Once again Peter entertains us with his last port of call on the journey from Athens to Rome on board ms Koningsdam.
What to do with a day in Naples? Last trip I visited Pompeii and Vesuvius, this time I chose the lesser known ruins of Herculaneum. The plan was to take a local ferry to Sorrento to wander the streets before catching the train to Ercolano to visit the ruins. Then back to Naples to visit the National Archaeological Museum and a stroll along Spaccanapoli, an interesting street in the old part of Naples.
Disembarking in Naples is a quick and easy experience, the cruise terminal can handle several large ships at one time and once you’re off it’s an easy walk to the ferries, buses and railway station.
The ferry to Sorrento is fun and fast with the outline of Mount Vesuvius dominating the skyline. The harbour in Sorrento is at the base of a 150 foot cliff and perched just above is the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria. The beautiful old hotel is a destination in itself – mosaic floors, marble staircases and spectacular views.
The hotel is one of the grand old dames of Sorrento’s 19th century hotels reminiscent of a beautiful era of artistic and cultural refinement. My quick stickybeak is interrupted by impeccably dressed staff protecting the privacy of their well healed patrons. I’m guessing it was easy to pick that I wasn’t a guest, so I left these hallowed grounds and returned to the melee of day trippers and package holiday patrons.
After a delicious coffee, I start the hunt for useful, meaningful, locally made souvenirs which in Sorrento are a cut above the norm. Then it was off to the rail station and onto a busy train to see Herculaneum.
When Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD Herculaneum was buried in 60 foot of ash, Herculaneum was a fairly upmarket suburb, the Sawtell of that stretch of the coast. The site is smaller than Pompeii, in some ways better preserved and gives a unique insight into life in Roman times. There are well preserved remains of taverns, shops, bakers and eating establishments as well as a number of residences, some three storeys high. It is well worth a visit but you need a few hours to do it justice.
Starting to tire I find a little trattoria on the way back to the station, here I enjoy a late lunch accompanied by a Peroni and realise that I’ve absorbed enough history for the time being and need processing time.
I return by train to Naples and then meander back to the ship chuckling at the thought that I had learnt the Greek origins of the word meander and return just in time for happy hour!
This is my last day on the beautiful ship and all too soon my eight night cruise is over and its back to reality!