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Leaving Montepulciano for the South of Italy

A train to Sorrento


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It was sad to leave our Montepulciano parking lot, drive through the winding streets, pass under the arch of the city wall, and jiggled down cobbled street lined with cypress. After a few minutes, we were on the motorway, then finally Florence. Navigating back into Florence through morning traffic was a lot harder than getting out. “No, that’s a one way street.” “Oops, missed the turn, rerouting.” We passed a ZTL sign, Zona Traffico Limitato means only authorized cars (local residents, businesses etc) could enter but what the hell, we may have a ticket in the mail when we get home but this is the way to the car rental agency.

After dropping the car off, we pulled our luggage the few blocks to the train and were soon off on a high-speed train to Naples at 300 km/h (about 185 mph). These are like very roomy airplanes on rails.

In Naples, we needed to change to a local train. In the train station were two machines, high-speed trains and regional trains. None of them seemed to show Sorento as a destination. There was some frustration, then we asked for information. In addition to machines for train tickets was the machines for metro tickets. This added a little more confusion. Finally, at a kiosk, we purchased the local train (Circumvesuvius) and raced to the attached but separate station for this line. At the train platform, an ancient train, brightly decorated with graffiti pulled up. We later rode on newer cars but the old ones were still in service.
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Have I mentioned that we are now in the shadow of Vesuvius, which last erupted in 1944? Vesuvius is an active volcano with millions of people living at its feet. One shouldn’t forget that in AD 79, it destroyed nearby Pompei. Currently, south of us on Sicily, Mount Etna is erupting, 9,000-meter plumes of ash, lava flows, and all the show. Italy is an exciting place.

Our train rattled and rumbled through tunnels and over bridges for an hour, nothing like the smooth quiet train from Florence to Rome. At Sorrento, we followed my phone in the wrong direction (set on the center of town and not our hotel). People warned us that driving in the south of Italy was different, more emotional, more daring. As we walked we saw cars ignoring signs and lights. We backtracked four blocks and, in a few more blocks, turned a corner on a cobbled street that twisted around a corner and under the train track we had just been on. The location was not promising, but more importantly, we needed to cross the street. Watching the locals, we went to a zebra crossing. In the slightest gap between motorbikes, cars, and small trucks, we stepped out, giving the oncoming cars just a few feet to stop, but they did. It is a game of nerves, but they will stop if you do not hesitate. They do not take the time to second guess an indecisive pedestrian. Sally and I held Cindy’s hand.

We grabbed a beer (actually two) at a cafe around the corner and texted the landlord. We were a few minutes early for the appointed arrival. A man at the next table stood up, “Julian?” He greeted us like family.

We followed Antonio. He unlocked a metal gate. We climbed a few steps and entered a pleasant courtyard of lemon trees defined by four connected tall buildings. On the third floor of one building was our apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. It was quiet, and out the back patio was another lemon grove behind us.
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After dropping our bags, we walked the neighborhood, then headed to a restaurant I found online but also recommended by Antonio. We arrive at 7:00, the typical time for restaurants to open for supper. The place was half full, but they gave us a table, and within thirty minutes, there was a long line snaking down the alleyway. The shrimps were not so good, but the fried squid more than made up for any shortcomings with the shrimps. The mussels and clams were almost as good as the squid. We had wine and followed the meal with limoncello, the local digestive, bursting with the flavor of lemons. We promised to come back for another meal.
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We made it to our room, worked on the finances for the day. Sally and I keep parallel tabs on what we spend, alternation who pay so that each is paying their share. Since we usually order a variety of dishes and share, this works out.

After expense, we talked about plans. We didn’t have advanced tickets for anything from this point on, and it was now or never. For many things reservations are important. Unfortunately, we had different visions of our intended itinerary. Furthermore, there was some suggestion of going to the Amalfi coast by bus, an idea discussed and dismissed weeks earlier. We all got fed up and with only an agreement to see Pompei the next day, ended the discussion. I bought tickets online for Pompei then went to bed.

Posted by Deuxenvacances 12:08 Archived in Italy

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