We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

Leicester, United...
Level Contributor
1,274 posts
102 reviews
Save Topic
My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

Dear all,

I have been thinking about writing a Trip report for some time from our August 2013 trip but for various reasons never managed to that. But I now feel I must say Thanks properly to all the wonderful contributors to this forum and must give something back. I have not seen any post from Peter (A Brit in Ischia) for a while and hope he is fine. I rarely come across TR in these fora and hope more people would be motivated to do something similar.

I fully understand everything is subjective and relative and what is a "must" for me may not generate a single glance from someone else but even one traveller finds my experience helpful then I'd consider my effort worthwhile.

We are a family of four from UK, daughters were 13 & 8 at the time of trip. Me and my wife had been to Italy before but never south of Rome. Elder daughter told me in 2012 that her school was planning to take year 8 to a trip to Pompeii, Herculaneum etc in 2013. When I looked at how much her school was going to charge me, I told her to forget school trip.

Daddy would take her to Campania and show the ancient ruins in a much better way and she would get A+ in all her Classic essays. In addition to a week in Campania I also threw in 7 days in Rome and 4 days in Val D'Orcia, Tuscany.

So this trip was heavily geared towards history, local culture, local cuisine, scenery and was not going to be a sun & sea holiday. With kids one has to get the balance right. Thankfully I have managed to instill a little bit of my profound admiration of Hellenistic and Roman culture into my kids so they were prepared to endure the ruins and museums but the "museum fatigue" was inevitable. The plan was to delay it as much as possible.

So the first decision was where to stay in Campania ?

My "must see" were: Pompeii, Herculaneum, Archaeological Museum Naples, hiking Santiero Degli Dei , the Amalfi Coast from sea, Spaccanapoli and Christo Velato. I knew kids would protest if I tried to include Paestum, Oplontis or Capodimonte museum and dear wife would not come out with me on the Amalfi-Atrani hike.

I would have to just come back once again. Life is so short; so many things to do !!

I was not keen to hire a car for the Campania/Rome part so had to stay close to public transport hub. Sorrento was ideally placed but the more I read about Sorrento the more I felt it was going to be overcrowded with tourists in summer. As this was an active holiday so I was not going to waste my money on renting a villa/swimming pool, although I did see some very nice one near Sorrento through Summer in Italy web site.

Nowadays we prefer to stay in apartments which gives us flexibility and more space compared to hiring two hotel rooms. I really wanted to stay in a small town not overrun with tourists, but not too far from attractions. I felt Meta fitted my bill perfectly and after spending couple of afternoons in Sorrento I was glad that I stayed in Meta.

I honestly did not hear a single word of English being spoken in Meta and I loved the windy, narrow streets, family restaurants, bakeries and the church bell ringing. The other advantage was Meta had the only decent beach in this area if we wanted to spend some time, which we did. Apartment choice was limited and eventually I settled on Senor Luigi's house Villino Castalleno.

This is not luxurious in any stretch of imagination, no lift: so clearly not suitable for less able people or if you are not keen to carry your bags to 3rd floor, furnishings were a bit old. Senor Luigi turned out to be a really nice and helpful person. He had a very good deal with local restaurant Ninuccio and even had negotiated some discount for Lido Marinella. In Italy you often have to pay the full rent in cash on arrival and that was not a problem with me. The house was 5 minutes walk from the station. I felt very safe in Meta and tried my best to throw my Italian everywhere !! The locals were amused but mostly very helpful.

My review is here:

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g1057024-d…

I had booked my ticket with BA planning to arrive at Naples around 16-30 but they kept on changing the schedule and the final schedule showed that I was due to arrive at 18-30. I had originally planned to catch the Curreri Viaggi Bus as the bus had a stop at Meta Church just a few yards from Luigi's house. In the previous years Curreri had a last bus at 9 PM but I found that the last bus would be leaving at 7 pm. Then I came to know the bus stop had been moved to 200 yards down the road and I started getting worried about missing the last bus.

Luigi assured me that 30 minutes was enough to get the bags, clear customs and catch the bus but after some discussion with DW, I decided to go for a private transfer. This was significantly more expensive, 90 Euros compared to 30 Euros but it turned out to be a very good decision.

True to their form BA was nearly an hour late from LGW and although they did make up some time but there was no way I would have managed to catch the bus in an unfamiliar place on the very first day.

I was sitting next to a "Nervous Flyer". I have restless legs and often rock them gently without realising. I didn't think I was shaking the whole seat but this guy told me I was making him more nervous so I had to keep still like the "Steadfast Tin Soldier" through the whole flight. But I fully understand this is a serious issue for some people and actually his wife was very apologetic to me and she herself was having a hard time. Naples airport is quite small, no aerobridge and we had to be ferried by bus, bags took some time to arrive.

