Italy – Pompeii

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Pompeii with Vesuvius in the background

A little late but wrapping up the Italy blog series with a final post on Pompeii.

During our vacation to Sorrento, we made an excursion to the ancient ruins of Pompeii (Unesco World Heritage site) , the site of the ruined city, previously buried in 6m of volcanic ashes back in 79AD.  The story of the eruptions and burial in itself is fascinating.   Just recent years did they uncover the city and have spent decades slowly uncovering it.  Still, there is a large portion of it under cover and will take decades longer to dig out.   Even as you take a tour, you can see workers uncovering more of this ancient ruin.

The pre-eruption history of the site is fascinating and there is so much to see and learn here, that the one day we dedicated to it, really doesn’t do it justice.  If you are into ancient history, I suggest a 2 day visit would be recommended.    Pompeii is the most visited of local sights by tourists.  However, locally, there is also Herculaneum, another Roman ruin that I believe is worth a visit.  We didn’t have time to dedicate to a second visit but this is supposedly a better experience than Pompeii.

We made the same journey to Pompeii as we did to Vesuvius (blog post here) .  An easy train ride to Scavi Pompeii direct from Sorrento.   Unlike our trip to Vesuvius, this time, we opted to jump into the tourist office next door to the station to purchase the 2 hour guided tour of Pompeii.  Knowing how vast the site is, we felt this would be a good idea, especially with kids in tow…we needed the big beats to keep the kids engaged.  The tour wasn’t expensive and woudl likely recommend it.  I believe there is an audio tour you can pick up in Pompeii but the place is HUGE so I wonder if going it alone may feel a little overwhelming?

Our tour guide was good enough though.  However, being Italian, his accent was so thick, the kids could barely understand a word.  After each segment, i then needed to ‘translate’ again for the kids.  This turned out to not be too bad as 1/2 of the tour focused on Roman brothels and prostitution ….visiting all along the way and pointing out questionable paintings and images.   ‘Translating’ this for 10 year olds became amusing for the whole tour 🙂

Also visited were amphitheaters, villas, streets, stores filled with artifacts and also a special exhibition of the ‘bodies’ found over the years of excavations.  All fascinating stuff and we definitely learned a lot.  My youngest kids are 10 years old and I would probably say its a good experience for kids age 8+.

When the tour ended, we had noted places to go back and visit which we did…although, I think we probably only covered about 20% of Pompeii in total.  Again, it is a massive – approx 170 acres.

As I noted for when we visited Vesuvius, I am glad we visited ‘off season’.   The weather was sunny and mild – approx 70-74 degrees.  Not scorching but as Pompeii offers no shade at all, we were baking on site.  Peak season here would be difficult to tour in the heat of the day and I would recommend visiting at another time.

 

 

 

 

Mt Vesuvius, Italy

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We couldn’t go to Sorrento/ Amalfi region of Italy without a visit to Mount Vesuvius.

We spent a total of 5 days in the region and yes, we did all the typical and expected sights for a first trip. The big beats and the norm.  As it’s all new to the family, no need to deviate off the proven hits this time around!
We set out with the intention of seeing both Vesuvius and Pompeii in one day.  This quickly became clear that both in one day was a stretch so we opted to cover 2 days for these sights (although Pompeii could do with longer than a day!).

For Vesuvius, there are plenty of tours that can be booked through the independent agents.  Either transporting you directly from Sorrento or from the local train station Pompei Scavi.    We opted to take public transportation (Circumvensia train) from Sorrento to Pompei Scavi.  Its a direct train and easy to to do.  Tickets are reasonable (apologies but I forget the price – just a few Euros each) ad easily bought from the news stand outside the station or machines inside the station.   Be warned, the morning trains will be busy.  You wont be the only folks trying to get to Pompei Scavi.  The train was packed and hot.  Despite it being ‘off season’ it was still pretty warm.   Standing room only for this trip!

Arriving at the station we opted for a quick drink and sit down in the local cafe.  In this time, we decided to split our day and focus only on Vesuvius.   Its easy to book a guided tour up to the top of Vesuvius. The local travel agency is located right next door to the station.  On this day though there were experiencing issues with their route – apparently a tree down blocking their private road.  Delays were happening and we lacked some confidence with them so we again opted for public transport to the top.   The public bus stop is opposite the train station.  Buses are about one an hour but my advice is to keep an eye on the return bus times.   They do end early from the top of Vesuvius.

The price was reasonable and we calculated a saving of around 50 Euros by managing the day ourselves.

The bus journey was about an hour and gets more picturesque the higher you go.  At times its not for the faint of heart….a number of hairpin bends and road edges.  Hats off to the public bus drivers!

