November is the rainiest month in Italy. So, we knew we’d be risking our chances with the weather for our two-week trip. We awoke to our first rainy day in Naples (Napoli). Timing a break in the rain, we walked to a nearby café where we enjoyed traditional pastries and an authentic cappuccino for breakfast. There was an impressive thunder storm during our breakfast and we even saw some hail stones bouncing in the rain on the street outside.
After the worst of the weather had cleared, we ventured back outside and wandered towards the city centre, passing through some markets along the way.
We decided to visit the Naples Church, ‘Cattedrale di San Gennaro’. This was a grand cathedral with many beautiful areas inside. During our visit it began to bucket down again outside, so we extended our time there, keeping dry as we admired the beautiful art.
Eventually the rain seemed to be easing, so we decided to go outside again. The rain never fully stopped, but we had our trusty rain jackets and our new winter boots passed their waterproof test in the deep puddles. Everyone in Naples seemed to have their umbrellas which created a cool atmosphere in the busy streets.
The next day was a bit overcast, but less rain. So, we decided to walk along the waterfront of Naples.
Partway along the waterfront the clouds lifted and we were treated to a view of Mt. Vesuvius.
It was a pretty relaxed morning of walking along the waterfront, taking in the views, people watching and admiring the buildings. We also enjoyed traditional Napoli pizza and also the ‘fried pizza’ from Mataeo’s Pizzeria.
Next stop was Galleria Borbonica, one of Naples famous underground tunnels. Here we went on the hour tour beneath the city. The tunnel was originally built to serve King Ferdinand II of Bourbon but later was used as war bunkers to protect the civilians of Naples during the air raids. After the war the tunnels were neglected. The police utilised the main ‘Bourbon tunnel’ as storage for impounded vehicles. Inadvertently city trash filled most of the underground space until recently when it was cleared out to become a new tourist and historic attraction.
We resurfaced and continued to explore Naples from above, walking through the city centre and stopping for our first genuine gelato!
The next day we checked-out of our Naples apartment and picked up our rental car from the city centre. Kadin managed to drive us out of the city, enduring the infamous Italian drivers (whom weren’t that bad, although the roads were). We headed straight towards “one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes”; Vesuvius, given this ominous title due to the large population of people living within the danger zone. We became acutely aware of this fact through the short drive from downtown Naples to Vesuvius; within 40 minutes (including traffic congestion) we found ourselves parked near the top of this active volcano enjoying the view of the sprawling city below! With our car parked, we ascended to the summit, a steep climb, but the views were incredible. We also saw some smoke escaping the crater. Some bubbling lava would have been somewhat inviting, because the wind was very chilly on the summit.
Next, we headed for the Sorrento peninsular. The roads were hectic with congested traffic. Most of the journey was through busy narrow streets in built up towns, however as we got closer to Sorrento, we passed through an impressive 5km stretch of tunnels.
We had a couple of opportunities to pull over and take a few shots of the Sorrento coastline.
Our airbnb was in the small village Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi (translates to: ‘upon two gulfs’), located on a hill overlooking both the gulfs of Naples and Salerno. We booked a five-night stay with the plans of using this as a base to explore the Sorrento peninsula, including a full day on Capri Island. Unfortunately, the weather got wetter and windier… So, we enjoyed some downtime; playing card games, reading books and watching some Netflix instead.
After the storm had passed, we decided to go for a drive around the Sorrento peninsula. Many of the beaches were closed up and the water was still a bit choppy (no boat trip to Capri for us). There were also a few slips on the roads and trees had blown over, part of our fence at our airbnb had blown off too. But we were happy to see some blue sky and to get out of our house for a bit.
After our drive, we went for a walk up to ‘Monastero di San Paolo,’ a monastery on the hill above our airbnb. Although it wasn’t open during our visit, we enjoyed the views from the property.
After another day of rain we finally got a decent day. So we headed into Sorrento for a day of exploring. It’s very difficult to find parking in Sorrento, and almost unheard of to find free parking (even in November). However, with a bit of luck we managed to score a free car-park (even though it was about 1.5kms from the city centre)… this saved us €3 per hour! It was an interesting town to walk around, with plenty of lemon orchards scattered throughout.
