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5 weeks in Italy, continued…Orvieto, Naples, Amalfi Coast, and back to Rome

5 weeks in Italy, continued…Orvieto, Naples, Amalfi Coast, and back to Rome

Old Jan 12th, 2020, 06:30 AM
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5 weeks in Italy, continued…Orvieto, Naples, Amalfi Coast, and back to Rome

I’m continuing with our travels in a separate report – here is the first part of our travels, which is mostly a visual diary. We left NYC on September 18, 2019 and returned on October 22 – nearly 5 weeks! Fantastico!

Nearly 5 weeks in Italy – Fantastico!

As the earlier (visual) report seems to have fallen off the trip report cliff, I thought it best to write up what I can remember before our trip becomes faded memories.

Our last stop (see earlier report) was Spello, an Umbrian hill town, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We then traveled to Orvieto for one night only. It was intended to be a transition stop only as I was able to book a train directly to Naples without having to make a stop in Rome, but I was glad to be able to stay the night, as we had stopped there once many years ago and loved the town.

The drive between Spello and Orvieto was a delight – lots of lovely views of lush countryside. A relatively easy ride between the 2 cities and we found the location of the Hertz rental office near the train station and the funicular station.

After dropping the car, we took the funicular to the city center. Directly in front of the station exit, we boarded the bus for the short ride to the Piazza della Repubblica,. From there, it was a short walk to our hotel, the Piazza Piccolomini. At first, I wasn’t sure if we were heading in the right direction, but I read enough comments about people having difficulty finding the hotel. It wasn’t all that hard, either, just on a side street. I really liked the hotel. We booked a regular double room that was very spacious and comfortable. Larger than my old Manhattan apartment. I would’ve liked to stay longer in Orvieto and would happily have stayed at the hotel.

Unfortunately, M. developed a flu-like bug, that him hard that day, so after a short walk around the city, he crashed at the hotel. First, though, we walked along the walls, overlooking the beautiful Umbrian countryside. We also stopped into the Duomo di Orvieto, admiring the fantastic façade, and of course, the impressive frescoes in the chapels.

By this time, M was fading, and we returned to the hotel for a break. While M was resting, I had a very relaxed afternoon in the hotel lobby, sitting and sipping on an aperol spritz. Later, I had fun exploring the town at night.

By the next day, fortunately, by the next day, M was feeling a bit more himself and though still not 100%, he was ready for traveling.

Our train didn’t leave until just after noon, so we had a little more time to explore. I had read about the series of underground caves in Orvieto but knew we wouldn’t have time for an extensive visit, so was very happy to discover the Pozzo della Cava, which was a short walk from our hotel. We enjoyed a brief visit to this fascinating site: https://www.pozzodellacava.it/inform...where/?lang=en

We still had plenty of time before our train was to leave, and we walked the roughly 15 minutes to the funicular. Even so, we had time before the train was to leave – and in fact, even more time than we had expected, because of course, the train was not on time!
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 06:54 AM
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Orvieto


Orvieto Wall overlooking the Umbrian countryside





Duomo












Nighttime in Orvieto




Aperol spritz time



Last edited by progol; Jan 12th, 2020 at 07:45 AM.
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 07:04 AM
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Onward to Naples

We took the InterCity train to Naples, which took just over 3 hours, and though it was slightly delayed, the ride was otherwise uneventful. Arriving in Napoli Centrale, though, my heart skipped a few beats as I finally saw the very famous Mount Vesuvius from the window of the train!

The biggest challenge we had was figuring out the train tickets for the metro. We waited a while on a line for the ticket machine, only to realize that the machine wasn’t working. Eventually, we found a newsstand in the station – this was easy as can be, and went in search of the entry to the metro.

We stayed in the very charming and well-located Hotel Piazza Bellini and I followed the very clear directions on their website, taking Line #1 to Dante, and a walk through the Port’ Alba, the remnant of the city gates.

From the moment we arrived in Naples, we really loved it. It’s definitely edgy, a bit on the gritty side, with lots of graffiti and trash piled high that greeted us in the Piazza, but it felt very alive and had a wonderful ambience, which captivated us. As a New Yorker, it also felt very familiar and relatively comfortable.

I loved the Hotel Piazza Bellini! I booked a long time ago and had requested a terrace room with a view of Vesuvius, and was thrilled with it. The weather was constantly changing when we were there - and, as M. was still recuperating, we did spend enough time in the room so that having the terrace was a welcome break. I loved the dramatic skies, and I had plenty of them!
Official Website - Hotel Napoli Italy | Hotel Piazza Bellini Napoli

We didn’t see half of what we had hoped to do, but during the time we were there, we saw the Naples National Archaelogical Museum, one of the best museums of its kind. Fantastic collections! The mosaics were a standout – but of course, you can’t miss the Secret Room, the collection of ancient erotica! It was helpful to visit before going to Herculaneum and Pompeii.

