My First Impression of Europe: Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Naples

Beautiful Bay area

Beautiful Bay area


The last leg of our trip was Napoli. We arrived at Napoli by boat from Capri late at night tired and beat. With a good night’s rest and a good breakfast at the hotel, we were fully recovered the next morning and ready for Napoli. After chatting with the friendly and talkative hotel staff at the front desk, we took his recommendation and bought a tour package that provided private transportation for a day trip to Amalfi Coast, a half day tour to Pompeii, sight seeing in Napoli and to the airport for our flight back to Paris. It was a pricey €500, or €250 each, but it made it possible for us to do the maximum in a short two days.

Our driver Frank came to the hotel an hour later in his white Mercedes mini van to pick us up for the day trip to Amalfi Coast. Frank, a big Italian guy, was more our chauffeur to the set destinations than a tour guide. He spoke English with an American accent and his demeanor betrayed a Hollywood sort of sense of humor. Interestingly, according to him, he had learnt most of his English by watching lots of Hollywood movies.

Amalfi Coast

The day trip to Amalfi Coast, with stops in Sorrento, Amalfi and various lookouts on the way, was spectacular and great fun.

Piazza Tasso

Piazza Tasso


In less than an hour, we reached our first stop Sorrento, a beautiful small city on the Sorrento Peninsula overlooking Naples Bay. With a short 3 hour visit, our activities were centered around Piazza Tasso on Corso Italia, the town center of Sorrento.

Ocean View from Piazza Tasso

Ocean View from Piazza Tasso

Shopping on Via San Cesareo

Shopping on Via San Cesareo


The very first place we were led to was the market on Via San Cesareo, a narrow street in parallel to Corso Italia and right by Piazza Tasso. Via San Cesareo was packed with a great number of stores, leather, fashions, jewelries, crafts, Lemon Cellos, wines, music, sweets and also veggies and fruits stands. The prices there were very reasonable and we of course opened our wallets many times.

Lunch at RISTORANTE O' CANONICO

Lunch at RISTORANTE O' CANONICO


Lunch break followed shopping. Frank gook us to RISTORANTE O’ CANONICO but he did not join us. Right at Piazza Tasso, RISTORANTE O’ CANONICO is a pizzeria founded in 1898. I had Margarita Pizza, which was incredibly good for something that plain and simple. Must be the richness of the cheese.

Impressive Coastal Line

Impressive Coastal Line


The ride on SS163 from Sorrento to Amalfi, a tortuous corniche highway skirting around the towering cliff of Sorrento Peninsula by the Mediterranean Sea and producing many thrilling turns and breathtaking coastal vistas, is undeniably the most exhilarating coastal drive.

Imposing Crag

Imposing Crag

Positano

Positano


Positano is a picturesque coastal town on the south side of Sorrento Peninsula, 30 minutes between Sorrento and Amalfi, one of the many famous vacation spots with houses and villas crammed on the precipitous hill side.

Villas on high cliff

Villas on high cliff

Roadside Produce Stand

Roadside Produce Stand


This beautiful produce stand with flaming peppers etc. drew us over.

Cici and Me Made Some Purchase from the Stand

Cici and Me Made Some Purchase from the Stand

Town of Amalfi

Town of Amalfi


SS163, merging with the ocean side Corso Delle Repubbliche Marinare, goes through the town center of Amalfi, another picturesque coastal town built on the crags of Sorrento Peninsula overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Amalfi’s Beach and Pier at the Town Center

Amalfi’s Beach and Pier at the Town Center

Piazza del Duomo

Piazza del Duomo


We spent our 2 hours in town at the main square, Piazza del Duomo, visiting shops, St Andrew’s Fountain and Church of St Andrew.

Church of St Andrew

Church of St Andrew


With a long and impressive staircase, Church of St Andrew, also known as Amalfi’s cathedral, was first built in the 9th century and had gone through many restorations that altered its original design. Its present façade is 19th century neo-gothic. Left to the Church is a bell tower with double and triple light windows and a dome decorated with majolica tiles in lemon and lime, where Arabic origin of the majolica ceramics gives it a unique flavor.

St Andrew’s Altar

St Andrew’s Altar

Front Porch at St Andrew

Front Porch at St Andrew


While cross-vaulted ceiling are seen both at the front porch and the cloister, the golden-rod stripes decorates the front porch and double and quadruple column pillars are featured in the all white cloister with a classic Moorish touch.

