The train ride from Rome to Naples was fairly quick. From Naples, we took the Circumvesuviania train South to Pompeii. Upon stepping off the train, it was immediately evident this was a bit of a tourist trap. Pop-up restaurants, drink stands, and guided tours littered the small road along the track. Everyone was trying to make a quick euro. We decided to forego a tour and bought entrance tickets to the ruins of the once thriving ancient Roman village.
Little did we know, most of the ruins are currently under restoration work. Everywhere we turned, scaffolding and temporary fencing marred our views and blocked our entrance. Less than 1/3 of the buildings that were open in the 1960’s are still available today. Though it put a damper on our experience, I suppose something needed to be done. In 2013, UNESCO declared Pompeii “desperately needed repair”.
We walked the cobblestone roads that were still open, exploring the remnants of the village that was once buried under ash. In a large wooden pyramid rested castes of many bodies that were unearthed under 9 feet of ash. Many were in fetal positions while one particular set seemed to be a mom bouncing her child. It was a somber scene.
When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in the year A.D. 79, it buried the entire city in a matter of hours. Any survivors were repeatedly hit with flows of pyroclastic gas that would have caused immediate suffocation. It’s estimated that over 16,000 people perished in the blast.
From Pompeii, we took the train line further south to the town of Sant’Agnello. The Seven Hostel there would be our home base for exploring Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. It was late and we were tired so we ordered some pizza and fries from the bar. It was seriously some of the best hostel food we ever had. We spent the rest of the night researching our plans for the next day. We were going to hike the Path of Gods!
Hiking the Path of Gods
A quick breakfast of croissants covered in nutella and we were out the door. The bus left from Sorrento and drove across the Peninsula to a town on its Southern shore called Positano. It was a picturesque sea town plastered with pastel buildings and lemon trees. With the help of some girls at a informational desk, we discovered the path started right up the road. A short jaunt brought us to signs marked “Sentiero degli dei” pointing up the hillside. Here was the starting point of the Path of Gods.
The first part was a steep, winding set of stairs up the mountain. The day was hot and sticky and our shirts were quickly soaked. Signs mentioned the next town up, though we could not figure out what measurement they were using (it didn’t seem to be kilometers or minutes). After an hour of climbing we reached the tiny town of Nocelle, stopping in a square to catch our breath and fill our nalgenes in a fountain. We pressed onward, climbing above lemon groves and terraced gardens. We stopped in a neat little building overhanging the cliff side where we had a couple shots of fresh Limoncello.
We ate lunch on top of a dilapidated shack, looking back at the beaches of Positano where we had started. For several more hours we hiked, before reaching the trail’s end in Bomerano. After some confusion, we found the bus stop (always follow the Asian) and caught a ride to the town of Amalfi.
As the namesake for the entire coastline, Amalfi is the most famous of the coastal towns and the most stunning. Surrounded by dramatic cliffs, its creamy pastel buildings effortlessly gliding up a deep ravine. Its sacrifice for its beauty were the thousands of tourists crammed in the tiny streets and squares.
Not wanting to push and shove our way around, we headed to the slightly less crowded ocean for a nice swim. When the restless waves had worn us out, we ate some gelato and rode another bus back to Sorrento. Sorrento’s streets were also hopping, especially the main drag. We found a touristy, yet delicious, English pub and devoured some fish & chips while catching a soccer game.
“Climbing” Mt. Vesuvius
The next morning we packed up our stuff and headed back on the train to Pompeii. We had seen signs about trips to Mt. Vesuvius and were hoping to spend the day hiking to the top. Since the region encompassing the mountain is a National Park, we figured there had to be some trails we could hike on our own. This was not the case. No matter who we asked, they all stated the only way to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius was by taking a sightseeing tour. Frustrated and annoyed, we gave in and paid the exorbitant cost of the tickets. Then we first rode a crammed bus, before switching into several jeeps, up to within 200 meters of the top. It took us all of 10 minutes to cover the last stretch to the summit, where we were corralled through not one, but three gift shops placed on the summit. It was way over commercialized to say the least. We popped open our Limoncello bottle and drank at the rim of the crater, disappointed with the situation.
The view of Naples and the bay was fantastic as was the enormous crater, the result of thousands of years of activity, the most recent being in 1944.
When our allotted 2 hours was over, we climbed back in the jeep and then back in the bus for the ride back to Pompeii. Our disappointment would not linger for long…