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Cassandra's Trip Report part 2: Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii (and flyby Capri)

Cassandra's Trip Report part 2: Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii (and flyby Capri)

Jun 2nd, 2005, 06:20 AM
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Cassandra's Trip Report part 2: Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii (and flyby Capri)

ROMA: Our response to Rome was colored somewhat by coping with jetlag and 2 1/2 days of rain, but here goes:

Limoserviceroma: met us at FCO and carted us good-naturedly through rush hour to our hotel. Strong recommendation for them. Only problem: our hotel was located on such a narrow street that the station wagon could not enter and we had to be let off at the foot of it and shlep our luggage down the cobblestones to the entrance.

Hotel: We had selected the Hotel Due Torri based largely on location and descriptions of the “quiet street” on which it was supposedly located. And the location relative to tourist sites (sights) was unbeatable. Unfortunately, that little alley is heavily traveled by squadrons of motorscooters -- partly because it’s so narrow that it’s a good get-around route for them and partly because there’s a scooter repair shop right next to the hotel and essentially under any rooms facing the little street. The “roar putt-putt backfire-backfire roar buzzzzz” of the scooters started early in the day and went late into the night, and cut through the earplugs I always use to deal with DH’s “roar putt-putt backfire-buzz” snoring.
The rooms themselves were pleasantly decorated albeit typically small; the hotel lobby and breakfast room are also very pretty. Aside from the scooters, one didn’t mind the music coming from the vocal coach’s studio across the alley. So here’s where comments about room requests before arrival might be helpful (see part 1) -- ask for a room AWAY from the street and hope the echoes of the scooters don’t reach your window. Otherwise, the staff was very very helpful and usually quite friendly.

Restaurants: Here’s where we learned about cozy relationships between hotel owners or concierges and restaurants, and also about not ordering food by weight. Another issue is also that local people are likely to recommend food THEY like, which is fine if they have discriminating tastes; but imagine asking the desk clerk at a Motel 6 for a good restaurant nearby. With all due respect to the desk clerk, you probably won’t get 4-star cuisine.

Worst restaurant rip-off of the entire trip was Al Moro, heartily recommended by Due Torri’s stylish, heavy-personality owner, which served so-so food (and a lamb chop with exactly 2 bites of meat on it) and exorbitant prices. We did better puttering ourselves. Cassandra was made very very happy, wherever we went, by plates of tomatoes or wonderful caprese salads.

Sights: Everyone has their own favorite and their own responses, and we had such a brief visit…. We “did” the Vatican -- crowds crowds; and we “did” the Forum and Palatine, and the Borghese, visited Navona and Trevi (crowds crowds), Spanish Steps (crowds crowds). Our best moments were wandering through the Borghese gardens and just sitting lapping up some gelato.

“Next time, for sure”: Tivoli gardens and the Villa d’Este.

And next...:
Jun 2nd, 2005, 06:21 AM
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Getting there: We took a Eurostar to Naples and WOULD have connected pretty quickly to the Circumvesuviana (note: pronounce the first “C” as “ch”) had there not been a transportation-workers strike. Note to self: do not try to take the first train after the announced end of the strike. In this case, the strike was set for 8 am to 1:30, and we were supposedly taking a 1:34 (more or less) train to Sorrento. The scene as people tried to push selves, packages, luggage, babies, umbrellas, and all into an already full train was apochryphal; wisely, the member of the group nearest entry turned and howled “abort! abort!” and we retreated to the trackside benches. Only 40 minutes later, we boarded a train we had nearly to ourselves. It’s a longish ride (more than an hour) but the second half opens to increasingly lovely scenery. Don’t forget to validate your trainticket before you board in Naples: slip it into a yellow time-stamp machine.

Taxi at the station: Without luggage, you’d be well-advised to walk to your hotel from the Sorrento station unless the hotel is far beyond the town. With luggage, you probably need to take the taxi. We’d done our homework and knew to haggle about the price: first quote was 20 euro. We walked away. Fifteen? Nope. Long pause, some discussion with other drivers. Nastily: “Go to him, over there, he’ll take you for 10.” Short walk, grumpy cabbie, long rambling circumferential drive to the hotel and nods toward a cryptic meter. We tipped him 2E anyway and he gave us his card for the return trip. On return, we had the hotel call the cab and there was no negotiation -- 10 E plus tip.

