Naples and the dramatic Amalfi Coast

December 2015-January 2016

With the dramatic Amalfi Coast just a 1.5-hour drive from Naples, how could anyone bypass this famous romantic destination?

Getting there

naplesWith Reg safely parked at the fabulous Volcano Solfatara campsite in Pozzuoli, it’s time to explore Naples.

Taking the train today from Pozzuoli (€2.50 for 120 minutes or €2.00 one-way), it’s only a comfortable half-hour trip to Naples.

Naples

First impression of Naples is it’s quite grotty with a raw grungy feel, not that I mind this at all.

As Italy’s 3rd largest city and apparently one of the most corrupt in the country, everyone works with only cash here and rarely with credit cards. Apparently, not many people pay taxes in Naples.

Areas around the main train station and the Immigration Office are shabby, although walk to the waterfront and it’s quite pretty with a relaxed feel.

During the several busy trips to the Immigration Office in Naples for reasons explained later, sight-seeing isn’t the first priority. Although subsequent trips proved great for strolling through the city and enjoying Italy’s coffee culture, and of course pizza. Naples, the city where pizza was born.

fish market, Naples, italy
Roadside fish market

The New Year’s Eve festivities with our UK-guests Bob and Lorraine (aka The Kids) in Pozzuoli lasting until almost 4am next day, results in sleeping in until 12:30 pm. Also sporting the obligatory headache on New Year’s Day, decide it’s best not to venture to Naples for a day or two.

Sights

So many sights and so little time…

Lungomore

The seafront promenade from Santa Lucia to Mergellina is a popular Sunday stroll for locals.

Along this walk, you’ll see poles with clusters of attached padlocks, painted with names or initials of couples.

Naples, seafront, Italy
Lungomore – seafront promenade

As with other cities around the globe, these padlocks signify true love-knots in modern times.

Castel Nuovo

This medieval castle erected in 1279 still stands proud in front of the city hall and Piazza Municipio.

Busy with tourists even for this time of year, there’s an entry fee of €7 or €9, contrary to online advertisement of free entry.

Castle, Naples, Italy
Castel Nuovo
castle, Naples, Italy
Carved Battle Scene – Castel Nuovo
Naples, Italy, sculpture
Intricate archway stone carvings

Galleria Umberto 1

Naples, Italy
Galleria Umberto 1

Built in 1891, destroyed in WWII, then later re-built to its former glory, this flashy shopping gallery is quite impressive.

With a towering 60-metre high, vaulted glass and iron roof converging into a glass dome at the centre, it’s a pleasure strolling around this building.

Even though the shops are exclusive and expensive, a walk through this soft-lit building is free.

Food

Food is everywhere in Naples…

Caffetteria Mada

Along Via Diomede Marvasi n.1/3, this caffetteria serves good inexpensive coffee, pizza snacks, and pastries.

Cool surrounds and music await with good service. Returned a second time, but seems a little more expensive.

Ristorante Pizzeria L’Eurosoldino

Wanting a late lunch before returning to Pozzuoli for New Year’s Eve, we decide on the L’Eurosoldino.

Proudly displaying a TripAdvisor sticker on the entrance door, I’m dubious. With two levels of seating, this restaurant is absolutely rammed with locals and we’re the only foreigners, which must be a good sign right?

Although the food is good, the service for us is woeful.
My main gripe is waiting over an hour for pizzas. Although busy, locals arriving after us are served their pizzas within 15 minutes and before us…

After the hour’s wait without food and becoming ‘hangry’, I storm downstairs and am quite curt (in Italian) with our waiter, demanding to know why everyone else is served before our table. Within 10 minutes of sitting back at our table, our pizzas arrive!

Naples, Italy
Medieval architecture

Train from Naples to Rome – day trip

Decide on an early start for a day trip into Rome as the fast train is supposed to take under a couple of hours and The Kids, wanted to visit Rome.

Although the Trenitalia times and prices are advertised online (around €11-€44 one-way), on arriving at Napoli Centrali station, we’re told that only the expensive tickets to Rome are left. At €98 one-way, we all decide this was a complete rip-off and go for a coffee and pastry instead.

Waiting until 13:00hrs for the price to drop to just under €12 for the 2-hour trip isn’t really an option for a day trip with potentially 4 hours of travelling. Although disappointing, realistically one day in Rome is far from adequate.


Amalfi Coast

Amalfi, ItalyAfter a couple of very lazy days after the New Year’s festivities and with a car hire, decide it’s time to go on a longish road trip for a spot of sight-seeing.