We visited the Museo di Capodimonte, one of the largest art museums in Italy; an extensive collection housed in a palace that was built for the Bourbon rulers of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily. It’s hard to realize, but this city was once upon a time an important European center. In fact, the museum had created an exhibition, like lifesize dioramas set up in a series of rooms, evoking life when Naples was a cultural center. An audio tour guided the visitor through them. Odd, but strangely, it worked. After the time-travel immersion (!), we spent time just looking at the art – and it is an impressive collection.

We also visited the Cappella Sansevero, which houses the Veiled Christ. It is am impressive work, although in truth, it didn’t move us nearly as much as other works we’ve seen(the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is one of my favorites anywhere). But this is just our personal opinion. It’s a remarkable work.

And we walked. And walked. And walked. Along the Spaccanapoli, and many of the side streets, filled with lots of vendors, shops, restaurants, bakeries (mmmmm). We were fortunate to run into a food tour, so we know we had a wonderful bakery! We wandered into several churches. And we found the Rick Steves’ guide to Naples and the Amalfi Coast to be very helpful in providing an orientation to where to go. He’s done his homework and it was useful.

From Naples, we visited Herculaneum and the Villa Oplontis. I had watched the weather reports, and timed our visit to Herculaneum well. We had a stellar day for our visit. It was easy to return to the train station, Napoli Centrale, and take the Circumvesuviana to Herculaneum (Ercolano). And we loved the site – it’s much more manageable than Pompeii, with structures more intact. The archeological site is much smaller than Pompeii, and the nature of the ash that fell on the city preserved it in a way that Pompeii was not. One of the most startling images is a bed that is sitting in situ, covered in ash. It’s also a wealthier city, with lavish decoration and design. The ticket office also provides a small guidebook that gives a good overview of the site and provides details on many of the buildings.

After visiting Herculaneum, we visited Villa Oplontis (Villa Poppea), which was also covered in ash by Vesuvius, is a large villa that was owned by a wealthy family, possibly Nero’s second wife. It was a visit worth making as the site has some of the most stunning Roman frescoes of any of the sites we visited. We took the Circumvesuviana from Ercolano (Herculaneum) to Torre Annunziata, where the villa is located, and then took that train back to Naples. A busy and satisfying day!

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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 07:55 AM
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Arriving Napoli Centrale station


Piazza Dante
























Pizza!
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 08:01 AM
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Views from my terrace/Hotel Piazza Belllini



















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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 10:54 AM
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Lovely photos as usual, Progol and gorgeous skies. We only spent a day in Orvieto on a day trip from Rome, not an overnight but it's certainly a wonderful place; I wished we'd had longer.

As for the "grittiness" of Naples, 2 girlfriends and I [another day trip, this time from Sorrento] got so lost trying to get back to the station and so concerned about wandering into the gritty bit by mistake, that in desperation we asked for directions from a chap who was locking up his shop for the night whereupon he took us by the arm and guided us right up to the station, saying that it was on his way home and did we know his cousin who lives in London? [I think that half the population of Italy has got a cousin in London!]
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 03:17 PM
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Thanks so much, annhig! I’m glad you’re enjoying the photos - and those skies in Naples were just amazing!

<< As for the "grittiness" of Naples, 2 girlfriends and I [another day trip, this time from Sorrento] got so lost trying to get back to the station and so concerned about wandering into the gritty bit by mistake, that in desperation we asked for directions from a chap who was locking up his shop for the night whereupon he took us by the arm and guided us right up to the station, saying that it was on his way home and did we know his cousin who lives in London? [I think that half the population of Italy has got a cousin in London!]>>

Lovely story! And I wonder if the other half the population has a cousin in NYC!
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 04:38 PM
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Progol,
So glad you are continuing your TR! I am returning to Orvieto on my trip in spring and staying again at Palazzo Piccolomini. Glad you liked it. I was sick when I was there and missed the open hours for the frescos in the duomo so that part of my reason for returning. You really got some great pictures of the fascade! We did do the underground tour of the caves and it was totally fascinating. Orvieto remains one of my most favorite towns in Italy.

I am playing with the idea of a day trip from Rome to visit Herculaneum. Do you think it would be too much to see it and the villa too as a day trip?
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 04:44 PM
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Progol, your photos are gorgeous! Love the Duomo in Orvieto, and the pizza in Naples looks so yummy!!! Did you spend the entire 5 weeks in Rome and southern Italy? My husband and I visited Rome and Florence many, many years ago. We want to return to Italy to see Northern Italy and Southern Italy, but not sure if we could fit it into one trip. Are the two regions better as 2 separate trips?
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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 05:55 PM
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Love the latest installments, Progol. We fell in love with Naples almost instantly this past May and are eager to go back. I’m glad you liked it, too.

