Our last night in Rome was spent visiting the Trevi Fountain to throw our coins over our right shoulders to ensure we would return to Rome soon. Saddness overtook us all and we decided to ease our sorrow with gelato's on the fountain steps.
Today we bid a sad farewell to Rome and commenced our journey to Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast. We visited the bar we had come to call our local one last time. Announcing our departure for Naples we were greeted by a loud exclamation form Aldo (adopted uncle to the girls and barrista extrodinaire). "Napoli ! No, no Napoli !" All worst fears and Trip Advisor reviews confirmed in four short words. Bloody brilliant !
Shaking my hand and then inviting me to count my fingers was Aldo's only way of communicating his very strong views about Naples and its folk. He then regaled us with stories about how cafe's in Naples lure you in with cheap prices, pizza 7euro, then change the menu while you eat. Your pizza is now 20euro.
But we had checked out of our Rome apartment and if a baptism of fire via Napoli was the
price we had to pay to get to Sorrento then bring it on.
Its not likely that you'll ever be intimidated by a railway station in Australia. But tackle Rome Termini unprepared and you may get a different result. Termini Station is as busy if not busier than Sydney Airport. On entry you are confronted by a sea of platforms occupied by an equally large number of shady characters.
After are an informative but highly unprofitable lecture at the ticket office on how to purchase a family discount ticket and why we couldn't have one (it appears there are limited numbers per train) we paid our 84euro for cinque biglliterri (tickets for five) and made out way to platform 12 train 727. The adventure began when we spotted a shady looking type getting closer and closer to Neive and her bag. We quickly repositioned her into the centre of the group and our new found friend moved on.
The two hour journey to Naples passed quickly and the girls found the man on the train with the food cart highly entertaining. The air was thick with quotes from Harry Potter.
Ten minutes to Naples and Kerry
was clearly worried about the girls. Don't really know why, after all what is it about a man with four pretty girls, half a dozen bags, cameras and aussie accents that could possibly scream tourist? I'm still lost to understand it.
All manner of horror stories surround Naples Station and how it is a breeding ground for pick pockets, beggers and petty thieves. Departing the train we were instantly approached by the famous "going to Sorrento porter". A firm "no grazie" put him on his bike. Ten metres further and a second approach. This time a lady(?) "Directions to Circumvesuviana?" again "No, grazie. This one was met with a spray of loud Italian. I'm not sure I know what was bigger the language or the hand motions.
Down the stairs and onto platform 3. Most of the people waiting were obvious tourists and this gave us some comfort. We held a tight circle with girls and bags in the middle and gave off our best "don't stuff with me I'm from Campbelltown", stare. In short order we noticed three young guys enter the platform and spread out. One at each end and one we dubbed the floor walker,
he was scanning the bags. Each time he passed we would casually turn in his direction never leaving our bags or the girls unguarded. They singled out what looked to be a group of Americans and boarded their train. Ah guilty sigh of relief from all.
The Circumvensuviana (train around Vesuvius) is a 40 trip minute trip to Sorrento via some of the poorest suburbs of southern Italy. Housing is block after block of three story walk up flats, old and decaying, not a playground or sports field in sight. Certainly no Gloria Jeans or Macarthur Square. I'm glad the girls saw it was a dose of reality in a privileged life.
The train sped on and deep into the darkness of a tunnel in the hillside. Emerging it was as though was had passed through time. The buildings were new, the streets clean and the coast in plain sight. Welcome to Sorrento, bene, molto bene!
We took the short walk to Piazza Tasso and found the back alley entrance to Pallazzo Starace. After three flights of stairs (76 steps in total) and the help of a basket winch we had soon deposited our bags. We headed
to the street undaunted by the patchy rain and took up residence front and centre at Cafe Nouvo in search of coffee. First came the bread sticks, then olives, peanuts, dinner rolls and finally the coffee, all aimed at making us realise just how long it had been since that croissant at 8am. It's a very effective strategy! So, an hour and half later, refreshed and ready to go we busted out onto the street (in an I've eaten so much I can hardly walk kinda way) and into a sea of walkways, tiny alleys and cobblestoned lanes alive with shops and spruikers and more flavours of gelato that you and poke a stick at. The girls quickly dubbed it Diagone Alley (for all you Potter fans), Lemoncello, leather, shoes and beer on tap at all cafes and newsagents. What more could you want. We love Sorrento!
Kerry & Tim
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