The weather turns nasty with heavy rain, intermittent drizzle, grey, and cold. Sinister clouds loom overhead.

Still, we leave Pozzuoli down the A3 and drive part of the Amalfi coast to Sorrento (Tolls: €0.95 each way).

During the intermittent rain, visions of the ominous Mount Vesuvius catches my eye and although you can climb to the summit, this isn’t appealing in the pouring rain and mud.

Still, one can only but imagine its infamous eruption in AD79, ejecting a cloud of volcanic gases, ashes, and stones some 33 kilometres into the atmosphere.

Amalfi, Naples, Italy
Along the Amalfi coast road

The drive along this stunning piece of coastline is wild at best.

Lacking on this tight narrow strip of road are areas to stop and take photos, or to enjoy the panoramic vistas – even in the rain.

The weather does not prove enticing for a photo shoot. But it’s not hard to see why this is one of the best drives in Europe, albeit quite treacherous.

Amalfi, Italy
Another coastal view

You can take a memorable bus ride along the coast from Sorrento to Salerno, which leaves you breathless and incredulous of the amazing Italian engineers who built this road. But also in awe of the local bus drivers, who think nothing of the 150+ metre sheer drop to the Mediterranean Sea below, whilst swerving around corners. All it takes is just one second’s lapse in concentration…

Sorrento

Overlooking the Bay of Naples is Sorrento, which is quite up-market especially with much more restored affluent homes, cleaner streets, and fashionably well-dressed locals.

Although need to mention that most locals are well-dressed in Italy and I always feel quite scruffy and under dressed.

Sorrento, Italy, Amalfi coast
Sorrento

Renown as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, we stroll around the streets of Sorrento, soaking up (literally) the main shopping street, seafront, and scenery along the way before stopping for the obligatory coffee and pastry – when in Italy…

Sorrento, Italy, Amalfi coast
Edge of the road

Food

Bar Pina on Via A. Balsamo 1, serves great coffee (€2) and wonderfully fresh-baked on-the-premise pastries, biscuits, and cakes.

This family-run business and very friendly people offers a tiny seating area to the side of this small café, but well-worth a visit.


Salerno

Medieval Salerno is quaint and more upmarket than Pozzuoli.

Walking around in the rain before having coffee and pastry, it’s not so great for sight-seeing with all this heavy rain.

On the eastern outskirts of Salerno and the most southern in Italy, is the Etruscans and Samnites in Fratte Archaelogical site, which includes a huge Necropolis – shame we miss this today.

Decide to drive back along the Amalfi Coast on the SS163 road, which is spectacular even under the cover of cloud and rain.

The road is incredibly narrow and snakelike. Winding around the coast and for much of the way, very hard to see oncoming traffic, Bob the designated driver doea a marvellous job.

Amalfi, Naples, Italy
View from the mountain range

After only about 20kms, which feels more like 100kms along the coastal road, much rain, and the late afternoon light fading quickly, decide the rest of the coast is to be left for another time. So, head across the mountain range as a shortcut to get back onto the SP1, instead of back-tracking along the Amalfi coastal road again.

Taking the SS163 coast road up the hill to Castilglione on the S373, this turns into the SP1 at the tiny town of Ravello. Following this road along the Parco Regionale Dei Monti Lattari, then down towards the village of Cobara, we stop briefly to take photos from the lookout.

Amalfi, mountains, Naples, italy
Mountain weather worsened – see the car’s dim lights, left?

With only sporadic street lights, winding narrowing roads and barely anywhere to stop, this stretch of road would be bedlam in the summer months – especially with coaches and much more traffic – dangerous.

Food

Check out Pasticceria Beatrice Antonia on Via Nizza N148 for a wonderful huge gelato (€1.30) with loads of choices to choose from including Fine Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, and Black Forest. Have a great coffee and delicious pastry in a good atmosphere with great service from the ladies.


EU’s Schengen Zone

If you’re Australian and only want to travel in the EU for 3 months, then everything is just fine. However, overstay your 3-month Schengen visa and you can be fined a sum of money – worse still, banned from entering the EU for up to 5 years.

Yes, it is this serious. I’m not sure how strongly this rule is enforced. Depending on which country you’re in when you overstay is where the rules apply. I’m not about to find out.

If you want to travel through the EU for over 3 months, then you must apply for the correct visa in your own country. Although, as we left Australia 21 months’ ago and still travelling, it’s a little expensive to fly back just for a visa.