Hotel: Ahhhhhhhhhh, the Bellevue Syrene. Our splurge for the trip, and far and away our favorite hotel. Some tripadvisor.com posters grumbled about being ripped off for damp, dingy lower-floor rooms. We had requested (at a higher rate, certainly) upper-floor rooms and fell in love with the whole place. Sure, it definitely has a snootiness factor, but the view of Vesuvius and the sunset from our little balcony was -- as the ad goes -- priceless! Laptopper began to militate for punting the rest of the trip and just remaining there. Lovely breakfast with a view -- with a surfeit of hyper-conscientious waitstaff. The hotel is flanked by two terraces, one reserved for story-book weddings, the other available for light lunches and later drinks. Even if you don’t stay here, view sunset from that terrace bar -- you’ll never forget it. Rooms (ours, anyway) were lovely; baths fully equipped.

Restaurants: Good food everywhere. Best restaurant experience of the whole trip was at La Favorita -- O' Parrucchiano (thanks Fodorites) -- slightly hokey waiter but pretty garden setting and wonderful food! A very happy evening! Disappointment: Mistral at the Grand Hotel Serbelloni -- supposedly has a Michelin star (“only 1 in Sorrento”) but, oddly, certain dishes were already gone even though we were among the first of the non-hotel-guests to arrive. FYI: Hotel guests eat upstairs with a commanding view of the water and Vesuvius; non-guests are seated at ground level next to a pool. The food was good enough, but neither memorable nor moderately priced. Bilacus gets good marks from a number of guidebooks but was sort of an “eh!,” partly because we arrived without reservations and could therefore only be seated inside; but the risotto was fabulous.

Jun 2nd, 2005, 06:23 AM
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POMPEII: We used Sorrento as a base for our day-trip to Pompeii -- which I recommend as the best way to do it, because Pompeii is closer to Sorrento than Naples, and you get to do the best part of the Circumvesuviana trip twice more. Note: make SURE you validate your tickets; and it’s worth having round-trip tickets.

Again, people have different responses to such places -- we found it fascinating but HOT and shadeless -- be advised. Bring water. Wear your shoes with the thickest soles. Be prepared to walk. Consider seriously using a guide -- private or group. We didn’t and managed, but got lost often and kept running into closed-off areas, including a couple of the buildings we most wanted to see.

CAPRI: We only spent about 5 hrs. there and second the advice of those who say you should either stay overnight (so the crowds crowds crowds of people like us are gone) or get there very early to join one of the first excursions to the Blue Grotto. Since SOME of our group can’t get mobilized before 10 am, we found we had to punt on the Blue Grotto. Capri is spectacular from the town up the funicular, but you have to know enough to poke around into covered alleys and around corners -- you’ll go from schlocky warrens of gewgaw shops to a street lined by designer shops and back.

Two special warnings: 1. be aware of which ferry companies travel when, and be aware of which company issued your ticket. At the Sorrento end, the distinction among the 3 is not well marked; but at the Capri end, you have several docks quite a bit apart, and you have to know which is yours. 2. be aware that in the afternoon people returning to Sorrento or their cruise ship will start to choke the entrance to the funicular down to the docks -- we had to wait through 4 funicular runs to get on, about an hour. Then they will choke approaches to the ferries, and sometimes all vestiges of a queue disappear. On the other hand, somehow they manage to pack huge numbers of people on those boats, so even if the size of the crowd waiting seems hopeless, you’ll probably get on.

“Next time for sure”: Herculaeum/Ercolano -- closer to Naples than Sorrento but reputedly more compact and interesting than Pompeii. And also the Blue Grotto -- but we’ll all have to try to get up earlier. And also Anacapri, including the "Mama Mia" drive up to it.
Jun 2nd, 2005, 06:28 AM
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(In second post above, I think I meant "apocalyptic" not "apochryphal.")

("Sing a song of six pants, apochryphal awry!")
Jun 2nd, 2005, 06:46 AM
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WOW big mistake here. Mistral is in Bellagio. Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Cut-and-paste that in last installment, which I think I'll postpone until more of the jetlag's gone.
Jun 2nd, 2005, 06:56 AM
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Enjoying this, but maybe you'd best edit before you post?
soccr is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 07:18 AM
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A little bit of research ahead of time would have told you that Al Moro caters to a very cliquey "in" crowd that doesn't mind the high prices in order to be greeted personally by the very snobbish and celebrity-minded owner and to enjoy watching the tourists being relegated to "Siberia."
Eloise is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 07:49 AM
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Eloise, maybe you have better references than I do (undoubtedly), but the most anyone seems to say when I Google the place now is that it was Fellini's favorite. But I guess you'd say we were those in the outfront, on-the-street no-class tourist Siberia.

