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Rosie’s blog – Around the Bay of Naples
Let’s start with Naples itself. The third biggest city in Italy, Naples is a long way from the chocolate box that is Florence - or the ‘living museum’ of Venice. Naples is chaotic, contemporary and lively. It takes you several moments before you remember that this was the original ‘New City’ (Neo polis) as christened by the Greeks. There is of course magnificent art and culture to be found in Naples. On one of our free mornings, I took a taxi (13 Euros) to the spectacular Capodimonte museum, high above the city. Here you will find masterpieces by Titian, Masaccio and Caravaggio. Later, we all went to the National Museum of Archaeology, to see the wondrous mosaics, paintings and – er – very rude sculptures unearthed from Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Which brings us to Vesuvius – the giant monster who looms above Naples and whose mighty explosions have periodically devastated the area. On your first day, you’ll climb to the top of Vesuvius. Walking boots are a good idea as the terrain is quite rocky, but you only walk up the last kilometre, and you won’t need to take a stick. You’ll be offered one for 1 Euro, en route. You’ll also be offered postcards, ashtrays of the crater, lumps of pumice, Vesuvius wine and a whole host of Vesuvius-branded knick knacks, as well as people singing Funicule Funicular. Vesuvius is highly commercialised, but our wonderful guide Davide helped us navigate around that. And when you get to the top, look down into the crater and smell the still-smoking fumeroles – well, the power of the volcano is all still magically palpable. Don’t worry. Vesuvius is not about to explode- or at least, if it is, there are a whole host of scientific instruments in the crater, which give a three-day warning.
On this trip you’ll be taken back in time to AD79. This is when Vesuvius famously erupted and buried the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. You’ll go round Herculaneum first; a seaside resort, you can still see the fast food outlets and wine bars favoured by the Roman smart set. For me however it was Pompeii, the bustling town silenced forever by tons of volcanic ash and burning pumice, which was so moving. Pompeiian residents who didn’t get out in time are immortalised, just as they fell, in plaster. Their homes are as they had left them, with wall paintings, furniture, garden statues, mosaics and shrines – it’s a giant time capsule plunging you into everyday Roman life. You’ll walk through the magnificent Forum with its giant temple to Jupiter, and visit the public baths with their underfloor heating.
After all of this, the balmy pleasures of Capri and Sorrento made a real contrast; the children delighted in pizza making, and playing football on the town pitch which our guide hired specially for them. The adults loved the flowers, the views, and of course the icecream for which the Amalfi coast is famed.
I will take away two memories; firstly walking through clouds of mist with my children as we climbed Vesuvius, the aquamarine Bay of Naples far below. And secondly, when we all ducked beneath a stone tunnel and were rowed into the magical Blue Grotto of Capri, where the melodious voices of five boatmen spontaneously delivered an echoing version of the Neopolitan classic O Sole Mio. Unforgettable and unmistakable; it was like being inside the very soul of Italy.
Rosie Millard is a travel journalist, broadcaster, author and intrepid mum, who is our ambassador for family adventures. She goes on our tours regularly, find out more.
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