I’m certain that I could extend in Italy as the online information stated a form is available at any Post Office, pay a fee, and lodge this with the local police. All I can say is that just like Facebook, you can’t believe everything you read.

The visit to the police station in Pozzuoli confirms this information is incorrect so it’s back to the Immigration Office in Naples.


Naples Immigration Office – Chapter 1

After finding the Immigration Office and speaking to the officer at the front counter, I’m told to wait.

Whilst waiting, I notice around 100-plus people holding paperwork filled the large waiting room. Although an assumption on my part, I doubt many spoke Italian.

Another very helpful officer explains to me that there’s no way I can extend my stay in Italy, with another blow is our understanding of the Schengen rules. We thought Australians are allowed 90 days in Schengen countries then have to get out for 90 days. Not so, it’s 90 days in a 180-day period. So originally, Plan B is to escape to Montenegro and Croatia for 90 days then back into Italy until the end of April, when Reg has to return to the UK for MOT (vehicle registration) renewal – we’re told we can’t do this…another spanner in the works but this one is more like an iron post. A big problem. I have to leave all Schengen countries by the 19th January – time for Plan C…

The Immigration Officer suggests that as my father was Italian, I get all my paperwork together and lodge an application for Italian citizenship – he makes this sound so easy.

As long as the process is commenced before my 90-day visa runs out, this will stop the Schengen clock. This sounds like a long shot but definitely worth trying.

Another problem with this is that it’s the Christmas period and the officer is back at work on the 11th. I also need to obtain documents from Births, Deaths, and Marriages in Australia during Christmas holidays.

Should all this go wrong, then this only leaves one week to drive back from southern Italy to France, then catch the ferry to the UK, and probably driving in snow.

Naples Immigration Office – Chapter 2

Basically, we wait until the 11th January to return to the Immigration Office armed with all requested documentation to submit my application for Italian Citizenship.

Today, as the previous visit here the office is heavy with a police presence keeping the peace.

Police vans, Carabinieri (Police) armed with pistols or assault rifles, keep the crowd of 200-plus migrants/refugees under control. The cue snakes from inside the office and spills out onto the footpath. People are unhappy and agitated – it’s mayhem and certainly an eye-opener.

I’m taken upstairs and interviewed by 6 officers all speaking and asking questions in different Italian dialects. Not only is this difficult as my Italian isn’t great, but I’m not up to speed with all the legal and technical language – my head hurts.

As I’m currently in Puzzuoli, the officer advises that this time it’s best to submit my application through this Comune (Council). Sadly, although many really good people try to help me and I manage to get all the documents together, the last guy at the Comune Di Pozzuoli in Monterusciello does not want to even start the process.

After visiting there twice, he still doesn’t want anything to do with me as it’s all too hard, not enough time, and putting up too many hurdles before even starting. One hurdle is that I don’t have a Lease Contract, which he advise I need for one year. How can I get this if I can only stay in the Schengen zone for 90 days?

I discover later that it isn’t a year and the guy just didn’t want to start the process – an instant dislike on both our parts as he’s not budging. It seems that everyone has a good friend somewhere and so, I have yet another appointment but with the top guy in this Comune. Sadly, this also proves unsuccessful.


Back to Pozzuoli

After visits to Naples, a couple of drives to the Amalfi Coast, visiting gorgeous Sorrento and Salerno, we return for the evening to the bungalow at the Pozzuoli campsite – peaceful and a welcomed relief.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts on Italy.

Naples, Italy, buskers
Piazza busker
Sorrento, Italy
A higher view of Sorrento’s harbour

27 thoughts on “Naples and the dramatic Amalfi Coast

Add yours

  1. We visited this stunning area many years ago when my son was a toddler. We hired a car and spent the two weeks driving the hair-raising coastline of the Amalfi. Positano, Amalfi Sorrento etc were all beautiful but Ravello was probably my favourite on that trip.

    I’m loving your blog. Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Christie, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Yes you can. However, with 26 countries signed up to the Schengen agreement, there aren’t too many countries left to run to. If you’re Australian and have spent 90 days in Schengen, you have to then stay out of the Schengen zone for 180 days; travelling is “a total of 90 days within a 180 day period”.

      By the time I left France, I was 9 days over and nothing was said thankfully…it’s the luck of the draw. I was in a motorhome returning to the UK so maybe France didn’t care. However, I had major problems when I re-entered the UK, which I will post a blog about about in the next couple of months. I’ve been writing to Home Office UK since May this year, trying to get the flag on my passport removed. That as they say, is another story!

      Liked by 1 person

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