Cloister at St Andrew

Cloister at St Andrew


Church of St Andrew has become popular for weddings and many Catholic wedding ceremonies have been given at the church.

Pompeii

On the second day we visited Pompeii, about 15 miles south east of Napoli and 3 miles south east of Mount Vesuvius. A walk through the extensive archeological site easily revealed the prosperous city it had used to be and in turn gave prominence to the catastrophic power of Vesuvius’ volcanic eruption in 79AD that destroyed and buried the rich Roman town in ashes and pumice for 1700 years before it was discovered and excavated.

Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius

Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius


Through the gate, Mount Vesuvius can be seen in the back drop.

Remnant of a Private Resident

Remnant of a Private Resident

Amphitheater

Amphitheater

Was This Some Sort of Great Hall?

Was This Some Sort of Great Hall?

Was This a Public Square?

Was This a Public Square?

A Bronze Statue That Survived

A Bronze Statue That Survived

Naples

Our time in Naples limited and our visit cursory, but any one who come to the city can not miss its beautiful sceneries and historical monuments revealing an intriguing history of thousands of years. From an Aegean Greek settlement on the tiny islet of Megaride in 8th century BC to now the third largest city in Italy with a population over a million, Naples has passed through glory and turbulence unlike any other. The provenance of pizza, Naples is also the birth and burial place of Virgil. After the fall of Roman Empire, which ruled Naples from 4th century BC till its crumple, Naples endured a long succession of invasions till 1860 when it became part of the new Italy. Unfortunately the violent history took root and today, organized crime is still deep in Naples which has caused nervousness and dampened its tourist industry, a great shame because Naples has much excellence to offer.

Hotel Miramare’s Lobby

Hotel Miramare’s Lobby


While in Napoli we stayed at Hotel Miramare, a building of Liberty style located on ocean front Via Nazario Sauro in a promontory area by Santa Lucia Sea and close to the historic center of Napoli

Roof Terrace at Hotel Miramare

Roof Terrace at Hotel Miramare


The hotel’s breakfast room is on the top floor with outdoor sitting on the adjoining roof terrace, where the view is delightful and Mount Vesuvius could be seen on clear days.

Piazza del Plebiscito

Piazza del Plebiscito


Piazza del Plebiscito is a large public square close to our hotel. On the southwest end of the piazza, is the church of di Sant Francesco Paola, an extraordinary church from 19th century structure reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome; its portico was flanked by two curved colonnades.

Palazzo Reale

Palazzo Reale


Palazzo Reale or Royal Palace occupies the northeast end of Piazza del Plebiscito. The Palace was built in 1600 for the Spanish Viceroys. Its grey and pink façade is decorated with a long row of statues set in niches.

Teatro di San Carlo

Teatro di San Carlo


The renowned opera house of Napoli, Teatro di San Carlo, is located at Piazza Trieste e Trento, a smaller square northwest of Piazza del Plebiscito. Inaugurated on the Nov 4th of 1737, Teatro di San Carlo is the oldest opera house in Europe and an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Galleria Umberto

Galleria Umberto


A few steps westward from the opera house is Galleria Umberto I, a gorgeous building with renaissance façade and a dazzling glass and iron dome of Liberty Style.

Gambrinus

Gambrinus


The famous café Gambrinus is located at Piazza del Plebiscito. It is Napoli’s oldest café, dating back to 1860 when it was a gathering place for the intellectual elites, artists, musicians, philosophers, scientists and politicians.

Castel Nuovo

Castel Nuovo


Further north on Via San Carlo, we found Castel Nuovo or New Castle, also known as the Maschio Angioino. This five-towered structure surrounded by deep moats, emanating aura of antiquity and awe, is not what its name suggests. Once the residence of kings and viceroys of Naples, it was originally built by Charles I of Anjou between 1279 and 82 and is now city council.

Porta Capuana

Porta Capuana


Porta Capuana was one of the four gates of the ancient city walls, denoting Honor and Virtue; it was a white marble arch flanked by two giant cylindrical towers in a contrasting dark grey. The original gate came about when the Romans ruled Naples in 4th century BC and built city walls and gates. The old gate was renovated and moved in the late 15th century to where it is now.

Castel Sant’ Elmo on Vomero

Castel Sant’ Elmo on Vomero


Castel Sant’ Elmo is a 10th century fortress like church located on Vomero, the highest hill top in Naples.

Naples and Vesuvius from Castel Sant’ Elmo

Naples and Vesuvius from Castel Sant’ Elmo

Beautiful Bay area

Beautiful Bay area

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