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Vicki’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 26 Jul 2012

Location: Sorrento, Italy

MapAfter leaving Gran Paradiso on Friday I drove south to the town of Camogli, on the Ligurian coast. This didn't take as long as I thought, mainly because I hadn't actually google mapped it. So I got there at about 12.30pm, completely forgetting that every closes for a long lunch in Italy, including some tourist offices. I found this out by asking directions in Italian and understanding most of the reply! So I had a quick walk around the harbour, which was nice, then drove further on round the coast, and found a camp site at Rapallo, which is few km east of Portofino. It wasn't ideal, as it was 2km from the centre, but was ok as I was moving on the next day. The good news was that it wasn't far from the start of the autostrada, the bad news was that it was right next to the autostrada! But it was cheap, had wifi, a pool, bar and pizzaria.
On Saturday I drove down to Tivoli, near Rome, and asked at the tourist office where the nearest campsite was - at least 20km away, I was told, and was given a list of possible B+B places, - he wouldn't phone to check availability for me. So after a good 2 hours wasted, I gave up finding anywhere and went back to the tourist office. He'd obviously googled campsites at Tivoli because he straight away told me there was one 6.8km away! Anyway, this turned out to be serendipity - a lucky find! It was an azienda agrituristica - a farm where people stay and supposedly help with the olive and grape picking etc. It was up in the hills, away from the town, and very peaceful, although the facilities were very basic. It also had a huge swimming pool, where dinner was served on Saturday night. Dinner turned out to be one of those big Italian events, with several courses. It was very busy with locals from as far away as Tivoli and Rome, and there was a live music. The food was fantastic, the wine (made at the farm) was only 6 euros a bottle, and the meal only cost 25 euros - the best meal and best value I've had so far! I was looked after by a Nepalese waiter (I think the only one who could speak English) and he was keen to tell me all about Nepal the next day, when he found out I was going there in October.
The next day I went to see Hadrian's Villa - huge Roman ruins, then Villa d'Este, which is the water gardens - the main reason I went to Tivoli. They didn't disappoint - amazing fountains set in beautiful gardens, including one that was musical! I knew there was no food available on Sunday night at the campsite, so was planning to cook myself a meal. However, when I got back the Nepalese waiter invited me to have a meal with him and his wife, and 2 other Nepalese guys. So I spent a great evening, eating Nepalese food and chatting about all sorts of stuff. Kumar (the waiter) used to be a mountain guide in Nepal and was keen to do some deal with me in the future. Ram's uncle has a B+B in Katmandu, and gave me a card with the address. It's funny how sometimes things don't turn out as you expect!
So on Monday I left Tivoli and drove to Sorrento. (Well, I had to go there after 5 years of trying to find leaders to go there for HF!). Sorrento is very touristy and the traffic and parking are horrendous. I found a campsite, which had wifi, but my laptop wouldn't connect so I have to use their computer. (Hope it's not going to be an ongoing problem!) It also costs 4 euros per hour, so no photos yet!
I can sum up Sorrento with the words buses, trains, ruins, and a volcano! On Tuesday I visited Herculaneum, which I got to by taking a bus into Sorrento, then a train to Ercolano. I liked Herculaneum - it was quite small and everything was well preserved following the AD79 eruption of Vesuvius because it was covered in volcanic mud. It was a fascinating place. On Wednesday I went to Pompeii, again by bus and train. This was huge and I didn't see everything. I did see the fossilised and plaster cast bodies, though, which was weird. The city was covered with pyroclastic ash so people died instantly in all sorts of positions. It felt wrong to take photos, but everyone else was, so I did take some. I didn't see everything because I wanted to go to Vesuvius on the same day. So I got another bus, to 1050m, where you get off and walk the rest. Vesuvius is 1277m, so it's only 227m more, and about 800m to the crater, on a very ashy path. The view from the top was very hazy, but the crater was well worth seeing.
So today I'm heading to Martina Franca, where I'll stay for a few days. I haven't decided where to go next - I might explore more of the south of Italy. More updates and hopefully photos when I find free wifi I can connect to.