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See Naples and Die and the Story of the Great Flood

See Naples and Die and the Story of the Great Flood

Old Oct 18th, 2007, 02:51 PM
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See Naples and Die and the Story of the Great Flood

“See Naples and Die and the Story of the Great Flood.”

Goethe is supposed to have first uttered the famous phrase ‘See Naples and die’. I don’t know whether he did or not; all I know is that British Airways flight 2610 from London to Naples was too close to this for me.

Since I bought tickets on this flight, I’d been monitoring it and found that once in a while it might be on time but that most of the time it was late. On 2 October, the pilot announced that we were landing in Naples 15 minutes early. I mentioned to Jack that this would surely go into the record books since we had left London 10 minutes late. Then I noticed that we were gaining altitude, a strange thing to do if we were landing. We looked out the window and saw Sorrento and Capri and knew that flight 2610 may be going down in the record books, but not for being early.

Pretty soon the captain got on the public address and said that there was a ‘little’ problem with the flaps. Then he said ‘well, not a little problem, a really serious one; so we’re going out over the sea to check them out’ (planes that crash at sea, don’t seem to kill as many innocent bystanders as the ones that crash on the land) from where I was sitting I could see the flaps, they were not extended for landing.

After the second tour of Naples, and a beautiful one it was, we approached and landed really, really fast, but without incident, that is, until we saw all the fire trucks and ambulances lined up along the runway and were accompanied to our parking space by each. At this point, the captain said ‘these are standard safety procedures’ and everybody laughed. I stopped sweating and I am NOT a nervous flier.

“See Naples and die.” That was close enough for me. I’ll bet British Airways flight 2611 from Naples to London was just a little late leaving that day.

There’s a really inexpensive bus service from Naples airport to Sorrento that costs €6 or 7. There’s also an inexpensive bus service from the airport to Napoli Centrale €3 or 4 and then the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento and a taxi to hotel. I opted for a car and driver for €95 from Tour of Italy; Jack thought I was being extravagant, maybe I was. They promised an E class but what we got was a Mercedes SUV which kind of sucked but not having to wait for the buses was really nice especially when I have nervous sweat and really didn’t smell nice.

Trip to the hotel was great. It’s a lot of money but when jet lagged it was really worth it.

I had been to the Hotel La Tonnarella in 1999 and loved the place. The view is to die for (maybe enough of this metaphor), the rooms were nice and the food was really good. We booked late and the best options were for Suite 24 for one day and Suite 23 for the remaining 4 days. Suite 24 is great! (http://jackgriswold.home.comcast.net/hotels2007.htm) for photos. I’m not Jack by the way, he’s my husband. We decided to eat at the hotel that night. BIG MISTAKE! There were three waiters serving eight tables. Our waiter managed to not record or deliver my first course, he managed to not deliver my wine; he did manage to be really annoyed when I complained about this, especially since he billed me for the undelivered wine. The food was not what it had been in 1999. Too bad!

On day one, we took a Sita bus to Positano along with a couple of older American women who really need to consult a hair color specialist; flaming red, spiked hair does not look as good on 60+ as it does on 20-. Despite what you may have read, they do sell tickets on the bus.

We enjoyed our walk down the hill and had a nice lunch of pizza Margherita, panino mozzarella e pomidoro, acqua and one beer for only €27.50 at Buca di bacco(via del Brigantino, 84071 Positano). I know we were paying for the view but really $40 for that. It was good.

Faced with the alternative of walking all the way UP the hill, we took the ferry to Amalfi. When we got there, I saw that there was a 1700 ferry back to Sorrento. This was going to be a perfect day.

It’s turned out our Sita bus tickets were good for all day anyplace on the coast, so we took the bus up to Ravello to see if Gore Vidal was home. Turned out he sold the place. Ravello might be worth a repeat visit. The view of the coast was, like Naples, to die for.
After a too quick look around we took the bus back to Amalfi so we wouldn’t miss the ferry to Sorrento. The ticket booth was closed when we got there. Somebody had taped a 1545 over the 1700 departure. Maybe this wasn’t going to be as perfect as I thought.
Fortune favored us again with a SITA bus to Napoli, which was free because of our tickets, but not nearly as scenic as the boat ride would have been. When we got to Positano, our traveling companion with the red hair and the big mouth got on with her friends. Their legs were in better shape than mine.