In any case, we went there not because it was on our own researched list but because it wasn't far from our hotel and the owner offered to make a reservation there for us because it was her favorite restaurant. Were we supposed to make a list of places to avoid and put Al Moro on it, or should we have stopped to do some research (at a cybercafe) before taking the reservation? Apparently we were chumps, but I think I'm entitled to report our experience for other possible customers lacking your knowledge.
Jun 2nd, 2005, 08:27 AM
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I think Bilacus is in Bellagio, too.

Question: how much was the limoservice car from FCO to Rome? Did you have to ask for a wagon, or what?
HKP is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 08:32 AM
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Thank you for taking the time to post a report. I have never done so, but I do enjoy reading them.

Ahh, the scooters. Brings back memories.

kopp is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 09:06 AM
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Cassanda: We haven't been to Sorrento for several years, but we have always stayed at the Bellevue Syrene. Your impressions are very similar to ours. I can see in my mind's eye across the Bay of Naples, with Vesuvius very much in view. We've spent pleasant times on the terrace over a drink enjoying that view.

Hope you are able to visit Herculaneum on your next visit, although I didn't find it more interesting than Pompeii, just different. It is more compact and undoubtedly will stay small, since the city of Ercolano is built over what might otherwise be excavated.

Enjoying your report and most of all your sense of humor!
Giovanna is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2005, 11:59 AM
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Love your report. I'm glad you were savvy enough to haggle with the drivers in Sorrento, good for you.
SeaUrchin is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2005, 07:39 AM
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A postscript about the Bellevue Syrene: after all the posts here about destination weddings in which I came down heavily against them, and after a discussion among the 4 traveling companions to the same effect, I found myself hoping someone I know would plan a destination wedding for Sorrento!!!
Jun 5th, 2005, 06:07 AM
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Another, not-so-positive note on the Bellevue Syrene:

There was a bottle of red wine on the bureau with a ribbon and an envelope with our name on it propped up against the bottle. The envelope contained a letter welcoming us and hoping we'd enjoy our stay. Since DH had informed them this was a special occasion, he assumed the wine was complimentary. It wasn't - showed up on the bill as "minibar." A little cheesy, we thought, but live and learn.
Jun 5th, 2005, 06:50 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Loving your report!!!! I am getting nervous about our trip in 2 weeks, though. We have gone before only once and it was the end of November. Everything in Rome was sublime. No crowds, great weather. Yikes, sounds like we will be facing hordes this time. Also, we stayed at Due Torri 2 years ago in November and I don't remember any motorini noise, but I do remember the owner or as one guest called her, "the poor man's Sophia Loren". I also remember a very attractive young man who hung out his window across the narrow alley every night to chat with girlfriends on his cell. The final night he did it in his very attractive birthday suit!
rbnwdln is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 08:19 AM
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Very good and interesting report on your trip. I find it humorous and easy to read.

I am trying to figure out why Eloise and others are continuing to nitpick and disrespect your posts. Must be something here that is not apparent to the rest of us.

Trip reports here are the writers opinion and impressions of what they saw and experienced. The negative responses are really out of place.

Look forward to the rest of your report.
grayland is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 09:15 AM
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Unfair! When I stayed at the Due Torri all I got across from my window was a Nonna! She had a dimly lit kitchen with the window just across from ours, she did make some wonderfully smelling meals though. I stayed in the same room twice over the year and the second time I looked for her and there she was with her little apron.

In some of the rooms you are right above the motocycle ramp. It didn't bother me much and to this day when I hear a cycle revving I think of Rome!
SeaUrchin is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 10:52 AM
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Our first auditory impression of Due Torri was the sound of a choir practicing next door, and it was very sweet indeed. The Vespa Valkyrie came later -- and all I could think of (when I wasn't trying to sleep) was the Eddie Izzard bit in which he wishes he were Italian, on a Vespa. "Ciao!"
Jun 5th, 2005, 12:57 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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HKP- We paid Limoservicerome 62 euro for 6 people in 2003. I think the rate has increased a couple of euro. www.limoservicerome.com

Cassandra - We were on a budget in Sorrento so we stayed at Il Nido but had drinks and snacks at the Bellevue terrace and it was wonderful! We were surprised how good the food was at Il Nido and how extensive the menu for a budget hotel.

It wouldn't be Rome without 24/7 vespas would it? I'm not sure you can ever escape them.
kybourbon is online now  
Jun 5th, 2005, 04:49 PM
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Very enjoyable report! On the blue grotto, if you decide again NOT to spend the night there, just make sure that it's open the day you decide to go. We met up with some very sad travelers who came two days in a row only to find the sea had closed the grotto both days. Fortunately, for us, we stayed in Capri town for two nights, and were able to take the bus on our last morning to the Blue Grotto and get in just as it opened (finally!). It was one of the highlights of our trip.
Surfergirl is offline  

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