The next day was a long day of mostly travelling out of the Umbria region, across the center of Italy and down to Sorrento via the motorway where we stopped several times for breaks and lunch at motor stops. The scenery here was very different as we were now in the valleys and were looking up at the mountain ranges rather than looking down into the rolling valleys. We passed Rome which we could see at a distance, and Naples. The outskirts of Naples looked pretty poor and run down and I hear most of the city is like that too. We didn’t go into Naples at all on this tour and from all i’ve heard about the crowded polluted, crime-ridden city, i’m just as glad.
The bay of Sorrento (finally under sunny skies!) was beautiful with Mount Vesuvius dominating the scene! Palm trees, and the blue Mediterranean. Sorrento, nestled against the bay around a point so you can’t see Vesuvius from there. It has lots of lemon and other fruit groves all over the place, though it seemed pretty crowded with lots of frantic traffic. The cars were SO SMALL! Wee little vehicles but could seat 4 people (and the engine). Small truck cabs with only three wheels and two men jammed in the seats, and pulling a small trailer behind for the goods. None of the cars were taller than my shoulder and most smaller. Oh, and the scooters! Everywhere, zipping in and out and around the cars. Quite a hazard!
The pollution is worse here and in Rome I guess because of the cars for one. The don’t have pollution control on the exhaust and I think they still have leaded gasoline. Looking over the Bay of Naples towards the city of Naples or over the city of Rome you can see a haze, almost yellow in colour and you think it’s going to get overcast but no matter how far you drive, it stays clear skies above you with the haze still visible in the distance. We all felt like we had head colds by the second day in Rome! No wonder!
Lemons are the claim to fame of Sorrento and there are lemons on everything possible to buy though mostly not tacky stuff. Lots of ceramic wares and tiles that were actually quite nice and colourful (some depicting lemons, some not!! :-) ) There is a lemon liqueur made here that is quite tangy and strong. The market streets are very narrow with lots of little tourist, fruit, veg, fish and butcher shops all along.
Our hotel, the Rota, was not bad at all. Fairly comfortable beds, but no shower curtains! We were warned that this could be a possibility too! The floors were marble, purple in our room and we had a little balcony overlooking a parking lot and lemon grove. The dining room was plain and small though large enough for our group and the food was actually some of the best hotel restaurant food we had in Italy.
The first evening in Sorrento we were walked through the main streets and to a look off point. We had stops at a liquor store, a cameo store and a wood inlaying factory and were treated to a gelato. Dinner in the hotel was actually pretty good as were all the meals we had in our three night stop here with excellent homemade soups and pastas and yes, more pork one night. Breakfasts here were the same as most places, hard hollow rolls and tea/coffee and juice. We were reduced to making non stop jokes about the hollow rolls by the end of the trip. Sometimes we were lucky and also had croissants on the table (Rome). We made sure we also kept snacks like packages of cookies or crackers with us for hunger pains since continental breakfasts like that don’t hold you very long when you’re travelling and doing a lot each day.