Friday, January 3, 2020

Naples, Amalfi: noisy, elegant, brash, dignified, enduring -- plus pizza

If the Amalfi Coast calls you, Naples is where you'll likely land first, via airplane or ship. Then on to Positano, or
perhaps charming Sorrento. Don't miss the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, victims of still steaming Vesuvius.  


Cigarettes and cell phones on a colorful Naples street.
This lively, ancient city is a gateway to Pompeii, Amalfi and more.

OLD MEETS NEW, noise collides with calm, clutter meets elegance in one of southern Europe's great, enduring cities.
In Naples and this diverse corner of Italy are courtyards and grand staircases, elegant halls and busy streets, buses, scooters, smokers,  tourists, busts, dust, great museums, majestic cathedrals and irreverent youth.
Bruce Keller waits in Naples at the Napoli Garibaldi
train station.  He is framed by a billboard for Strega,
 an orange flavored Italian liquer popular in Naples.  
The city is one of contrasts and extremes, sandwiched between the Campi Flegrei, or "burning fields" and a sleeping volcano.
Just steps from the  sea, Naples
rises up, with antiquity and grace.
THE VOLCANO, Vesuvius, is one of the major attractions for visitors to Naples, who usually plan a few sidetrips -- to Positano and the Amalfi Coast, lovely Sorrento and two famous ruined cities.
Both Pompeii and Herculaneum have interesting museums
with sculptures, displays and interesting background.
In AD79, Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii, south of Rome, in about 25 hours. A full day is about what you should plan to see the fascinating city.   The preserved site features excavated ruins of streets and houses that one can freely explore. Because the city was buried so quickly by volcanic ash, it is an eerily, well-preserved snapshot of life in a Roman city -- people crafting pottery, shopping, even giving birth.
Equally fascinating is nearby Herculaneum, also destroyed by the vengeful Vesuvius. Unlike Pompeii, though, the smaller, wealthier city was encased in a pyroclastic material that covered and carbonized the town.  This preserved wood in objects -- roofs, beds and doors -- and organic-based materials such as food for us to study.
Most but not all of the residents evacuated the city in advance, the first well-preserved skeletons of 400 people who perished near the seawall were discovered in 1980.
Italy's train stations will get you from Naples to the
historic cities destroyed by Vesuvius. (Plus shopping, ask Cookie!)
The easiest way to get from Naples to Pompeii or by Herculaneum is by train.
Each takes about 30-40 minutes and there are many of these friendly "regional" trains.
WE LIKE the trains but if you prefer a shuttle, that's a possibility, too. We recommend CBS Tours (Can't Be Missed) for a personalized day tour up the Amalfi Coast to Positano. Terrific commentary, small vehicle.
Back in Naples, a pizza maker sings Verdi while he works his dough. You're in the birthplace of pizza, so enjoy.  Young boys approach the tourist with smiles and Neapolitan gestures.  Couples lounge in wicker seats drinking champagne at outdoor cafe tables -- as early as 10:30 a.m.
Life is lived large in the streets. Strollers enter a mix of students, housewives, children with music everywhere: a mix of opera, hard-rock and Italian folk songs. Music is in the Neapolitan soul.

Keller and Cookie admire the view of Amalfi.
 IF HOMER is to be believed, Ulysses was the first mariner to escape temptation in the Bay of Naples. According to "The Odyssey," Ulysses knew of the bay’s infamous sirens — part women, part bird or nymph — who lured sailors to their death by singing so beautifully that no one could sail on without succumbing. So when returning from the Trojan War, he plugged the ears of his crew with beeswax and bound himself to the mast until they were safely past the sirens. Angry over their failure to seduce the sailors, one of the sirens, Parthenope, drowned herself. The original Naples supposedly began on the spot where she washed ashore.

CBM Tours offers spirited treks up the Amalfi Coast and more.
Communities around Naples date to the second millennium before Christ. Europeans visit Naples for its mild, sunny Mediterranean climate, safe harbor, turquoise sky, and indigo sea. Its lush green look is enhanced by rich volcanic soil and an easy growing season. THE RAVAGES of World War II are mostly repaired, as are the results of centuries of earthquakes and volcanic activity. The traditional Christmas trees are up for a few more days!
Celebrated for its paintings, mosaics and music, Naples is breathtakingly beautiful approached from the sea. But don't miss a few days "up the road" to Sorrento, those two ruined cities and Amalfi's enchanting coastline. 
MORE INFO: In many trips to this gorgeous part of Italy, Can't Be Missed Tours is our favorite:;  And for general information on the area:

Nick, left, and Nora, were four months old in this photo, taken early in 2006.
UP NEXT:  Why the fuss about dogs from yours truly this week?  One doggie, in particular, our Yorkshire terrier, Nora, came close to the Rainbow Bridge but has made a remarkable comeback thanks to a fine veterinarian, a doggie ICU and plenty of TLC from the human species.  Doggone it, we love our pets and make no apology. Discover how Yorkie Nora and her brother, Nick came to Cookie as puppies and helped save this reporter's life. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, theater, art, nature, family and more.


  1. Pittsburg GlobetrottersJanuary 4, 2020 at 1:28 PM

    Fun time with you on the road. As always, enjoy the spirited commentary and kovely photos.

  2. Exciting options for neophytes such as ourselves....we are just beginning our travel life together, aspiring to follow in your adventuresome footsteps.

  3. Fort Lauderdale FansJanuary 6, 2020 at 6:47 PM

    We always enjoy these travel posts. Gives us ideas and an experienced slant.