After a week or so in Lazio’s mountains, we took to the coast.
Sperlonga. A wonderful town about 2 hours south of the capital was our base for a few days. It was sleepy in the off-season, with temperatures still desperately clinging on to the 20’s.
We took it slow like the locals. Fabulous sunsets and winding roads had us leave with a smile on our faces. Let’s have some action in Naples.
Be careful what you wish for.
We drove down to Naples and Google maps started to do things it has yet to do on this trip.
Take a left down this closed rod, chief. Can’t do that? No worries, king. Here’s a quick shortcut. We so so so wish that there was a setting to let Google know you’re driving a big-ass van. What Google sent us down was about 25 minutes of narrow road, with Italian locals sending it as usual from the other side.
The worst thing is the fear of the unknown. The van is only one corner away from being completely blocked in with places few and far between to turn around. It’s such a terrible feeling.
We made it through to our campsite. 'Closed for Covid'.
Off we go to the next one. Cue another 20 minutes of tight challenging roads. So terrible.
We finally got in and caught a train from a station that was considered to be ‘from the fourth world’. It was abandoned, but the train still stopped. No problem, free train too.
We got in to the city and were greeted to countless street vendors. Tight, cobbled stone roads became pedestrianized. Fresh fish, face masks and pretty much any other random trinkets you could imagine are sold by locals.
It sounds kind of cool. And it kind of is. It’s old-school, full of character and exceedingly Italian. But the atmosphere is weird. It’s rough.
Naples is known for having the smartest pick-pocketers in the world. Apparently, the Mafia still has a grip on the city. We say apparently, because we heard these statements from people that don't live there. However, those points were kept in the back of our mind throughout.
We were in Rome only a week or two before and the experience was contrasting. Keep in mind that we only popped in to both cities for a half day visit. However, Rome felt much safer, and was offering so much more in terms of sites for us tourists.
Naples was dirty, cold and not-so exciting.
They do one thing well, though. Food.
We opted against going to Italy's oldest pizzeria and made our way to 'the world's best'.
Smart move, we thought.
It was definitely the finest Margherita Leslie has ever tasted. So good in fact, that he was prepared to go back in to the battleground for another.
Pizza is a very simple meal, so it's crazy how good it tasted. Genuinely, if you find yourself in Naples, go here and bring FIVE EURO (it costs five euro. It's massive, too.)
We left our campsite, a little more relaxed after a nice day trip to the island of Ischia. The mood lifted as we bathed in a natural thermal pool. Leslie did manage to banana peel slip on the rocks and cut his arm open, but let's never talk about that again, maybe? (Pro Tip: Wear those water shoes, or walk super slow..)
Google Maps had us make a wrong turn, on the first turn. It almost felt petty. We managed to get out of that pickle and make our way to Pompeii. Before arriving, there was one last street that we were waved down by a man saying we had no chance of getting through. We turned around, numb to it all, and finally arrived.
The next day, we went to see the old ruins of Pompeii and were greeted to ridiculously pushy saleswomen. If anyone goes to Pompeii in the future, you will get stopped by these people claiming to be tourist info but they repeatedly lie to try get you to pay for an overpriced bus to Mt Vesuvius (the bus starts from the gates of Pompeii, both can be done in the same day easily.)
Just get the public bus from across the street. (The woman told us the public bus only takes online tickets.. It doesn't. It only takes cash.) Her face was pretty snookered when we said we had already booked online, lying to her lie. Really weird people...
Pompeii was a treat to see. It was virtually empty and cost us EU under 25 year olds 2euro each to enter.
Neither of us are super interested in ancient architecture so we strolled through for two hours. It was really impressive. We would recommend it for sure, but the experience is most likely hindered when brushing shoulders with fellow visitors. We are so grateful to not have had that experience.
Mt Vesuvius was unfortunate as it was clouded out at the top so the 'jaw dropping' views of the Bay of Naples were non-existent. However, it was still a cool experience to be on top of an active volcano with so much history. The crater itself is big, with steam rising from certain points. No lava to be seen, as expected (and thankfully).
Other than that, we spent Halloween night in a small car park and were given the trick (or treat) of being involuntarily involved in a dogging session.
Naples was a strange city. There is a looming air of lockdown in Italy which has us and many others in a state of stress, too. It was by no means a disaster of a week. However, it was a contrasting week to the sleepy, spacious time we had on the coast two hours north.
Leslie will hold his hand up and say the Covid stress is self inflicted by travelling during a pandemic, and that it was still a better week than being stuck in a wet, cold Ireland. Maybe we have just been spoiled recently with how Spain and Italy have been so far.
But being spoiled is nice.
So we decided to respond to this by treating ourselves. Leslie is currently sitting in an AirBnb on the Sorrento Peninsula, using it as a base to explore Positano, Sorrento and the Amalfi coast on a scooter.
It's nice again.
Riding a scooter down the Amalfi coast is a bucket lister. Doing it without any tour buses or packed roads is a dream. We are lucky.
We will come back with a write-up on the week later. Until then, be sure to like the Gnarvana account on Instagram and treat yourself in general this November.