I love that story, Annhg! We found the people in Naples to be very friendly.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 03:39 AM
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Thank you Dayle, KarenWoo, and indyhiker for your lovely comments! I will try to upload a few more photos soon and continue this journey as well!

Dayle, It would be a long day trip from Rome to Herculaneum, but it's doable. If you're taking public transportation, I'm not sure that if I would include Villa Oplontis, although I imagine there are tours that do those sights. The website, Revealed Rome (a good blog to know about!) had this, which I thought was helpful. Of course, it might simply be a reason for you to return to Italy for another trip! https://revealedrome.com/2010/06/her...ic-punch-html/

Even though we didn't do the longer underground tour, the short one (link above) was fascinating, too! And gave a good flavor of the underground caves.

KarenWoo, we spent the first part of the 5 weeks of our trip in the north of Italy, going to Vicenza, Bologna and then on to Spello (Umbria), before moving on to Orvieto and points south. The link at the top of this report is to the first part of the trip. It was really a fabulous trip!

indyhiker, I'm so pleased you are enjoying this! I'd love to go back to Naples, too - there's so much more I want to do! Ahh, so many trips, so little time!

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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 03:47 AM
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Progol, happy to see you back

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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 04:04 AM
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Thanks, Adelaiden! Always nice to hear from you and to be welcomed back!
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 05:30 AM
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Herculaneum

Overview of Herculaneum


Herculaneum with Mt Vesuvius in the background




One of the most stunning houses at Herculaneum


A bed covered by ash



















"Fast food" take out!

Villa Oplontis/Villa Poppea





Villa Oplontis (Villa Poppea)

Last edited by progol; Jan 13th, 2020 at 05:39 AM.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 06:32 AM
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Your photos of Herculaneum are amazing! I didn't know anything about it until your report and photos. Was the guidebook helpful in understanding what you are looking at?

We might have to divide our future trip into 2 separate trips. We visit our daughter who lives in France for 2 weeks, and then we travel somewhere else in Europe for 2 more weeks. We don't like to be away from home for more than a month because we each have an elderly parent at home and don't want to be away from them for more than a month. How much time did you spend in southern Italy on this trip? What was your reason for taking public transportation from the Naples train station to your hotel? Just curious. I don't like using public transportation with luggage so I much prefer taxis when I arrive somewhere.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo View Post
Your photos of Herculaneum are amazing! I didn't know anything about it until your report and photos. Was the guidebook helpful in understanding what you are looking at?

We might have to divide our future trip into 2 separate trips. We visit our daughter who lives in France for 2 weeks, and then we travel somewhere else in Europe for 2 more weeks. We don't like to be away from home for more than a month because we each have an elderly parent at home and don't want to be away from them for more than a month. How much time did you spend in southern Italy on this trip? What was your reason for taking public transportation from the Naples train station to your hotel? Just curious. I don't like using public transportation with luggage so I much prefer taxis when I arrive somewhere.
We found the small guidebook that the ticket office provided very useful. And we also used Rick Steves' book, which was fine for an overview. A private guide would've been nice, but not essential -- and we tend to prefer to wander on our own and often feel bogged down by a guide. It's really personal style.

As far as taking public transportation, we will almost always take it if we can. We travel with carry on luggage only, and almost never use taxis, unless we have no choice. And the hotel was a very easy metro ride from Napoli Centrale and a very short walk from the metro exit. Again, it's our personal style. I don't know that there would be any problem with a taxi, but in this case, the metro was so easy.

We arrived in Naples on October 1, and traveled to Rome on October 16. We were in Naples (4); Capri (2); Sorrento (4); Atrani (3); and Paestum (2). It was a good amount of time, but didn't feel too much. We could've cut back a day or 2 in some of the places if we needed to, but it was relaxed and, given that we are both needing more rest breaks, worked out very well for us
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 10:02 AM
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Those are great photos of Herculaneum, Progol. Sadly I've not made it there yet though i have been to Pompeii twice. I have to say that I enjoyed the second time when we had a guide far more than the first when we didn't.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 02:26 PM
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Thanks, annhig! One of these days, I’m sure you’ll get to Herculaneum!

I do think Pompeii with a guide makes sense as the site is huge and sprawling, and structures are not as intact as in Herculaneum. It was also pretty crowded so a bit overwhelming. But I’m still glad I finally saw it.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 03:13 PM
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I'm enjoying your report, progol. I also loved Naples. I would like to return, and maybe I need to go to Herculaneum!
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 06:05 PM
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Progol, an amazing report! Loved all of your photos, especially of the Duomo in Orvieto. We've never been to Naples, so your photos were especially informative, and beautiful. Thanks for sharing so many wonderful details of your trip!
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