the water. The moon shining. The bright fuchsia bougainvillea dripping from every wall. The warm wind. It was enchanting.
We spent the next couple of days enjoying time by the pool and wandering around the town of Capri. Not wanting to brave another taxi ride, we never made it to the other town on the island, Anacapri. I did manage to follow tradition and have a pair of sandals custom made in one of the many sandal shops (I skipped Jackie O’s favourite Canfora because they were a little pricier and I found some I liked better a few doors down). This experience is much less custom than it sounds. The women pull out a pair of pre-made soles in your size and just add the straps in the colour and design you choose. However, I now own a pretty pair of sandals that are best suited under the table than on a long walk, but they do have my initials engraved in the sole.
After a few days filled with sunshine and lemon risotto it was time for us to bid farewell to Capri. We decided to do it in style, so we chartered a boat to take us on a tour circumnavigating the island and over to our hotel in Amalfi. It was worth every penny. Mostly because our kids were glad to finally be on an excursion that wasn’t about history and monuments. Joke’s on them though, our skipper Antonio (yep, his name was also Antonio) gave us plenty of history lessons about the area with the Saracen pirates and Emperor Tiberius’ villas around the island.
First stop on our three hour tour (it was probably more like 5 but you know…) was the infamous Blue Grotto. The sea was extremely calm, but the closer we got to the entrance of the Grotto we had visions of Venice with boats zooming in and out of the cove and the boat rocking on the wake. The deal with the Blue Grotto when you arrive by boat is that the skipper gets in a sort of queue. Then some attendants come over and pick you up in a row boat. Then they take you to the queue on the shore to buy the tickets. Then you queue up for another row boat who takes you into the Grotto and then back to your boat. This whole process was looking like it could be close to an hour just for the first row boat The Blue Grotto was looking more like the Green Grotto as we all were feeling a little queasy on the rough seas. Luckily, Capri is lousy with Grottos and our skipper was happy to take us to see the others that are only accessible from the water. Including the actual Green Grotto so aptly named for the colour of the walls and water inside the cave than for the seasickness. We also got to boat through the famous Arch of Love on the south shore.
After a full circumnavigation of Capri, we decided it was time to cross the Bay of Naples to our next destination; The Amalfi Coast.