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Published: October 6th 2016
Ascona to Sorrento
On our day scheduled to leave Ascona, as happened in Oslo and Lauterbrunnen, it was raining lightly. It must be time to go. The Hertz station in Locarno, adjacent to Ascona, is in the train station parking lot, so we dropped the car there and got on the train to Sorrento, Italy. A short trip to Bellinzona, change trains for Milan, then the new Italian high speed train to Naples, via Florence and Rome. The Italian trains may not have a good reputation, but the high speed rail is very quick, efficient, economical, comfortable, and on time. It is a delight to zip through the countryside at almost 250mph. In Naples, however, we had to shift to a different train company, Circumvesuviana, providing local suburban service south of Naples. It is the only train connection to Sorrento, so we didn’t have much choice. I rather think the New York City mass transit would have felt more comfortable. It took a while to find their ticket counter on the lower level, found out they do not take credit cards, and we had been unable to get Euros in Ascona. There was one cash machine in the Naples train station, and it was out of cash. We were advised where to find one outside the station, and it also had no cash. We asked in a hotel and were directed a few blocks down the street to a bank, but we discovered one only one block further, that was actually protected from the street, and gave us Euros. Back to the train station, buy the tickets, and find the train. By the way, the area around the Naples station is anything but delightful, or giving of a feeling of security. We ended up riding this train line to Sorrento, to Pompeii from Sorrento and back, and back to Naples. Always it seemed the train company had picked up rolling stock, track, and stations that had been abandoned by Trenitalia, the national train company. But we got to our hotel in the center of Sorrento, looking forward to our tours in the Campania area.
Touring from Sorrento
Three of our four days were planned, first to the Isle of Capri. We went with Rick Steves “shared group tours”, which we were very satisfied with. We can easily recommend them. We met a group of about 15 people for the boat trip across to Capri early in the morning with the goal of being able to get into the Blue Grotto, not possible if the seas are rough. We were successful, got into the grotto, and it was beautiful! We then had a few hours to explore the island on our own, much better than a guided tour since different people would have different goals. We made it to overlooks of the coastline, especially of the Faragliones, rocks offshore reminiscent of the Farallones off of San Francisco. The tour of Capri ended with circumnavigating the island, with many beautiful views, including poking up next to the cliffs in the coral, green, and white grottos. The next day we toured the Amalfi Coast on a small bus on another Rick Steves shared group. We had stops in Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. The highlight was Ravello, a much quieter town with a great historic garden from the middle ages with overlooks again of the coast line. It was spectacular and peaceful. The Amalfi coast is much more rugged than Cinqueterre with limestone cliffs everywhere. The bus driver earned his pay (and tips) that day on the narrow roads hanging over the sea. Our final day was Pompeii, the reason we came down south from Ascona in the first place. It exceeded our expectations with the excellent displays, seeing archeology at work, and just the sheeer immensity of the place. And now we are at the Rome airport hotel preparing to head home tomorrow. It has been a great trip, and we are ready to get home to our own bed, our own food, our friends, and especially our kitties.
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