Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Amalfi Coast with Kids

Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius

In late September we visited the Amalfi Coast, it was incredible and literally one of the best trips ever!  We started our trip with a flight into Naples and a few days in Capri, as I discussed in a previous post, which you can access here!  After a few days in Capri, we headed to the Amalfi Coast. This was a great time of year to be in these spots.  The weather was gorgeous for both beaches and seeing the sights, and there were no crowds.  Perfect!

Car or no car?
When planning this trip, we were faced with the decision of whether to rent a car or rely on drivers, ferries, and public transportation.  We watched the Rick Steves episode on the Amalfi Coast and saw the cars and busses in traffic jams on the top of very precarious cliffs, and decided against renting a car.  This was totally the right choice!  I am so glad we left the driving to the experts!!!  Words cannot describe the driving conditions in the Amalfi Coast, it is not for the faint of heart!  While in Positano we used ferries and walked to get around.  We then had a driver take us back to the airport in Naples to fly home.  This worked really well.  A car was not necessary and would have been a huge hassle.

Where we stayed...Sorrento and Positano
When researching this trip, I came across many conflicting thoughts on where to use as a base for exploring the Amalfi Coast, and visiting Pompeii and Vesuvius.  Rick Steves, who we love, suggests using Sorrento as a home base.  Other bloggers and travel writers suggested Positano as the most beautiful spot, and still others liked Amalfi.  I decided to trust Rick Steves and go with Sorrento as a home base.  I found what I thought was an adorable community of cabins amidst a grove of lemon trees, and we booked a few nights there.  After checking in, it became apparent that this was more of a backpacker hangout, and was quite a long walk into the main town area.  Also, Sorrento is gorgeously perched atop cliffs overlooking the sea, but you cannot really SEE the sea from most of the town.  It was more built-up and urban than I was anticipating and I kind of regretted our decision to stay there.


Positano!
So, we switched hotels!  We stayed one night in Sorrento, spent the following day with a guide and driver at Pompeii, Vesuvius and Herculaneum, and then at the end of the day had our driver take us to our new hotel, Hotel Conca d'Oro.  This was the best choice EVER.  Hotel Conca d'Oro is up some very Positano-esque steps, on the edge of a cliff, with amazing views, wonderful decorations, gorgeous rooms, and delicious breakfast.

Positano is breathtakingly gorgeous and amazingly beautiful.  It was REALLY gorgeous.  Positano is much more beautiful than Sorrento, and much more authentic, in my opinion.  And while it is much smaller, it is still a great base for exploring this part of Italy.  It is easy to walk down to the beaches, to all the shops and restaurant, and the little harbor.  And it is incredible - so many stairs all over the town!  I am so glad that our hotel in Sorrento did not work out for us, because it landed us at one of the most wonderful places we have ever stayed.

What we did...

Pompeii

So, if you are in this part of Italy, Pompeii is kind of a must-do.  We hired a driver for the day to take us to Pompeii, Vesuvius and the Herculaneum.  We had a guide take us around Pompeii.  There are many guides and drivers available, it's easy to find one.  We were impressed with Pompeii and enjoyed learning about the different fast-fast food joints and homes.  The views of Mount Vesuvius are incredible, and to learn that it was twice the size before the eruption is crazy!  The kids liked playing in the water areas and peeking around corners and doors.  I feel so blessed that we were able to visit!

Looking into Vesuvius!

Vesuvius
After Pompeii we headed to Mount Vesuvius.  Our driver parked, and we hiked up.  The views were incredible, and it was so neat to see some steam and smell the sulfer of the volcano.  I really enjoyed this hike and am so glad we did it!

Herculaneum
Herculaneum, with the modern town
Playing house!
I had never heard of the Herculaneum before we visited this part of Italy.  Basically, Pompeii was covered by soot and ashes, and Herculaneum was covered by lava.  It's much closer to Vesuvius.  Additionally, while Pompeii is a very busy and huge archeological site that is more remote, Herculaneum is an archeological site in the middle of a town.  Much of it has not even been excavated as there are apartment buildings and other structures on top of it.  Herculaneum is better preserved and less rigid.  You can explore more.  The children even got to play house in the ancient homes, and were climbing and exploring a lot.  I highly recommend seeing both Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Beaches
The Amalfi Coast is a rocky coastline.  There are not long stretches of white sandy beach, at least we did not see any!  However, Positano has two beaches that are rocky and absolutely gorgeous.  We rented umbrellas and chairs and rafts and were swimming and playing all day.  Additionally, there is a ton of sea glass to be found.  We collected an entire jar of it which we brought home.  We spent two days at the beach in Positano and it was so much fun.
En route to Amalfi
Amalfi Cathedral

Amalfi
We wanted to explore another town on the Amalfi Coast, so we decided to check out Amalfi.  There are hop-on hop-off busses that connect the towns along the coast on that very precarious highway on the cliffs, but we decided to opt for a ferry.  We took a pleasant ride to Amalfi, had lunch, and walked around.  Positano is much more beautiful, but it was nice to see another town.  Amalfi also has an incredible cathedral that I really wanted to see.  It contains the crypt of St. Andrew, so we spent some time learning about the Saint who shares our son's name.
One of the many amazing restaurants!

The Food!
The food is amazing.  Everywhere.  Every meal.  Absolutely delicious pizza, pasta, vegetables, salads, seafood.  We enjoyed the food very much!

Overall
This was absolutely an incredible trip, and one of our best.  The beauty and history of this part of the world is incredible.  And, the combination of cliffs, ruins, great pizza, volcanoes, beaches and sea glass made it a huge hit with the children as well!


















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