The stunning Sorrento peninsular in the south of Italy has been a top holiday destination for over 2000 years, in fact the ruins of Roman holiday villas have now become tourist sites in their own right.
At first glance this seeming chic Riviera may not seem the most obvious choice for a break with my computer-obsessed teenage son however the lure of an active volcano, ancient battle sites and the casts of the bodies in Pompeii was just too enticing. The fact that he discovered that Naples is considered to be the birthplace of the pizza was the real deal clincher. Off I set with the rarest of creatures - an enthusiastic adolescent!
We flew to Naples from Bristol from where it was just over an hour’s coach ride to Sorrento. This must be one of the most dramatic airport transfers in the world, on your left is the volcano Vesuvius while on your right are sweeping views across the bay of Naples.
The countryside is dotted with orange and lemon groves and is a real foodie’s heaven. I feasted on the generous helping of lasagne at dinner on the first evening only to find that it was just the starter and not the main course! It is probably worth booking Half Board at your hotel as it can be a tad expensive to eat out in the evenings - lunchtime options are much more reasonable however.
I have been fascinated by Pompeii since my early schooldays and was needlessly worried that it wouldn’t live up to expectations. A train runs frequently between Sorrento and Naples and stops at the gates of Pompeii. Walking up the steep slope from the entrance you are greeted with a panoramic view of the vast ancient city overshadowed by the volcano. It is not difficult to imagine the panic and destruction that occurred in AD79.
The preservation of the buildings is amazing but it is the small touches such as the loaves of uneaten bread in the bakery, the wheel ruts in the roads and the “beware of the dog “ mosaic that personalise the tragedy. “The Garden of the fugitives” is where many of the plaster casts of the bodies remain where they fell. One day is not enough to see it all; if like us you are there in August, take plenty of water as it was only our thirst and the lure of the Italian ice creams for sale outside that forced us to leave!
Herculaneum, a smaller but even better preserved site, is only a few stops further on the train and Naples itself has many of the treasures from Pompeii in its museum, although the room full of ancient phallic symbols seemed to cause most amusement.
The small beaches are usually reached by taking a lift down through the cliffs; swimming is often done from wooden platforms. Cobbled streets, quaint shops, brightly coloured geraniums and generations of history - this part of Italy has it all. We climbed the volcano, sailed to Capri and fulfilled my childhood dream… Not bad for a week’s holiday!
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