We decided to go out for pizza. Pizza originated in Naples, so that's where we went.
The four of us (me, Diane, Emily, and Robert) set out on our trip to southern Italy on the 14th of April. Drove across Massachusetts after lunch, deposited the car at Alewife and rode the T to Logan Airport. This method worked well, didn't cost much, and will probably be used again. The key is to keep luggage down to one suitcase per person, or even share bags. Emily had her standard roller bag, and Robert and I shared one. Diane used her BAD duffel bag, and apparently was content to trade greater mobility for a heavier load.
We flew overnight aboard an Alitalia 767 to Rome. The in-flight movie was We Bought A Zoo, featuring Matt Damon or Mark Wahlberg (who are actually the same person). It was one of the most formulaic movies I've ever seen. I didn't bother with the headphones to hear the dialog, and I gave it only half my attention while reading or trying to sleep, but I could absolutely predict every event in the film. What's weird is that it's apparently based on a memoir about the Dartmoor Zoo in England, but the moviemakers decided to get out the tire irons and force the real story into a familiar template.
At Rome we switched to the ricketiest old MD-80 plane I've ever seen for the hop to Naples. There we had lunch and got on the bus to Sorrento. I'm afraid all of us slept through the first part of the ride, but I did regain consciousness in time to see some of the scenery.
The weather was wet. This is going to be a recurring theme in these posts. The rain did give the landscape a green lushness one doesn't normally associate with the Mediterranean, and the mountains looked gorgeous all shrouded by mist and clouds. My first snap visual impression was that Naples looked a lot like Japan. Both places have the same intensive cultivation of every patch of flat land larger than a tablecloth -- in Campania it's lemon trees, olive trees, and grapevines. In the urban areas both Naples and Japan have vast expanses of three-story cinderblock houses and six-story cinderblock apartment buildings.
Japan is notably tidier.
The bus dropped us in Sorrento, which is a very charming old town perched on the cliffs at the end of the Sorrentine peninsula south of Naples. The whole area is very vertical, with lots of stairways and mysterious openings carved into the mountainsides and cliff faces. At one point, as the bus crossed a deep valley on a high bridge, I looked down to see a tiny terrace about 10 by 20 feet on the side of a sheer cliff, with a grove of lemons on it and a staircase cut into the rock leading down some 50 feet to a house. We didn't have to worry about over-eating in Italy; we burned off calories going up and down.
At Sorrento we stayed at a bed and breakfast called Sorrento Flats, which I recommend to anyone who doesn't mind climbing stairs (and if you do mind climbing stairs, I recommend visiting a different part of the world). The apartment was right near the center of town, just a block away from the Piazza Tasso, the main square. There was a pastry shop and gelato parlor on the ground floor of the building. The kids were happy with that arrangement.
Because of fatigue, jet lag, and rain, we did very little sightseeing the first day. Robert and I took a walk through the old center of Sorrento and got rained on, then the four of us took advantage of a break in the weather to get dinner at a restaurant on the piazza. I had one of the local specialties: gnocchi alla Sorrentina, with a tomato and basil sauce and local mozzarella cheese. We finished the day with ice cream and got to bed early, resting up for some high-powered tourist stuff.
Continued on Day 2.