After our €27 snack in Positano, we settled for gelato and an early to bed to end our first day.

The next day was going to be Pompei. We have both been there before but wanted to go back. We got to the Circumvesuviano (hereafter CV) station and noticed the most dreaded sign in all of Italy “SCIOPERO” from 0920 until 1317.

I love Italy. I love Italian people. I grew up in the Italian district in Kansas City and all my childhood friends were Italian. I still do not understand Italian strikes. So we walked down to the marina and took the ferry to Napoli. There was one problem here. I was carrying maps of Pompei, not Napoli. We managed to find our way to the Archeological Museum, Spaccanapoli and, most important of all, Napoli Centrale and really had a good time.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, I had printed out UMA’s glowing review of Il Buco (Piazza San Antonino, 80067 Sorrento, tel 081 8782354) so we wandered around until we found it. THANK YOU, UMA!!! There was ONE table left without reservations. There is a god. Il Buco was worth every penny of the €127 for dinner.

Day three was to try again for Pompei. This time it worked. Pompei is Pompei. Not a lot more to tell. Dinner that night was going to be at Ristorante Caruso for pizza. If UMA was right about Il Buco, surely the pizza would be good. Too bad, UMA didn’t tell us where to find Ristorante Caruso, so we settled on Il Pozzo (via Tasso 32, phone 081 8774876; this is one block toward the water from the Sorrento webcam) (Il Pozzo means ‘well’ in Italian, like drawing water from; this meaning will have more meaning tomorrow). Pizza was good, service was good; was a nice place. €34.60 for two pizzas, insalata caprese to die for, water, wine, coffee and Amaro.

Our last day in Sorrento. Was looking bad; brought umbrellas just in case. Took the CV to Pompei – no strike this day. Luckily there is a miserable map of Pompei at station which showed the way to FDS train station. After 30 minute walk we arrived at station, took train to Paestum. Wow, Paestum! Don’t miss it; partly cloudy to sunny. Most of the ruins are just ruins, but the museum is great and the three temples will make you think that the Parthenon was just an attempt. One bad thing about Paestum. The biglietteria at the station is CLOSED. I didn’t see the sign telling us to buy tickets at Bar Anna near the ruins until we got back so we figured ‘what the heck – or something like that’.

When we got on the train, I immediately looked for the conductor, found THREE of them and told him we needed tickets since the biglietteria was chiusa. He asked where we were going? To Pompei and he said to forget it and just sit down. My first bargain in Italy after umpteen trips. Even more hard to believe we got to the CV train station just as the packed train was closing it’s doors. Conductor OPENED THE DOORS AND HELD THE TRAIN FOR US. Some days, you just can’t lose.

When we got back to Sorrento, there were wet streets and a drop or two of rain. As we walked back to La Tonnarella, there were a few more drops. Pretty soon, our umbrellas really came in handy. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was a deluge. You could almost see Moses parting the Bay of Naples.

All right, we had a rotten experience at Ristorante La Tonnarella the first night; but, in view of the weather, we decided to give them a second chance. They didn’t decide to give us one. The waiter who had overcharged me for items not delivered refused to seat us; I really had not been my usual self – I had been polite. Maybe next time, we’ll go to Excelsior Vittoria, they have nice views too. So off we went, into town, through the rain to Il Pozzo, the well.

Outdoor tables were not available but indoors were. Food was good, but service did not live up to the day before. Was still a nice evening, even as we noticed the waiters putting table clothes around the door to keep water out. As time came to leave and we could see water rising, we wondered if there was a back way out. There was.

Only problem was that water was 8 inches deep in a torrent through the streets. What to do? Take your shoes off, tie them around your neck, roll up your pants and remember what it was like to be young. I enjoyed it; Jack not so much.

It rained all night. Some unlucky tenants at La Tonnarella had their rooms flood. Ours didn’t.

Next day was nice. We got to CV station, bought tickets and picked a seat. There is a sign over the ticket office that says Trains to Naples on Track 3. All right, it says it in Italian ‘Treni a Napoli, Binario 3. So there are two Americans standing on the platform, pointing to the train on track 2 and the train on track 3 and saying (I swear this is true) “when it says track 3, does it mean this one (pointing to the train on track 2) or this one (pointing to the train on track 3)”. I got back on the train and told Jack and the woman sitting across the aisle from us said “Is it this train or the other one?” Arghh! All through the trip she kept worrying about missing her stop. Everybody told her that we would tell her where to get off. Maybe, she was used to misdirections. She kept telling us that Naples was full of pickpockets, thieves, rapists and murderers. Wonder which guidebook she had read.


