It is with much fondness that we look back upon our time in Naples when we took our eight week 2013 road trip around France and Italy with ten of our children. It was our penultimate stop in Italy and the furthest south of the country’s Mezzogiorno that we would visit.
Naplies sits on the Bay of Naples in the Campania region of the country, under the imposing view of the great Mount Vesuvius. I have to confess, we did tell the children that if they shouted or argued too much it would cause Vesuvius to erupt. You can’t really blame us – nine of the children were ten and under, after all! For the record, our warning didn’t work, although any raised voices were also often accompanied by a sideways glance at what Vesuvius might be doing.
We only stayed a week in each region during our road trip so there was not much time to explore all Naples had to offer. This is definitely somewhere we would love to return and explore more of, perhaps this autumn or definitely some time in 2018.
For now, here are three places that we loved exploring during our visit to the region of Caserta:
Herculaneum, or Ercolano as the Italians refer to it, was an ancient Roman town that was completely buried in Vesuvius’s eruption in 79AD and is probably one of our very favourite places that we have visited. The eruption and resulting pyroclastic surge resulted in Herculaneum’s extremely fast burial under approximately 60 feet of ash. The speed at which it became concealed along with the intense heat meant that much of the area was perfectly preserved. Of course, Herculaneum was hidden so deeply under what had now become the ‘new’ ground at a much higher level than before, that nobody knew that Herculaneum even existed until many years later when a farmer dug up some marbles in 1709.
I will never forget the range of emotions that I felt while walking through the ancient town. A combination of fascination and as to how very strong, intelligent and resourceful the Romans were along with a sadness at recognising the deep sense of fear and panic that must have engulfed them emotionally as the surge did physically. This was particularly poignant when seeing items such as a baby’s crib and bowl of olives, all perfectly preserved, as well as the skeletons in the boathouses of people who were attempting to flee to the safety of the sea at what used to be the coastline. You can read more about our visit to Herculaneum and see more photos here.
The Palace of Caserta
The Royal Palace of Caserta was built in the 18th century for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It was one of the largest palaces built during that era and is the largest Royal residence in the world covering an area of 235,000 square metres.
When we visited the palace we failed to understand the parking attendant who was trying to inform us that it was actually shut on Tuesdays so we did an about turn and decided to visit Herculaneum instead. Having two double buggies meant that it was difficult for us to explore the interior of the palace’s five floors so, restricted to the ground floor only, we made our way past the gaggle of street sellers at every turn through to the gardens which were magnificent.
Again, due to the buggies – and perhaps a little to the €50 fare we were being asked for each of the two carts we would have required – we opted against the horse and cart rides through the extensive grounds and decided to take a leisurely walk instead. The leisurely walk lasted a good few hours and resulted in a fair few rest breaks in the relatively low 20-something degree celcius heat of the day. The amble was long but the stunning surroundings made it one of the most pleasurable walks you could wish for.
You could easily see why it was made a UNESCO site in 1997 and, as if its acknowledgement there isn’t enough, it also boasts a claim to fame as Queen Amidala’s royal palace in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and then again as Queen Jamillia’s palace in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Vietri sul Mare
I will always regret not backing up my photographs from our 2013 road trip as my computer died shortly after and I lost many of our pictures. Talk about a huge lesson learnt! This, along with not keeping note of the name of the fabulous restaurant we discovered in Vietri sul Mare, is something I still kick myself over.
Still, every cloud has a silver lining so what better excuse to go and revisit the western Salerno town, the first pearl along the black sand of the Amalfi coast?
If you visit you will also notice ceramics everywhere, decorating plinths and posts along the roadside and embedded into the walls of buildings, a nod to its famous handicraft that has been passed down from generation to generation.
If you fancy a short drive from Naplies, Vietri sul Mare is definitely worth a visit – and if you find Enzo’s restaurant, let us know!