May 24, 2003 — After another lovely breakfast at Palazzo Ravizza, we took another wild taxi ride to the train station to head to Napoli. This was a pretty long train ride. In our compartment were two college students speaking Italian. One of them was actually French, so he spoke Italian slow enough to enable me to understand much of their conversation. The other student was bringing the Frenchman home to meet his family in Napoli. Listening to him, I was able to see how different the Napolitano accent is than other parts of Italy. This Napolitano guy sounded like my family. I understood a lot of what he was saying. When he was pointing out Mt. Vesuvius to his friend, and I responded by pointing it out to Paul, he realized I was listening a bit. They were very friendly to us.
We arrived in the Napoli train station knowing that we had to take a taxi to the ferry (a hovercraft) which would bring us to Sorrento. I think we made the mistake of looking lost, and a cab driver latched onto us. He made us walk clear across the station to where his car was parked, and when we got to the ferry he overcharged us — 25 Euro. I was already disgusted with Napoli because, during that cab ride, I saw so many people yelling at each other and giving each other the finger. Things were dirty and traffic was very congested. There was a lot of traffic in Firenze and Milano, but only Napoli felt like being in a scary part of the Bronx.
We were happy to get away from that cabbie and settle in for a long ferry ride to Sorrento.
Following a tip from our tour book, when we got a taxi from the ferry dock into Sorrento, we asked up front for the regular rate — not a higher tourist rate. They assured us it would be fair. The driver pointed out several sights in Sorrento, but it felt an awful lot like a busy, tourist-trap Jersey shore town like Wildwood. The cab seemed to wind its way back and forth along the same streets more than once. When we asked the driver what he was doing, he claimed some of the roads were one-way at this time of day. We were getting fed up with cab drivers by this point. When he brought us to the Hotel Minerva, which was thankfully far removed from "Wildwood", he charged us 12 Euro, which was another ripoff. But Sorrento is built high up on cliffs, so walking with suitcases from the docks to the hotel was not really an option. Those 12 Euros became meaningless when we stepped out onto our shared balcony and saw the view.
Views from our balcony.
Looking to the left you can see how the road curves up and out of sight just past our hotel. Across the street from the Hotel Minerva is a hotel with a pool, and all of this goes down the cliff. You can see a hint of blue in the lower right corner of the upper photo. That's the pool. There's an entrance to the hotel covered by an awning, and that's where we bought bus tickets to get to the Sorrento train station the next day to go to Pompeii.
Here is the view from our hotel room window at night. In the bottom center of the photo is the entrance to La Minervetta, a restaurant where we had a late dinner al fresco our second night in Sorrento.
This is the view from our balcony looking back at our hotel with its bright red trim. On the top level is a top-notch restaurant. We ate there our first night and sat inside (it was a little chilly) by a window, looking at the lovely view. The menu was fixed-price and we were surprised by how many courses of excellent food were included. In the morning we had breakfast out on the restaurant's balcony. This restaurant had my favorite coffee of the whole trip. They brought us what they called Caffe Americano, with thick black coffee in one metal pitcher, and warm cream in another pitcher. We mixed them half and half for maximum body and flavor.
This same view from the balcony took on different colors throughout the day and depending on the weather. All views were exquisite.