Sorrento, Pompei, Vesuvius, Capri
with my nine-year-old grandson
My nine-year-old grandson, J., and I took advantage of the occasional weekend return flights organised in the winter by Air Corsica to fly direct from Bastia to Naples. Unsurprisingly, since they were a couple of planes short, our departure from Bastia was delayed by about 2 hours which put our afternoon programme in peril. In the end all went well.
After leaving our 2 pieces of hand luggage at the Left Luggage office in the underground passage (next to the WC) of Pompei Scavi Circumvesuviana train station, we jumped onto the last bus of the day for Vesuvius.
The Busvia tours start from just outside the Pompei Circumvesuviana train station (get tickets at the little office to the left of the exit) and take you to an intermediate stop where you board what I can only describe as a bus/lorry with high wheels and probably 4-wheel drive. This part of the trip is on a very rough forest track up the southern slopes of Vesuvius not to be recommended for anyone with a bad back but my grandson found it great fun and even I thought it was definitely worth the experience. From the top bus stop there is a walk of about 20 minutes up a medium steep footpath to the semi-circular path which circles round part of the cone. We were given plenty of time to make the climb and to wander to the far end of the semi-circular path before heading back down again in time for the bus.
There is another approach on a normal tarmacked road up the northern slopes of Vesuvius which you can take either by bus or by car. At the top, there is a large car park and a few shops. From there it is still a 20-minute walk to the cone but the path is wider. At the bottom, you would be well-advised to take the walking stick offered to you and give a tip on returning it. The Vesuvio express bus service from Ercolano will take you to this car park.
Another possibility for visiting Vesuvius is by regular bus service from Pompei: see EAV bus timetable.
Our hotel was Casa dell'Orologio almost on the central square, Piazza Tasso. We had a beautiful room with a terrace, the owner was extremely friendly. It was a bit of a bind to climb the stairs up three high storeys but a lift was due to be installed very shortly. Breakfast is at one of two local cafés, not something that I would normally go for but it was quite fun to be on the streets early in the morning before the crowds and to watch people getting ready for their day.
Due to advance research, I was keen to try the Porta Marina restaurant on the quayside of Marina Grande. It was an excellent choice: food superb, friendly young waitresses and the fantastic backdrop of the lights on the water and climbing the cliffs following the Via nastro verde towards Termini. After supper we would walk along the "beach". Beach is a bit of a misnomer as it was full of clutter and rubbish from the fishermen's activities but that is what made it a veritable treasure trove for J. We both adored it and, although it meant a steep climb back up to Piazza Tasso, we went there twice during our short stay.
Next morning we set off early by Circumvesuviana train
from Sorrento to Pompei Scavi. The Porta Marina entrance to the site is just a couple of hundred yards from the
train station. Make sure you get a detailed map and booklet from one of the counters near the ticket office. If you want to unload a rucksack or clothing, there is a
Left luggage office down the steps from the ticket office. (It is reachable before you have to show your ticket to the site.)
Figures of Pompei:
In view of my young companion I had sketched out a route taking in the main buildings which would interest a 9-year-old and we also stopped to have a longer look whenever something caught our eye. We had arrived at 9 o'clock and by one we were more than ready for our picnic on the seats in the shady area by the Porta Anfiteatro.
Pots of Pompei:
Sights of Pompei:
Back in Sorrento, we jumped onto the red double decker bus for a relaxing sightseeing tour along the Sorrento peninsula. We seemed to be the only passengers for most of the journey.
Island of Capri
For our last full day, we headed for the island of Capri. From Sorrento town centre we got return tickets for the lift down to the beach and walked along to Marina piccola for the ferry. From Sorrento to Capri you have a choice between a ferry with Caremar or a hydrofoil with Gescab. In either case, you should get your tickets at the central ticket office before heading for the quayside.
We took a little bus up to Anacapri but it was quite a long wait. With hindsight it would have been better to get a taxi.
I was keen to have a second look at the Villa San Michele which is conjured up so beautifully in the book The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe and was just as moved as on my first visit; it is such a beautiful place.
Then, from the centre of Anacapri, we took the chairlift to Monte Solaro. Each person travels separately on chairs spaced about 5 metres apart and they are completely open so, for safety's sake, I "confiscated" J's little rucksack and his camera. It was a fantastic experience, very quiet and tranquil passing over peaceful gardens with the scenic backdrop of Anacapri and the sea in the distance. J. was disappointed that I planned for us to walk back down instead of taking the chairlift again but I was keen to stretch my legs and also get a glimpse of the Hermitage of Cetrella. Although it was not open to visitors it was good to enjoy the feel of the place with the magical views over the southern side of Capri and the Faraglioni islands.
From Anacapri, we took an open-top taxi down to Capri town (€18,00) and then walked out to the Arco naturale. I knew from the internet that it was covered in scaffolding so it was not so easy to see the extraordinary arch carved out by nature in the cliff-face but just to look at the scaffolding and to try to work out how on earth they had managed to get it into place was interesting in itself.
Afterwards we took the funicular back down to the port.
For our last evening we went to the Sorrento musical at the Teatro Tasso. I hesitated about booking the full evening, i.e. with dinner served in the theatre before the show, but in fact it was fine. J. had taken along some paper and coloured crayons (as is our custom for meals out) and, although it seemed to me that he spent most of the time head bent over his drawings, in fact he reproduced a number of well-drawn scenes of the singers and dancers on the stage to the admiring glances of the spectators at the neighbouring table.
Each evening I would ask J. to make an illustrated list of each type of transport which we had taken during the day and at the end of our very short trip there was an impressive number.
We were in and around Sorrento for 3 nights in March/April 2016.