I had come across several taxi companies mentioned in TA and also saw that Curreri also offered shuttle. I sent several test e-mails and I was very impressed with the response from Senor Giuseppe from Curreri and decided to go with them. Giuseppe emailed the driver's name, mobile number and their out of hours office number in advance and our friendly taxi driver Vincenzo was right there waiting for me with a big 7 seater with plenty of space to fit all the bags.

The drive to Sorrento was nice under the shadow of the Vesuvio and the sea to your right. We actually overtook the 7 PM Curreri bus near Pompeii !! An uneventful journey, settling down at Villino Castellano, getting used to the heat and humidity, a short stroll acquainting ourselves with local cats and dogs ( a fair number of strays) and then a relaxing evening at Luigi's rooftop getting ready to immerse ourselves in Herculaneum next day.

I had done a fair amount of research into transport options and eventually decided not to buy Artercard as I did not want to get tied up into seeing things in 3 consecutive days and I was also planning to use the ferry where Artecard was of no use.

Following day (Sunday) after a leisurely breakfast under the shadows of Lemon Trees we boarded the infamous Circumvesuviana for Ercolano around 09-30. Plenty of seats, a few people asking for money, one playing an accordion( I actually gave him a Euro, quite nice playing) and no sign of the Purse snatchers, pickpockets and the crowd. Perhaps it was Sunday that's why.

Make sure to see the impressive gorge from the train at Seaino station.

Herculaneum was fairly easy to find. Saw people waiting to board the shuttle van to Vesuvio from the front of the station and a couple of taxi drivers also approached us offering to take to Vesuvio. I was not interested so just kept walking.

Actually one can a have a decent view of the whole site without paying a single cent from just before the entrance, as it sits inside the bowl. There was hardly any queue and we bought the 5 site tickets. They had no guide-maps but I was prepared for that armed with my maps, podcasts and Eye Witness guidebook!!

I don't want to get into the details of Herculaneum but I must express my gratitude to Pat at SlowTravel Italy who had prepared a nice short guide to Herculaneum with links to photos and a handy map.

As a history buff and a classic type 1 personality I had done extensive research on historic ruins and still found the info quite helpful, even if slightly outdated.

slowtrav.com/italy/campania/herculaneum.htm

I think 2-3 hours is enough but of course midday heat made our progress slow with regular breaks for drinks, Gelato etc to recharge the battery. Only a vending machine but I have come to see the relics, not to have a sumptuous meal, so that was fine with me and we had carried some sandwiches with us.

As you may know BBC had produced couple of good programmes on the eve of the Pompeii exhibition at the British museum and that really helped us to understand. I was really touched by the boat house skeletons. I also enjoyed the House of Augustals, Neptune and Mosaic atrium with caved in floor and the Terrace of Nonius Balbus.

Amazing to see how humans never learn from history and have packed them again within a stone's throw from the Vesuvio.

We thought our dear Mayor of London Boris should erect a statue of him next to Thames so that in case London gets buried under lava his handsome profile would be preserved and tourists from a distant future would marvel at that guy and wonder what he did for London !!

There were not many tourists, no jostling for photo shoots, a few guides and we took our time. Overall a very pleasant experience but if you want my honest opinion even if the relics are well preserved but it does not come anywhere near the sheer scale of Pompeii ruins. So this was a nice gentle introduction. I returned to the station by 3 Pm and decided we would make a stop at Oplontis. But sadly the next two trains were cancelled and after seating on the platform floor for 45 minutes in near 100% humidity kids rebelled and sadly I had to drop Oplontis !!

So the motto in Italy : Always expect the unexpected and you'd be fine.

So back to Luigi and a nice meal at Ninuccio. I'd be back later when I have some time to carry on with my rambling.

In the mean time have a look at some our Herculaneum photos :

http://flic.kr/s/aHsjJiru2B

Cheers

Mentioned in this post
Pompeii
Pompeii
Province of Naples, Italy
Amalfi Coast
Amalfi Coast
Campania, Italy
Spaccanapoli
Spaccanapoli
3,811 Reviews
Naples, Italy
Sorrento
Sorrento
Province of Naples, Italy
Meta
Meta
Province of Naples, Italy
Vesuvio
Vesuvio
6,356 Reviews
Naples, Italy
Ercolano
Ercolano
Province of Naples, Italy
Teatro Greco-Romano
Ancient Ruins, Historic Sites, Theatres, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Catacombe di San Gennaro
Ancient Ruins, Cemeteries, Historic Sites
North Carolina
Level Contributor
75 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

Supratik, enjoying your report and looking forward to its continuation! Also, great photos from Herculaneum! I'll be traveling to the AC in April. Arriving in Naples, I plan on visiting the Archeology Museum before heading to Herculaneum, then on to Praiano. I'm finding your report very helpful. The slowtrav guide to Herculaneum is a good resource, but did you notice if tour guides were at the entrance that were available to take one around the site? I'll have a driver waiting while I'm there, so want to manage my time well and not get lost within or miss the highlights!