Roma is where I want to be when I die. Roma is like my home. I have no idea any more how many times I’ve been there. All I know is I love her. Dinner at Florians near Termini, they have great pizza and the waiter always puts on a great show of just how hard he is working; not inexpensive at €44.60 for two pizzas mozzarella di bufala that you will remember on your deathbed, water, wine, coffee, etc.

We’ve been staying at the Hotel Canada, via Vicenza 58, near Termini for the last 10 to 15 years. It used to be $100 a night; the dollar use to have value. Now it’s around $300 a night and still a bargain. The Pucci design family own it and have made it a glorious place. If you never stay here, too bad for you. We like to walk and were enthralled with Trastevere the last time we were there so spent the day walking around. Last year we had discovered Dar Buttero, Via della Lungaretta, 156, tel 06 5800517. The place doesn’t look like much but the food is great. Last year we were the only non Italians there, this year there was also a table of Northern Europeans. €34.50 for wine, water, pasta, salad, desert and coffee for two. A real bargain.

Our last day. We just wandered around and did all the important things. The Aula Ottagona at the Baths of Diocletian had been always been closed but was opened today; was neat to finally see it and, it’s free. Visited the Bernini fountain which I love almost as much as life itself; made our obligatory trip to Trevi so Jack could feed the myth and I could take his picture doing it. Santa Maria sopra Minerva to rub Jesus’ leg, the Pantheon – my favorite single building anyplace. If you stand right in the center of the floor, you tingle. All right, I tingle. I’m telling this to Jack while we argue about whether the round circle or the square is the center and meanwhile this guy is listening to me talk about tingling and clearly thinking about calling the thought police. As soon as I move off the space that I think is the center, he moves onto it. He doesn’t tingle.

God, I love Rome. The only thing I don’t love about Rome, is getting on the plane and coming home.

Some day, I won’t have to.
Hal8999 is offline  
Old Oct 18th, 2007, 03:13 PM
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I love your style, and your sense of humor...just remember to buy a one-way ticket for that last trip!

ekscrunchy is offline  
Old Oct 18th, 2007, 03:37 PM
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Wonderfully funny trip report! Kind of scary beginning, but worth it all, right? Thanks for sharing.
LCBoniti is offline  
Old Oct 18th, 2007, 05:55 PM
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Great trip report! It's too bad that you didn't get to take that awesome ferry back to Napoli, but even the bus ride from Amalfi to Positano to Sorrento is pretty good, too.

That plane trip over would have killed me. I'm a really nervous flier, and I think I would have had some sort of breakdown if I heard the pilot say that there was a "serious problem." Wow. Glad everything turned out all right!
cheryllj is offline  
Old Oct 18th, 2007, 06:54 PM
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Loved your report. What a flight...hope I don't have one like that! I'm going to Naples and Sorrento (as well as Rome again) in July, so thanks for the info. I, too, love Rome and want to live there, so I understand completely!
SusanP is offline  
Old Oct 18th, 2007, 07:22 PM
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Loved your trip report! Paestum is impressive and beautiful isn't it? I only wish you had read my trip report (but it's old now, 2 yrs ago)! I had the same problem at the ticket office.....
Dayle is offline  
Old Oct 19th, 2007, 12:53 AM
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I've got this flight this year & last year and had no problems.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Old Oct 19th, 2007, 02:57 AM
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Enjoying your report. We have frequently taken the same flight without mishap. Restaurant Caruso is Via S Antonino - shame you missed it. Il Pozzo is one of our regular eating places - great steak.
auldyins is offline  
Old Oct 19th, 2007, 07:29 AM
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Thanks for sharing, Hal.

>...all the fire trucks and ambulances lined up along the runway and were accompanied to our parking space by each.<

That is SOP.

ira is offline  
Old Oct 19th, 2007, 10:30 AM
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Loved your report and the pictures are wonderful. That cobalt blue bathroom is fantastic. Glad you made it there and back safely.

P.S. Love the pictures of the dogs on your website too.
SharonG is offline  
Old Oct 19th, 2007, 12:08 PM
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Only read the first line, but it pulled me in... bookmarking!
ceb1222 is offline  
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