Our next stop was to head further down into Italy. We were staying in a place called Gragnano, which is really close to Pompeii, and we hoped would be a good base for exploring the Amalfi Coast as well.
We arrived to our Airbnb in Gragnano, and I have to admit, we were a bit underwhelmed. Compared to the relaxing, friendly feel of Carro, it was really busy, dirty and unfriendly. Our place was behind a locked automatic gate, and there were a couple of menacing German shepherds behind the neighbours fence. The locals seemed to look at us with clear disdain, being markedly unfriendly. It was a very different reception to our previous location, and a very different Italy.
Nevertheless, we were keen to explore this part of Italy, which is so rich in history, beauty, and culture. We had some pretty amazing pizza a couple of times from the local takeaway, and lots and lots of pasta (I might be a bit sick of pasta now).
We were pretty excited when we got a message from Pete’s cousin Jo, saying she was in the same city and staying only half an hour away from us. We met her at the incredible ruins of Pompeii the next day. Pompeii is a pretty amazing place, historically. In 79AD, when the volcano Vesuvius erupted, killing many of its inhabitants with poisonous gases (the ones that didn’t flee), it buried the city in volcanic ash, preserving it perfectly. When it was rediscovered in 1748, excavators found the city frozen in time. It is an awesome insight into the history of the city and the way the ancient Romans lived. It was a pretty hot and dusty day to explore, but we all enjoyed exploring the city. Elena found it interesting in parts too, often asking why there is a pot here, and a fence there (asking why there are fences, or no fences, is one of her favourite questions at the moment). Jo came back to our place for dinner and played Frozen with Elena for so long – you are the best Jo. They even gave us a little performance with the Frozen soundtrack.
We spent another day with Jo where it all began – Mount Vesuvius. We decided to take on the hike up the mountain, both kids strapped securely to us. It was a decent walk uphill, but getting to the top was well worth it as we looked down into the volcanic crater, seeing tendrils of smoke rising from the rock. It was pretty incredible to stand at the top of a mountain which has wreaked so much destruction over the years. The volcano also offered pretty nice views of the Bay of Naples and its cities. It was sobering to imagine that if the volcano erupted again, all of those cities that we could see would be destroyed. Bleak thoughts aside, we followed the walk up with some well deserved gelato by the sea (I got nutella flavour, and I think it was actually just frozen nutella. It was kind of overwhelming). The gelato trip also ended in disaster with Elena ending up coated in chocolate ice cream.
We spent the next couple of days exploring the Amalfi Coast – a big part of why we had travelled so far down into Italy. I had been here a number of years ago and had really good memories of it. We started off spending the day walking around Sorrento, admiring the many lemon themed souvenirs (lemons are a bit of a thing down there), and a bus trip to the very crowded Puolo Marina for a swim. It was crazy busy there (despite the tourist office lady suggesting it as a nice, quieter place to go for our little family), but we found a spot next to a super friendly family who, surprise surprise, absolutely adored Kili. The mum completely took him over, cuddling him, dressing him after his swim, and even attempting to get him to sleep on her. She also shared their picnic with us, feeding us biscuits, ham sandwiches and watermelon. It was a pretty fun example of Italian culture and hospitality.
The next day we headed into Positano, a stunning village on the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast, and apparently the place to rub shoulders with the rich and famous. We found a little cove to swim in the crystal clear waters and to play with the stones at the beach.
The Amalfi Coast is a stunningly beautiful place, but we have to admit that we didn’t love it with the kids. We didn’t see it as a super kid friendly place, and it is massively touristy. Most of the beaches are private, and you pay upwards of 10 euros for a spot on them (normally including a deck chair), and the free beaches tend to be about 20m of crowded sand. It was also pretty expensive for us budget travellers. I definitely think it is a place worth going, but maybe not with little ones.
We spent our last day in Italy at the local shopping centre – very cultural, I know. We actually had to get Elena a new pair of shoes – she had lost one of her thongs in a sunflower field in France and has been wearing joggers ever since. It’s been pretty hot. The new sandals were pretty overdue. We also wanted to stock up on non-perishable groceries before we headed off to our next destination – Switzerland (aka, expensive country!). We were pretty excited to get to this next place. You’ll see why in our next post.