From Rome we headed south by train to Sorrento, a small tourist town that is also a jumping-off point for the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri. Since it’s effectively closed for the winter we skipped Capri, but we did make it to the Amalfi Coast. More on that later.
The train journey from Rome took us from cosmopolitan Rome past an ancient aqueduct, through farms, and into the economically-depressed south. We traveled by deserted lots full of trash, reminiscent of Ecuador or Peru; fields being plowed by animals instead of tractors; decaying buildings and infrastructure; and other signs of a lower standard of living than in the north. We also saw towns full of palm trees and terra-cotta roofs, groves of citrus trees heavy with lemons and mandarins, and plenty of gorgeous scenery.
We had a relaxing time in Sorrento, catching up on schoolwork and enjoying the views across to Vesuvius from our terrace (when it wasn’t obscured by haze or clouds). Sorrento was a little late in taking down their Christmas decorations, and we took in one last dose of holiday lights during the passeggiata – the traditional evening stroll around town that is a wonderful Italian tradition.
One afternoon we took the commuter train up to Pompeii, the city famously buried in ash by Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. Pompeii was a large city at the time that boasted homes, bakeries, fast-food joints, baths, temples, and a large amphitheater. These are all visible today. The excavated portion today is large enough that you can get legitimately lost! I’d always assumed that Roman buildings were the color of the stone or marble used to build them, but this is not so! The Romans were a colorful bunch. Buildings and temples were painted on the outside, and inside their homes were covered in vibrant frescoes and other artwork.
On another day we rented a car to drive along the famed Amalfi Coast. The coast is home to picturesque towns like Positano and Amalfi. A summer favorite of the jet set, these towns all but shut down in the winter. The scenery is year-round though!
I spent most of my time trying not to (a) drive off a cliff or (b) drive into an oncoming Fiat, but nonetheless stole a few glances of the cliffs plunging into the glittering sea during our drive. Fortunately I had plenty of time to gaze and gawk during our stops. The sunlight has a special quality here. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s just different. Perhaps there is a bit of haze in the air that does some sort of science-y thing with reflection or refraction. I’m not sure, but I love it.
I’m not sure I’d want to come here in the summer when it’s 90+ degrees and the towns are jammed with tourists. Our visit was about perfect though. I understand the allure!