Nancy Barber (nlbarber) wrote,
Nancy Barber

Florence to Sorrento

A late start (our last), with 11 am checkout and needing to be at the train station for our 12:04 train to Naples. The hotel called 2 taxis for us, and we piled in with luggage for the short ride to the train station, paid the fare including the holiday bonus for New Year's Day, and wheeled our stuff into the station past the evidence of much drinking the night before. We've discovered that the train platforms mostly don't get posted until the train is pulling into the station, then you have a quick dash to the right platform and along it to the approximate location of your car to be ready to get all your stuff on before the train pulls out. Which can be in 10 minutes for the high speed trains.

That wasn't yet, though, because we got to the station by about 11:20 and the train was running 5 minutes late so was expected in at 11:55. It was a little over freezing, and the open cavernous train station was *really* cold. We just huddled in a group by our bags and shivered, after scouts sent to investigate reported that there was no room to crowd into the McDonald's where there was some heat. Had a little entertainment when a group doing some sort of New Year's Day run jogged through the station cheering and waving, but otherwise we shivered. Finally the train was posted and we made the dash to our spot and got on.

This was our first Frecciarossa train, the fastest TrenItalia operates at up to 300 km/hr, and it stopped only in Rome before Naples making the trip shorter than our Rome to Venice on the slower (200 km/hr) Frecciargente. The speeds maxed out at 180 kph north of Rome, but once out of Rome we hit 300 or close most of the time. (Current speed is posted on screens in the car, or you can get to a limited wifi and see speed, lat/long, altitude, and a long as the train isn't in a tunnel away from GPS signals.) We grabbed sandwiches from the cafe car instead of having a full meal in the dining car, and they were quite acceptable. Toward the end of the run we got pretty nice views of Vesuvius despite some clouds around, which was good because shortly after that the clouds came down and hid the mountain. Rain expected tomorrow, so probably no views then either. Let's just say, though, that "dominating the Naples area" is an understatment. That's one big volcano, and it's right there at the city.

We were met on the platform by our driver Guitano (I think, "you can call me Guy" anyway), loaded into a 7 passenger Mercedes Benz minivan, and off we went around the Bay of Naples to Sorrento to the Grand Hotel Vesuvio, about an hour's drive in the light holiday traffic. Guy gave a good tourist spiel as we went.

Sorrento seems a little odd--it's a seaside resort town just around the peninsula from the Amalfi Coast and the nearby Isle of Capri, but it also seems a little seedy. Maybe that's just the seaside watering hole atmosphere...I keep thinking of Harriet Vane at Wilvercombe, perhaps aided by the geriatric leaning of the guests of the Grand Hotel Vesuvio. Walking through the town before dinner we saw the ritzy jewelry shops and the junky souvenirs, the blue-jeans crowd and those wearing full-length mink coats. Odd juxtapositions.

The hotel is spacious (wonderful change from the Hotel Cellai!), though it feels less luxurious than some we've had this trip--the furniture is middling and the towels are thinner than Hotel Cellai's. Internet is quite spotty in the rooms, but OK in the lobby. It's up on the hillside above the town, so they run a shuttle bus back and forth on a schedule. Oh, and I didn't expect it, but we got rooms with a view, that is, the one across the bay to Naples and Vesuvio. If only it had been clear, it would have been spectacular. Oh, well.

We did shuttle into town on the 5:30 bus, wandered a bit, then found the hotel-recommended La Fenice for dinner. Which turned out to be at 6:45 when they open at 7, so we walked in on staff dinner. They just waved us to a table and delivered menus, then right after 7 started the process of taking our orders. Very nice of them, and our waiter (perhaps the owner) also delivered an extra plate of warm bread (a focaccia or similar) gratis after the usual basket of sliced bread, then at the end of the meal brought spumante for us to toast the New Year, pouring a little for B. out of L.'s glass so he could taste it too. The food was very good though not fantastic, and the atmosphere was really nice. I had veal cutlets alla Fenice which was with ham and green peas, and a mixed salad, then shared a piece of lemon almond cake for dessert.

Early morning tomorrow, as we will be picked up at 8 and so must be packed and checked out by then. I'd better rearrange my packing and get to bed.

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