Sorrento - May 2004

We had a really nice situation of having a week in which we could conceiveably go anywhere in the world. Well, anywhere that didn't involve long flights (not enough time to recover from jet lag and make the most of the place) and anywhere that didn't invlove our jabs being up to date.

We ended up 4 days before departure immerssed in the best that Expedia had to offer and by Monday morning, e-tickets in hand, arrived at the Alitalia desk to fly to Sunny Sorrento, cue Dean Martin and pictures of Lady and the Tramp in my head.

This was not Rory's first time in the region but his last trip was as a smallish boy in 1977 and I'd only been to the North before. Loads of people had recommended Sorrento as a destination, and we weren't disappointed.

This first shot is of the Italian Alps as we were flying South on our way to Sorrento.

We arrived at the Hilton early evening, having cannily taking the very cheap bus from right outside Airport Arrivals at Naples Airport. It takes about an hour to get to the Sorrento town centre, and winds through the interesting, albeit not particularly picturesque towns of the Neapolitian Metropolitan area.

We spent Monday evening eating at the hotel - I've got the say the food was fabulous at the hotel, although a bit pricey - average price for 3 courses, wine and coffee was about €75/£50 per head. In fact, if you are a gastronome I wouldn't say that Sorrento was particularly cheap. If you want very average food for less than €30, then there are plenty of touristy plastic-chaired cafes and restaurants in the middle of town. For really good food at some of the better restaurants, then you are looking upwards of €60 each.

We made three trips on this holiday. The first was to Mt. Vesuvius, the dominant object on the skyline from Sorrento and travelling throughout the region. We took the train to Ercolano Stavi, and then a bus to the volcano. They take you to the entrance to a 1km hike up to the top. You can get a "free" walking stick to help you up and then give them a euro tip when you come down. It's not hard (we saw plenty of older people making the ascent) but it is tiring and can occasionally be slippy. The cost at the time of writing is €6.50 to take the walk up to the top. The view is worth it.


Here are few facts about Vesuvius:

  • It's an active volcano
  • It's erupted several times, the most famous being on August 24th, AD79 when it buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum
  • The base of the volcano is a about 12 miles (about 18 km) across
  • The height of the volcano is currently aproximately 4,200ft (1200m) high
  • There is a great NASA false-colour photo of Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples here, showing how much Vesuvius dominates the area.

The first photo shows Vesuvius is still active. We caught this puff of smoke coming out of the side of the rock - I've highlighted it so it's easier to see.

Generally Vesuvius is seen as a low risk volcano - for now. There are over a million people living in the area directly surrounding the volcano, so it's very carefully monitored for activity by local scientists.

Here's another photo, this time from the top Vesuvius overlooking the towns away from Naples itelf, with the Sorrento penninsula slightly highlighted.

Another trip, and my favourite, was to Pompeii, the main city buried by the AD79 eruption. We took the train to Pompei (one "i" for some reason) - the entrance to the site is just metres away, and the best part - it's free. :)

Instead of me delving into my brain for a few useless facts from a deep and distant Ancient History A level past, here are some of my favourite photos from the 4x36 roles of film I took and a couple of useful links where you can get more information.

In the photo on the left you can see a typical Pompeii street. In the distance are stepping stones to allow pedestrians to cross without stepping into the road. The gaps are there to ensure that cart wheels can fit though.

The photo on the right shows Rory at the font at one of the baths in the city. The baths had both hot and cold (frigdatorium) rooms for cleansing the skin as well as a place to meet and gossip about the latest politics and events.

The next 2 photos are, on the left, of the main theatre in the city, and to the right, a painting of Venus rising from the sea, painted as a fresco on the wall of one of the more auspicious houses. The actual painting isn't artistically special, but rather the fact that the quality of the painting has survived so well is what makes it worth a mention.


The final photos show the human cost of the eruption of 79AD. These are plastercasts taken from the remains left where the ash had almost entirely incinerated the material but preserved the space surrounding the bodies.

Here are a few useful links if you'd like to know more about Pompeii:

Finally, we took a trip to Capri. It's very nice. The hyrdofoil is about €17 return from Sorrento and takes about half an hour.