In the Shadow of Vesuvius


Long before our trip to Italy, we’d heard that you had to watch out for Naples. Since we had a train transfer there on our way south – with our luggage – we were a little nervous to say the least. Though we barely left the train station to get on the local Circumvesuviana train, we found it to be like most other large cities in Italy. In fact, nearly every genuinely nice person we’ve met since Florence was originaly from Naples. The train was crowded, with standing room only, but its mostly filled with tourists and even includes some lively, if slightly out-of-tune accordion and saxophone players.


Our second stop on our Italian tour was in a hilltop villa, high above the city of Sorrento, a dramatic port city built into the cliffs above the Bay of Napoli. Our hotel, Villa Monica B&B, is run by a charming Italian couple. Though our hotel was outside of town, we enjoyed a breathtaking view of the region from our balcony and a free shuttle up and down the precariously steep (and narrow!) roads above Sorrento. When Elliott asked if it was an easy walk from town to get back to the hotel, Pasquale, the proprietor, joked “you can walk if you like, but please, pay me now.” After our first trip up the mountain we could see why – in many places there was barely room for a single car to get through, yet the motorini and tiny cars somehow zipped right past each other.


Foodwise, we had a bit of trouble finding restaurants in Sorrento that weren’t built for tourists. After a quick search online and talking to a few locals, we found L’Antica Trattoria, an upscale spot in the center of the historical center with handmade pasta and fresh seafood.


Prior to arriving in Sorrento, we realized that Pompeii was only a few stops away on the train, so we decided to take a day trip to check it out. We’d seen pictures of the plaster-encased victims of Mt. Vesuvius’ eruption 2,000 years ago, but we were totally unprepared for the scope of the city and the incredible preservation of the mosaics, frescos and architecture from that period. The events that unfolded on August 24th, 79 AD essentially froze a bustling Roman city in time until the ruins were discovered some 1,500 years later. One of our favorite parts of the city were the 6” grooves worn into the streets by wagon wheels and the scandalous bathhouse frescos.


In order to fuel our 7 mile daily treks, we need several espresso shots throughout the day. You never know where you’ll find the best ones. So far, Elliott’s favorite spot was at the train station outside of Pompeii.


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