Sunday, November 18, 2012

Heading South

After a few weeks in northern and central Italy, we reached the southern tip of our journey – Campania. We’ve heard that the south has its own flavour and culture which was immediately evident as we tried to catch a train to our hotel in Sorrento. After missing the first train due to a surplus of people over available space – passengers were so stuffed into the train the doors wouldn’t  close – the next train was delayed multiple times while we waited on the platform, carefully watching our belongings*.

Aside from being poorer than the rest of Italy – an environment in which crumbling infrastructure, increased theft, and organized crime thrive – the south runs on a time table all its own, a fact we quickly realized waiting for our first of many trains. As a result, trying to fit too much sightseeing into one day was immediately quashed by a delayed train, cancelled train, or broken down bus (all of these actually happened).  Being forced to slow down, go with the flow, and accept the inevitable, we were thankful for the four full days we had in the area and, with Sorrento as our home base, we were perfectly situated for day trips to Pompeii and Herculaneum, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast. 

From Sorrento, looking out across the bay to Naples

The ancient site of Herculaneum

Amalfi's stunning architecture

Although the south often receives criticism for its higher crime rates and insane drivers, we didn’t encounter any problems while visiting, and the combination of multiple world-class attractions and incredibly affordable prices made it a great backpacking destination. Best of all, our off-season visit meant that the overly visited sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum were nearly deserted and catching a bus to and from Amalfi was without line-up, leaving us more time to wander and take photos.

If having great weather, wonderful food, budget-friendly prices, and some amazing things to see wasn't enough to convince you - the people are great too. Friendly, outgoing, and talkative, the people are really what makes this place unique. We had gerat experiences from the second we arrived, from people helping us to decipher the trains, to a shop owner explaining all the intricacies and differences between the various types of buffalo mozzarella, to our fantastic hosts who gave us great advice on places to eat and things to see. The people are really what makes this place unique.

We would have loved to have kept on our southerly path into Sicily, but our limited time meant that we had to leave that for a future adventure. Instead, we opted to return north and wrap up our time in Italy getting lost in the canals of Venice before heading to Austria. 

The small city of Amalfi

A small vineyard in Revello, on the Amalfi coast

We will get into more detail on the things we got to see and do in the next couple of days, but hopefully some pictures will hold you over until then!

*We later learned the delays and unpredictable transit schedules in the area are due to labour strikes. Striking employees have gone without compensation for three months –  considering this, the trains actually run quite well seeing as the employees are so disgruntled.

By Travis Huyghebaert with No comments

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Calli and Travis returned from a four month trip through Europe more excited than ever to hit the open road. Who knows where they'll end up next...

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