September 14, 2017 – We had to be ready at the pickup spot for our Mount Vesuvius and ruins of Pompeii tour at 8:10 am. Luckily, it was at the hotel right across the street, so we didn’t have far to walk.
I made sure we were out there by 8:00 am because if you’re on time you’re already late. About 5 minutes later, a group of ladies joined us and at the pickup spot. They asked us if we were going on the Vesuvius and Pompeii tour and we said yes. We got to talking of course. They were all from the US and were on a girls trip through Italy. Most of them lived in Florida at The Villages (an enormous retirement community). They were a fun bunch!
Our bus arrived and we all got on. This was a bit bigger of a group than we were used to, but not too big (I think there were maybe 20 people). We didn’t pay as much for this tour so we expected more of a crowd. After we picked up a couple more people, we were on our way to Mount Vesuvius. Our guide was lovely and started giving us history of Sorrento and Naples as soon as we all were on board. Our driver was super talented as well (as all bus drivers are in Italy). We weren’t in a very big bus, but the way he was able to maneuver around the small winding streets was pure magic.
The bus ride to Mount Vesuvius was absolutely gorgeous.
The bus couldn’t take us all the way up to the top of Vesuvius, so we had to walk once we reached the bus parking lot at 1,000m. To reach the top, we had to hike 15 minutes uphill. I wore my leather sandals with buckles and was ok, however, I did get quite a few rocks kicked under my feet. Tennis shoes would have been perfect, but I knew Pompeii would be scorching hot later in the day so I just dealt with it. Also, it was cold on Vesuvius which was so strange. I was so glad I brought a jacket.
Unfortunately, we were in the clouds when we reached the top; there was no view. But just being on the rim of the crater of this famous volcano was incredible.
Mount Vesuvius last erupted in the year 1944 but is said to have an eruption cycle of 20 years. It is most famous for burying the ancient city of Pompeii in 97 AD.
We wandered around the top for about 20 minutes. Right before we left, the clouds parted just enough to catch a glimpse of the city and bay below.
We made our way back down to the bus and then it was time for a quick lunch before touring Pompeii.
Lunch was pizza at a little restaurant right outside the ruins. It was ok, not the best we had on our trip. But many of the tours we researched didn’t come with lunch at all so I guess we were lucky. We made sure to use the bathrooms at the restaurant, although a hole in the dirt might have been better. Those things were… not great. I’ll leave it at that.
After lunch, we walked to the entrance of the ruins. This was another place I had been before, but returning after 10 years was so special. We saw several things I hadn’t seen the first time and there were many things that had been discovered since my last visit. One thing that hadn’t changed was the heat. It was just as blazing hot as it was when I visited the first time.
After walking through Pompeii, we were given about 20 minutes to walk around outside the city walls. There was a hotel with free bathrooms. They were actually nice too! I was so surprised they let people other than guests use them. Lots of our group got overpriced ice cream. I was dying for something cold, but I resisted. I didn’t want to ruin my palette with lackluster gelato… if you could even call it that.
We arrived back in Sorrento around 5:00 pm. The bus dropped us right back where we were picked up in the morning so all we had to do was cross the street and we were back in our B&B.
Originally we were going to have dinner at this little place called Ristorante Bagni Delfino. It’s one of the top restaurants in Sorrento. When we called to make a reservation, they didn’t have anything open. We really wanted to have one of our dinners by the water, so we started looking up other restaurants in the area.
Eric found a little family-run place right on the water called Porta Marina. The reviews said they didn’t take reservations and to go as early as possible. So we quickly changed and made our way to Marina Grande around 6:00 pm (this marina was further than the one we came in on the day before).
We made a little pit stop at the ruins in the center of town since I wasn’t able to photograph them the day before. In 1866, the mill was abandoned due to the construction of Piazza Tasso up above the gorge. This cut off access to and from the valley which meant it no longer had an outlet to the sea. This caused conditions to become extremely humid and damp making it unsuitable for living. The drop down into the ruins was terrifying. Every time we had to pass it, I would just walk in the street. I would have rather risked getting hit by a car than walk right next to the straight drop down into the old mill.
After the mill, we continued our walk to the Marina. It was absolutely beautiful at every turn. It made us feel like we were in a charming medieval seaside town… oh wait, we were! Many of the enormous walls and stone pathways leading from the sea to the main part of town were built in the 1500s. The city of Sorrento itself dates back to 600 BC.
We arrived at the restaurant and I was in awe. It was the most beautiful, yet unpretentious setting. It was hard to believe what we were seeing was real. We had the most incredible sunset as a backdrop, Frank Sinatra playing in the background, and the ocean waves crashing up against the seawall not 15 feet away from our table. It could not have been more perfect.
The owners of Porta Marina were Mama and Papa. Their 2 daughters served all the guests while the rest of the family either worked in the kitchen and/or worked to catch all of their seafood. We started our meal with bread along with a 1/2 liter of house wine. Then we ordered calamari and a caprese salad. I am not a fan of calamari, but Eric said it was the most amazing calamari he’s ever had. My caprese salad was so fresh and flavorful.
Next, we ordered dinner. This place only serves seafood (other than the caprese salad I had) so if you absolutely do not like any seafood, this place isn’t for you. Lucky for me, I like shrimp, so that’s what I ordered. Eric ordered the sea bream which had been caught that morning. Everything they serve is straight off of a boat. Seriously! We watched the family pull in on their boat at one point and a guy sitting a table jokingly asked if he could have one of the fish from the boat for his dinner. Papa immediately went over to the boat, grabbed a fish, gave the guy a wink, and went to work in the kitchen.
Our food arrived and it was just as beautiful as it was delicious. The shrimp were fried whole, head and all, so they were a little hard to eat. But they were so good I didn’t mind the work. Eric’s sea bream was like butter. He had me try a piece and I actually enjoyed it. It wasn’t fishy at all!
At one point, all the tables were full, but people were still arriving for dinner. Papa just kept pulling tables and chairs out of nowhere. They never turned a single person away.
We finished up our dinner, but we weren’t ready to leave. We ordered tiramisu and 2 shots of limoncello. When in Sorrento, right? Of course, it was all delicious.
After our 3.5 hour dinner, we decided to make our way back to our hotel. I never wanted to leave this place and was hoping Papa would just adopt us. I wouldn’t mind working in a marina restaurant in Sorrento for the rest of my life!
The next morning we would have to be ready to catch the first ferry out to Capri at 7:15 am so we took showers and then it was time for bed.
Continue reading the Travel Diary here: Day 17: Exploring the Island of Capri