04 November 2014

Mediterranean Travels, Part 4: Naples (Sorrento & Pompeii)

After touring Florence and Rome, the next stop on our Mediterranean cruise was the port of Naples. Although I've heard that pizza in Naples is a must, we chose to spend our day touring the ruins at nearby Pompeii and trying our best to experience a taste of the spectacular Amalfi Coast.

Our drive around the Bay of Naples toward Sorrento provided stunning views at every turn, and trust me-- there were a lot of turns! After witnessing the beauty of Tuscany's countryside and Rome's ruins, it was hard to imagine that Italy could awe us all over again with yet another uniquely beautiful landscape, but that's exactly what happened! The lush greenery and the sparkling water reminded me Kauai's north shore. Driving along, we passed secluded resorts and crowded public beaches, with their rows of colorful umbrellas and sunbathers basking in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.

The bus ride to Sorrento itself was a highlight of the trip for me. Every scene out my window seemed to belong on my "Places" Pinterest board rather than real life. Our bus pulled over at this lookout for views of the Sorrento coast...


Surrounded by lemon tree groves, Sorrento is considered the land of limoncello! Quaint streets are lined with stylish shops selling a variety of goods, but most notably locally hand painted ceramics and lemon everything. Along with a couple little bottles of limoncello and some bars of the most glorious smelling lemon soap ever, I also picked up a jar of green olives grown at a nearby organic farm as a souvenir for my dad. He insists that they're the best olives he's ever eaten!

After a couple hours of exploring the town, we enjoyed a lovely lunch under lemon and grape arbors at Ristorante O'Parrucchiano. Although this was set up by our cruise line, I was pleasantly surprised by the meal and the experience. The ambience reminded us of the old Tavern on the Green.

I easily could have stayed in Sorrento for the rest of the day (or even the week), but after lunch it was time for us to head to Pompeii. Since my husband is a major history buff, he was really excited to get to tour the ruins at Pompeii, making this day-long excursion the perfect compromise for us. 

To be completely honest, Pompeii was a bit of a letdown for me. I love history as well and have enjoyed studying Pompeii in the past, but the overall experience just wasn't what I'd expected. When we first arrived, I was shocked at what a tourist attraction the site was. There were buses and large tourist groups spread out on asphalt as far as the eye could see, along with rows of tacky tourist stands selling Made in China souvenirs. The whole scene just cheapened the experience for me. 

However, once you leave this area and move toward the ruins, the scenery becomes a lot more enjoyable. We began our tour and I really did enjoy seeing the ruins and imagining what everyday life must have been like in this smaller, middle class Roman town in contrast to what we had seen in Rome. But it was sweltering hot that day and halfway through the tour I didn't mind volunteering to go back and wait near our bus with my mother-in-law, who wasn't feeling well. 

We enjoyed a refreshing lemon ice while waiting for the tour to wrap up. And to be honest, I don't regret it. If you're really interested in Pompeii, it's worth a visit, but for me, it just didn't compare to Rome. If I return to Naples, I would prioritize the Archaeological Museum, which houses the majority of the art and objects found at Pompeii, over the site itself. 

Looking back at these photos now, our days spent touring the Mediterranean seem like a dream! Now that we're in the middle of fall, it seems a little funny to be sharing photos of my summer vacation, but time got away from me unintentionally, and I wanted to finish what I started. I hope these photos provide a bit of a welcome respite for those of you already enduring freezing temperatures! I know this is the time of year where I start dreaming of faraway places and carefree vacations even more than usual. Next up, I'll be sharing photos of our time spent on the beautiful island of Sicily!

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