Couple of points to mention for arrival.  The bus will drop you off and you must walk BACK DOWN a section to the ticket office.  Don’t walk up to then have to walk down!  They wont let you through without a ticket.   As we didn’t opt for a travel agency, we were just touring ourselves on foot…like many others!   The path is long and winding up to the top of the crater.  Views are spectacular for the entire walk.  It s a strenuous walk.  Sensible shoes and bottled water is recommended.  The day was sunny but not hot like in peak season.  I dread to think of how hot it would be in the summer.  No shade or shelter.  Plan to do this trip on a cooler cloudier day.

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Taking the footpath up

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Views towards Naples

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Views inland from Vesuvius

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Views towards Naples

At the top we peaked into the crater.  Honestly, a little disappointing but it was as we should have expected for a large dormant volcano.   We did spot on small area with steam rising out that was a highlight.

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Family selfie…photo bombed 🙂

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View of Crater……look closely and you can see a line of folks on the other side.  These are from the tour that can be booked by the station

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Inside Vesuvius

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The walk back down

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Views are stunning at all times of day

All in all, the day out to the volcano was a great one.  We caught the bus back down again no problem and then hopped on the train back to Sorrento.  Naturally, we headed straight to our favorite Bar Fauno for pre dinner drinks 🙂

 

Don’t forget to check out my other Italy posts on Sorrento, Capri and Pompeii

 

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Sorrento, Italy

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View of Mt Vesuvius from Sorrento

This post is a little overdue as we actually took a trip to Sorrento Italy back in October!  Now that I’ve got the hang of this blogging lark, I am now playing catch up!

On this adventure we are on, each child has a ‘to-do’ on their list.  My eldest wanted to go to Italy, so we did!   Now I have been to Sorrento in the past.  For a business trip, so I was somewhat familiar with it and after chatting with a friend who was explaining her family trip there – warmth, history, culture, food – we felt if could be a good balanced trip for all.

So we embarked on the trip over half term break in October.  In fact went a day early  so to avoid soul destroying travel prices so managed to save £500 by taking the twins out of school for one day (sshhh!).

We flew direct from Luton to Naples.  Easy and straightforward.  After research, we knew there was a bus to pick up outside of the airport that will take you to Sorrento.  Again, easy.  The journey lasts around an hour and of course affording lovely views of the coastline along the way.

Our hotel we booked on line was Settimo Cielo.  Nothing fancy but adequate.  If the weather had been warmer, it would have been great with a nice little pool overlooking Mount Vesuvius.   Alas, the air had a chill in it despite it reaching 20° most days.

The hotel is a short walk from Sorrento center itself.  About 5-10 minutes.  I thought this would be no problem and for the most part it was fine BUT in hindsight, I probably would book ‘in town’ for a future trip.  Mostly because we were on our feet all day every day.  To walk into town again for dinner (and back) was proving to get a little ‘old’ by the end of the trip.  Nevertheless, we were comfortable enough in the hotel and never grew tired of the view from our room.

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Sorrento is steeped in history and there is a lot to see and do.  We spent probably 2.5 days touring around Sorrento itself.  We tend to like going off the beaten path when we can and we explored around lots of the side streets often.

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Exploring an art exhibit

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Statues in Sorrento

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Sorrento center

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Exploring side streets

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Fountains in Sorrento

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Statues in Sorrento

There is a little ‘train’ (motorized vehicle pulling cars) that tours around the town.  Not expensive and we a bit of fun.  We hopped on that to get a quick view of what we might want to go back and take a look at.

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Exploring the waterfront

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Views from the waterfront

Dining options were plentiful and all fairly similar.  Our favorite spot was in the middle of the central square – Bar Fauno.  Naturally, our favorite was one of the more expensive spots but the place felt like  a little treat each time we visited.  They offer probably the best hot chocolate we have ever tasted and initial visits they will bring samplers out to you for no charge.   We went often enough that we became ‘regulars’ and known by the staff…not sure if this is a good or bad thing 🙂  For other meals out, we would wander the backstreets and would find somewhere that would take out fancy.  Nothing too remarkable to name here.  My husband is Gluten intolerant which made for interesting lack of choices in a gluten heavy culture.  However, we did find a couple of places offering gluten free pizza so it can be found…especially in the restaurants more central in the town.

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At Bar Fauno

One dining experience we missed out on was at a farm in the hills above Sorrento.   In the town square there is a charming organic food store…beautiful inside ad out.  They own a farm in the hills and offer tours, meals and cooking lessons.  Availability to go is limited and we just missed out on timing to get there (they will pick you up form your hotel).  I recommend that if you like to ‘get out of town’, seek them out and see what they have to offer.

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Seek this store out…they offer cooking classes and meals at their farm in the hills over looking Sorrento

Sorrento is naturally full of history and beautiful monuments and buildings to tour around.  From the coastline to the town, views are splendid.   Other places not to miss in the town include the Orange and Lemon groves and cafes in the old port.

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Orange Groves

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Around the old port

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The Old Port

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The Old Port