Friday, November 16, 2012

Crazy to Calm: Naples to Amalfi

Naples is dirty, chaotic, and loud.  Lisa and I have been to a handful of Italian cities/regions --- Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, and the Italian Dolomites --- but none of them prepared us for the (organized?) chaos characteristic of Naples.  Scooters speed in and out of traffic while weaving between pedestrians, cars honk their horns non-stop en route to their destination, and a certain griminess is caked all over the city.  But the food, especially the pizza, is exceptional.  And cheap.  So we ate a lot of it.

Lisa, me, and our good friend, Brian, met up in Naples to begin our week of traipsing around Campania (the region of Southern Italy including Naples, Capri, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast).  On the first day in Naples, we wandered around trying not to get run down by crazed teenagers on scooters and toured the underground passageways of Napoli Sotterranea; the second day we took a ferry out to the island of Capri; the next day we drove to the Amalfi coast by way of Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii; and then we rounded out the trip with a day hiking the  Amalfi coast.  
More pedestrians than scooters in this Naples' alley (photo credit:  BLM)
Oh, Napoli, your graffiti and grime are so seductive, especially on one of your city's best examples of Renaissance architecture (Chiesa del Gesu Nuovo)  
Naples' underworld:  a candlelit tour of the passages and caves 40m below the city
Big boys beware:  these passageways are narrow!
The rocky and rugged coast of Capri.  Although it doesn't look it, it was too windy to visit the Blue Grotto, so... (photo credit:  BLM)
...we ate the signature dish of Capri, the insalata caprese:  fresh tomato, basil, mozzarella, and olive oil (photo credit:  BLM)
Not all of Capri is designer swank.  This is the view if you wander far enough.
After two days in Naples and Capri, we were eager to start making our way down to the Amalfi coast with a stop at Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii along the way.  Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland and is most famous for its eruption in 79 AD when it buried the entire city of Pompeii. 
Even though the most recent eruption was in 1944, Vesuvius is still steaming
The only good thing about an eruption would be the chance to yell, "She's about to blow!" (photo credit:  BLM) 
The main piazza in Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background
Gazing down one of the many stone streets of Pompeii (photo credit:  BLM)
A sample of the many artifacts unearthed from Pompeii.  The body cast was formed by pouring plaster into the hollowed out area left by the disintegrated body.
Standing in the foro (forum) with the Temple of Apollo behind and Vesuvio looming above
We had one full-day in Amalfi so we spent it hiking the 12km Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods) from Praiano to Positano.
The trail traverses the craggy coastline.  This is before we got caught in the downpour.
Walking with goats (photo credit:  BLM)
Certainly don't feel like gods when this drenched
Path of the goddess(es) instead?
A soggy Amalfi Coast
The quintessentially quaint Amalfi at night (photo credit:  BLM)