December 2015-January 2016
As our base in Pozzuoli is an easy 30-minute train ride, travelled to Naples several times. And with the dramatic Almalfi Coast just an hour and a half’s drive from Naples, how could you not visit this famous area?
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. However, 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 below, sight-seeing was lacking. 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.
The New Year’s Eve festivities with our guests Bob and Lorraine (aka The Kids) in Pozzuoli lasting until almost 4am next day, resulted in sleeping in until 12:30 pm. Also sporting the obligatory headache on New Year’s Day, decided it was best not to venture to Naples for a day or two.
So many sights and so little time…
The seafront promenade from Santa Lucia to Mergellina is a popular Sunday stroll for locals.
On this walk, you will see poles with clusters of attached padlocks, painted with couples’ names or initials. As with other cities around the globe, these padlocks signify true love-knots in modern times.
This medieval castle erected in 1279 still stands proud in front the city hall and Piazza Municipio.
Busy with tourists even for this time of year, there is an entry fee of €7 or €9, contrary to online advertisement of free entry.
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.
- Caffetteria Mada (Via diomede Marvasi n.1/3) – Good inexpensive coffee, pizza snacks, and pastries. Cool surrounds and music – good service. Came here a second time but seemed a little more expensive.
- Ristorante Pizzeria L’Eurosoldino – Wanting a late lunch before returning to Pozzuoli for New Year’s Eve, decided on this restaurant. Proudly displaying a TripAdvisor sticker on the entrance door, I was slightly dubious. With two levels of seating, this restaurant was absolutely rammed with locals – we were the only foreigners, which must be a good sign right? Although the food was good, the service was woeful.
My main gripe is waiting over an hour for pizzas. Although busy, locals arrived after us but their pizzas arrived within 15 minutes. After the hour’s wait, no food, and becoming ‘hangry’, I stormed downstairs and was quite curt (in Italian) with our waiter, demanding to know why everyone else was served before our table. Within 10 minutes of sitting back at our table, our pizzas arrived!
Train from Naples to Rome – day trip
Decided 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), arrived at Napoli Centrali station to be told that only the expensive tickets to Rome were left. At €98 one-way, we all decided this was a rip-off; and went for a coffee and ate pastry instead!
Waiting until 13:00hrs for the price to drop to just under €12 for the 2-hour trip wasn’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.
After a couple of very lazy days after the New Year’s festivities and with a car hire, decided it was about time to go on a longish road trip for a spot of sight-seeing.
The weather turned nasty with heavy rain, intermittent drizzly, grey, and cold – sinister clouds loomed overhead.
Still, we left Pozzuoli down the A3 and drove part of the Amalfi coast to Sorrento (Tolls: €0.95 each way).
During the intermittent rain, visions of the ominous Mount Vesuvius caught my eye and although you can climb to the summit, this wasn’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!
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 did not prove enticing for a photo shoot. But you can see why this is one of the best drives in Europe, albeit quite treacherous.
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!
Overlooking the Bay of Naples is Sorrento, which seems quite up-market, especially with much more restored affluent homes, cleaner streets, and fashionably well-dressed locals.
Although I have to mention here, most locals are well-dressed in Italy. I always feel quite scruffy and under dressed.
Renown as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, we just walked 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…
Bar Pina (Via A. Balsamo, 1) – Great coffee (€2) and wonderful fresh-baked, on-the-premise pastries, biscuits, and cakes. A family-run business and very friendly people. Tiny seating area at the side of this small café but well-worth a visit.
Medieval Salerno is quaint and more upmarket than Pozzuoli.
Walked around in the rain before having coffee and pastry – 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. Such a shame we missed this site.
Decided to drive back along the Amalfi Coast on the SS163 road, which was spectacular; even under the cover of cloud and rain.
The road was incredibly narrow and snakelike, winding around the coast and for much of the way, it’s hard to see oncoming traffic – Bob, the designated driver did a marvellous job.
After only about 20kms, which felt more like 100kms along the coastal road, much rain, and the late afternoon light fading quickly, decided the rest of the coast was to be left for another time. So, headed across the mountain range as a shortcut to get back onto the SP1, instead of back-tracking along the coastal road again.
Took the SS163 coast road, up the hill to Castilglione on the S373, which turned into the SP1 at the tiny town of Ravello. Followed this road along the Parco Regionale Dei Monti Lattari, then down towards the village of Cobara, and stopped to take photos from the above lookout.
With only sporadic street lights, winding narrow 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.
Pasticceria Beatrice Antonia (Via Nizza N148) – Wonderful huge gelato (€1.30) with loads of choices to choose from including Fine Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, Black Forest, and so much more. Great coffee and delicious pastries also; 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 some of money, but worse still, banned from entering the EU for up to 5 years.
Yes, it is that serious. I’m not sure how strongly this rule is enforced. Depending on which country you are in when you overstay is where the rules apply. I wasn’t 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 is a little expensive to fly back just for a visa.
I was 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 confirmed this information is incorrect. So, off 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 was told to wait.
Whilst waiting, I noticed around 100-plus people with paperwork filled the large waiting room. Although an assumption on my part, I doubt many spoke Italian.
Another very helpful officer explained to me that there is no way I could extend my stay in Italy. The other blow was that the way in which the Schengen rules are written. So, we thought Australians were 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 was to escape to Montenegro and Croatia for 90 days then back into Italy until the end of April, when Reg had to return to the UK for MOT (vehicle registration) renewal. Just another spanner in the works but this one is more like an iron post! This a big problem as I have to leave all Schengen countries by the 19th January! Time for Plan C…
The Immigration Officer suggested that as my father was Italian, I get all my paperwork together and lodge an application for Italian citizenship; he made this sound so easy.
As long as the process was commenced before my 90-day visa ran out, this would stop the Schengen clock. For me, this sounded 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, France, and a catch the ferry to the UK; probably driving in the snow.
Naples Immigration Office – Chapter 2
Basically, a wait until the 11th January was to return to the Immigration Office armed with all requested documentation to submit my application for Italian Citizenship.
Today, as on one other visit here, the office was heavy with a police presence keeping the peace.
Police vans, Carabinieri (Police) armed with pistols or assault rifles, keeping the crowd of 200+ migrants/refugees under control. The line snaked from inside the office and spilled out onto the footpath. People were unhappy and agitated – it was mayhem and certainly an eye-opener.
I was taken upstairs and interviewed by about 6 people all speaking and asking questions in different Italian dialects. Not only was this difficult as my Italian isn’t great, but I’m not up to speed with all the legal and technical language; my head hurt.
As I am currently in Puzzuoli, the officer advised that this time it would be best to submit my application through this Comune (Council). Sadly, although many really good people tried to help me and I managed to get all the documents together, the last guy at the Commune Di Pozzuoli in Monterusciello did not want to even start the process.
After visiting there twice, he still didn’t want anything to do with me as it was all too hard, not enough time, and putting up too many hurdles before he even started. One hurdle was I didn’t have a Lease Contract, which he advised I needed for one year – how could I get this if I can only stay in the Schengen zone for 90 days?
I discovered later that it isn’t a year and the guy just didn’t want to start the process.
Think it was an instant dislike on both our parts as he wasn’t budging. It seems that everyone has a good friend somewhere and so, I had yet another appointment but with the top guy in this Comune. Sadly, this also proved unsuccessful.
Back to Pozzuoli
After visits to Naples, a couple of drives to the Amalfi Coast, visiting Sorrento and Salerno, continually returning for an evening to the bungalow at the Pozzuoli campsite, is both peaceful and a welcomed relief.