Italy
Level Contributor
39,682 posts
236 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

Thanks for posting a wonderful report and the fabulous photos, I'm looking forward to the next episode.

Leicester, United...
Level Contributor
1,274 posts
102 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

Thank you folks for your comments. My aim was to help just one person so I've already hit my target !!

Chrella: I have seen you in the past thanking each trip report writer. That's nice of you. Your Avatar is interesting. Reminds me of the "Sabzi Bazaar" ( Fruits & Vegetable markets) in India.

Ready2 tarvel: Thanks. If you don't mind, IMHO you are trying to fit in too much in one day. I understand we all struggle with time. Are you travelling from US on a long flight to Naples and then planning to fit all these on the day of arrival ? The MAN itself would take at least 2-3 hours even if you just zoom through. And the problem is that often they close one section and open another in tandem so you may have to hang on to see the star attractions.

You can do MAN & Herculaneum but that would be a rush job, so please split them up if you can.

There were guides hanging around the ticket booth/entrance area. They didn't approach us and I'm sure your driver would be able to find one for you. Most of them had a group of 10-15 with them. You may have to pay extra to have one just for you, if you are not willing to wait for the required number of people to build up.

I saw several groups inside. I couldn't help eavesdropping one group inside the Palaestra house with snake fountain and later near Relief of Telephus. I was quite impressed as the guide showed the group the layers of lava and mud inside the excavation and explained the geology and told the story of Telephus and Achilles.

Have you considered the Audioguide? They seemed to be quite popular although I can' comment how accurate and up to date the description was. Surprisingly there was no map but plenty of audioguide booklets available even if I was not going to hire an audioguide. So I picked one and just read the info which was quite useful.

Have a great time. I hope to get some more this weekend. Forced to attend a wedding. You know these Indian weddings which go on for ever !!!

Cheers.

North Carolina
Level Contributor
75 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

Supratik, Thank you for the information! I'm training to Naples from Rome (where I'll recover from any jet-lag. Hah!), and plan on visiting the MAN in the morning before heading to Herculaneum. Fingers-crossed that the prime rooms in the MAN are open during my visit! I am reading as much as I can on the Herculaneum site, but I know a guide can add so much more to the visit as you described when you overheard some of a guides presentation. It will be a repeat visit for me, first time years ago, so I know much more has been excavated. If no personal guide is available or too costly, I'll plan on the audio-guide.

I realize it will be a long day, but I locked into the idea of staying on the AC, and in Praiano, making it difficult to return to Naples and Herculaneum. Definitely, once I'm in Praiano for five days, I'll only wander along that coastline (though one day I will go in search of Paestum!). Already I am making a list for a subsequent visit to Italy to spend some days in Naples and then the boot!

Side note - after visiting India (fascinating, wonderful trip!), and being a Jane Austen fan - I found an Indian video based on Pride & Prejudice with a fun wedding scene! I'm sure it's the Bollywood version, but if the true wedding celebrations are even just a little bit like the one portrayed ... wow! Have fun! And thanks again for the info you provided.

Destination Expert
for Naples
Level Contributor
16,218 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

ready2travel, Paestum is absolutely worth searching out. The museum there is fantastic and the site is fascinating. It's easy to reach by train from Salerno.

North Carolina
Level Contributor
75 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

Elstravels - Yes, I definitely plan on a day to Paestum! I checked bus/train/ferry posted schedules for RT between Praiano/Salerno/Paestum. It seemed timing never worked out, so recently I arranged a driver for what hopefully will be a (costly, but very desirable) 6 hr commitment. Hope to see the site, museum and lunch at the nearby restaurant! Returning to Praiano, if there is time for a stop in Vietri s. Mare, do you have a recommendation for a ceramic shop?

Supratik - sorry for the side discussion!

Destination Expert
for Naples
Level Contributor
16,218 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

We ate at Ristorante Nettuno after visiting the ruins: http://www.ristorantenettuno.com/

At Vietri we spent some time at the Ceramica Artistic Solimeni - we went there because I wanted to see the building itself. www.ceramicasolimene.it/ita/default.asp

Supratik, looking forward to hearing more about your trip.

North Carolina
Level Contributor
75 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

Elstravels, thanks for the web sites. Nettuno looks lovely ... and the perfect place after touring Paestum. And the ceramic building is quite unique! Many temptations inside, too. Hope they can arrange shipping! Can't wait for my visit to the AC!

Arusha, Tanzania
Level Contributor
18 posts
55 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

Hi, as it happens we are doing the same trip in May. Who is doing your transfer? Would also like to stop off at Pompeii on the way...

Mentioned in this post
Pompeii
Pompeii
Province of Naples, Italy
North Carolina
Level Contributor
75 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: My thanks to all the regular contributors and a Trip Report

Wayne - for my transfer from Naples train station to Praiano (with a stop in Herculaneum) I booked with www.francescomarrapese.com . Hope this helps!

Supratik, despite side discussions while you are busy, I'm anxiously waiting for Chapter 2!