6th – 9th August
We got a bus from Zadar to Split, where we took an overnight ferry to Ancona on the East coast of Italy. This wasn’t included in the InterRail pass, so we booked it through Blue Line Ferries. We decided to book a cabin as it would be more comfortable. We had to queue for a bit to board the ferry. We got our keys and dropped our stuff in the room. We got food in the canteen which was expensive and disappointing – bring your own food or eat before you get onto the ferry.
We had a lot of fun exploring the ship and admiring the lights along the Croatian coast as well as the storms we could see happening in the mountains. There was some very impressive lightning forking down into the mountains.
To get to Naples from Ancona, we took a train to Rome, which takes 3hrs 30mins and passes through the central Apennines. I mostly slept on this train, but in the moments I was awake, the scenery was beautiful. We had a short change in Rome to go to Naples. The Rome to Naples train only took 1hr 10mins.
We didn’t stay in Ancona as we were only passing through. In Naples, we stayed in a place called Hostel of the Sun, which cost £18.58 per person per night for a four bed room (two singles and a double). We had to get a train to Universita and walk for maybe 10-15mins to get to the hostel from the main station.
This room didn’t have lockers, but again it was our room, so it didn’t matter. There was air con which was useful in the heat. The view looked down onto a fairly ugly side street, but the sea was just at the end of the road with much better views. There was also a small common room area and kitchen/ canteen where we had our free breakfast.
We arrived in Ancona early in the morning and spent a very long time disembarking. When we finally got off, we went through passport control and I got a passport stamp!
We had breakfast at a cafe called Cafe Giuliani where I had a very strong espresso. We walked around Ancona a bit but it was still too early for much to be going on. We tried to go to the Citadel but it took us a while before we found a way in and it must have been the wrong entrance because it was just an old creepy-looking stable. The clouds were closing in so we decided to give up and head for the station. As we walked down, the clouds closed in more and more and it started to rain very heavily. We sheltered for a while before running to the station, after waiting for a while and having some lunch, we boarded the train to Rome. In Rome, we grabbed some food for tea and got on train to Naples.
In Naples, we found our hostel, checked in and put some washing on. We went to grab some more food as we didn’t feel like we’d eaten enough. Emily and Becky went to a pizza place called Il Pomodorino and Hayley and I got burgers from a placed called Perfectoo. The pizza was good, the burgers weren’t so much.
We got up fairly early and ate the free breakfast (they have GIANT tubs of nutella)! We then took the metro to the main station and then the circumvesuviano round to Pompeii. We found that Pompeii is free on the first Sunday of the month (which this happened to be) so the queue went down rapidly. We started to walk around, using the map as a guide and found that Pompeii is pretty massive. There is so much to see!
There are many many empty ruined houses, but also frescoes, amphorae and architectural features like ovens – one of which Becky and I sat in to keep dry when it started to rain. These artifacts really brought the place to life, you could really imagine what it would have been like to live there. There were also casts of bodies scattered about making the grisly past feel real.
When the rain slowed, we walked down to the Villa of Mysteries which has the best preserved frescoes. We then headed for the amphitheatre and on the way Hayley stubbed her toe really badly and ripped off a piece of nail. After the amphitheatre we saw a garden with around eight cast bodies in it. Then we left for Herculaneum to go up Vesuvius.
Just outside Pompeii we found a tourist office that said they could take us up Vesuvius so we decided to go with them. This turned out to be a mistake. The bus had no seat belts, when we got to Vesuvius and the road was closed due to an accident, but the worst part was how they handled the road being closed. After waiting a while, the driver started to take us back down to the town, saying we could come for free the next day. This was fine. However, his boss called him and told him to take us back and wait until the road opened. We were made to wait for over an hour in the heat, so long that we wouldn’t have time at the top before it closed for the day. Eventually we were returned to the tourist office where we demanded a refund. After a lot of arguing, we got what we wanted and head back to the station to go back to Naples.
We got back, changed, showered and headed out to a recommended restaurant for dinner. It turns out it was much further than we thought and we were getting fed up, so we headed back and had dinner at Il Pomodorino as it was round the corner from the hostel. We ordered two bottles of wine between us and I had a mushroom pasta which was very tasty.
On this day we decided to go to Herculanium to get up Vesuvius. We went with Vesuvio Express who were very professional and inspired confidence. They took us up, dropped us off and told us that we had to be back by a certain time. We even got given these tiny green stickers so they knew who was meant to be coming back on the bus.
From the car park there is still a walk up the cone to the top of the volcano. We climbed this slowly in the heat – the path is steep and gravelly so good shoes are recommended. When we got to the top we admired the views – they were spectacular. You can see all along the coast in both directions to Sorento and back to Naples. You can buy things at the top – I got some Vesuvius certified postcards, which have a special stamp on them to say that they were on Vesuvius. We also picked up some Vesuvius rocks as souvenirs. We then headed back down and caught our bus.
From Herculaneum, we took the train to Sorento. It is a beautiful place. We arrived and wandered through the town centre, past all the cute Italian shops. Emily, Becky and I bought some limoncello. We carried on until we got to the sea where we paddled as we hadn’t got our swimming stuff. The water was clear and there were lots of little shells on the bottom – which we discovered contained tiny crabs when Emily tried to pick one up to take home!
After paddling, we headed back to the town. We had come down a huge set of stairs but there was a lift back up, but Becky and I still walked as it cost 1 euro and there was a massive queue. We arrived at the top 10mins before the others! We had dinner at a restaurant called Ristorante Sorrento – it was delicious! I had Ravioli with prawns.On our walk back to the station, I found an epic ice cream parlour called Gelateria Primavera Sorrento and had a snickers ice cream! What a perfect end to the day.
Tips for the Amalfi Coast:
– Go for at least 3 full days
– Naples is cheaper to stay in, but Sorento is nicer.
– Go on a tour up Vesuvius (but for God’s sake use Vesuvio Express!)
– Buy limoncello in Sorento – they make it there and it is lovely
– Pompeii is definitely worth a visit (remember it is free on the first Sunday of the month!)
– Be very careful walking in Pompeii – especially if it rains! Sturdy shoes are strongly advised.