Erupting into Sorrento

View of VesuviusCompared to Rome’s station, Napoli Centrale was smaller and grittier – as if actually trying to live up to a bad reputation. There were no bookstores or kiosks selling perfume, just a handful of sleazy souvenir stands selling pornography and 3-D pictures of Jesus. I didn’t want to be here. Everybody and his paisano advised us against going to Naples. We’d been told that in Rome they pick your pocket but in Naples they put a gun to your head. Even the woman sitting across from us on the train warned us – with waving finger and bulging eyes – no Napoli! Regardless, Naples was the only place to catch a transfer to our destination of Sorrento.

We dumped our packs in an area that looked to be the safest place in the station – next to a brand new police car that had been wheeled into the lobby as a display (and a warning). Shari and I went hunting for tickets to our connecting train. We followed a sign reading which lead us down a flight of stairs to a windowless fluorescent tunnel. There, ticketing clerks were safely encased behind thick Plexiglas, which didn’t make us feel any safer. We took a place in line and my eyes darted about for potential trouble. An unkempt young man approached our line and looked to be cutting in. He stumbled up to the stainless ticket counter and placed his palm out. He looked stoned out of his mind and I felt sorry for him. I decided to give him whatever change I received after buying our tickets. That moment arrived and I turned to give him my change. His forearm was still raised high, but he’d passed out. He was literally asleep on his feet. It was the first time I’d ever awakened a panhandler to give him money.

I breathed a sigh of relief once we boarded the Circumvesuviana. The only thing harder than pronouncing its name was the feel of its fiberglass seats. This rickety train provided the best mode of transportation along the half moon shaped coast to the popular tourist cities of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Sorrento. Naples looked better from a distance. The view of the Bay was spectacular in fact. The imposing mammoth grey mound known as Mount Vesuvius filled the windows. The infamous volcano that blew so long ago and buried Pompeii. Our train finally reached the green hills at the tip of the peninsula where the quiet and sunny Sorrento awaited us. Once there, I looked back across the bay – spying the ominous mountains reach.

NEXT: Don’t Get Between an Italian and his Cheese

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