We walked a lot… through the city, down the steep streets to the sea, and back up again! After a quick stop at one of the many churches in the town, we indulged ourselves with Italian pastries and very rich hot chocolates for lunch.
But one of the best parts was the Christmas decorations that were being installed throughout the city…
The next day we checked-out and commenced on the notorious Amalfi Coast drive. We’d read a lot about this drive… enough to provoke nightmares! But it really wasn’t as bad as we’d expected. Yes, it was a narrow, twisting road on the edge of coastal cliffs… but no-one ever exceeded a speed of 50km/h and it was insanely scenic. Of course, it’d be a frustrating experience during the peak tourist months. However, being November, the occasional pull over bays were mostly free so we were able to stop several times for photo opportunities (and when we couldn’t, I was able to take action shots from the passenger seat).
Eventually we made it to our next accommodation in the small coastal village, Minori. It took us a while to locate our airbnb, up on the hills along the narrow and poorly mapped roads. Our host waved at us from down the road and we were soon parked and following him up the path to our little guest house in his lemon orchard. It was a beautiful place to call home for the next 3-nights. Unfortunately, the awning had been left out by the previous guests and subsequently broken off in the stormy weather. However, with more rain in the forecast, we were unlikely to need a sun awning for our balcony anyway.
After we’d settled in we decided to walk down to Minori. There was a pedestrian path directly across the road from us which consisted of rather steep steps descending to the town below.
We strolled around the sleepy town streets and spent some time watching the stormy waves crashing on the beach. Later, we enjoyed a free limoncello tasting (thanks to our airbnb host) and some delicious pastries.
With the sun beginning to set, we started our trek back up the steep steps to our airbnb, working off those tasty treats and enjoying the view as we went…
The next day we awoke to another storm, so we just stayed in bed… The day after that was much better, so we left early to fit in two-days’ worth of activities into one! We drove back up the Amalfi coast towards the hillside village, Bomerano, stopping to admire some of the views when possible.
We parked our car in the town (utilising the free carpark) and commenced on ‘The Path of the Gods’ – ‘Sentiero degli Dei’. This walk gains its name from the stunning scenery of the Amalfi coastline from its elevated vantage point. We were glad we’d waited for the clear day…
After lunch back in Bomerano, we drove back towards our next hillside village, Ravello. Being one of the Amalfi’s most popluar tourist destinations, it is very difficult to find car parking (especially free). However, once again, we managed to find ourselves a free roadside park (although, again about 1.5kms from the town centre). Nevertheless, the walk into town offered us views back to Minori and we could even spot our airbnb nestled amongst the lemon orchard.
The town centre of Ravello is locked off for pedestrians only, and due to our off-peak visit, many of the shops were closed up. This didn’t bother us, as we were able to explore the nearly deserted streets.
We visited Villa Cimbrone, a 5-star hotel in a historic manor overlooking the Amalfi coast. For those who are unable to afford the extravagance of this luxury accommodation, they can pay to visit the gardens for the day; we opted for this. The forever forecasted rain decided to pour down during our visit. We waited it out and were thankful for persevering once the rainclouds had blown away…
Whilst the Amalfi coast is beautiful, especially with nice weather such as the day we walked ‘The Path of Gods’, most photos that show up on google/instagram are incredibly enhanced and oversaturated – If you visit it yourself, don’t expect the vibrant over the top colours to be visible to the naked eye.
The next day we left the Amalfi coast, returning our rental car to Naples and then catching a train north to Milan. We caught the super-fast train (reaching top speed of 295km/h). It took us about 4 hours, passing through Rome, Florence and Bologna. We arrived in Milan in the evening. Our airbnb was conveniently located within walking distance to Milano Centrale. It wasn’t until the next morning that we could fully appreciate the views of the city from our penthouse apartment.
Milan is a very flat city (ideal for the heels worn by all the fashionistas). So we decided to conquer the city on foot. Our walk started by leading us through the newest part of Milan (built for World Expo in 2015) and then towards the more iconic old Milan.
We were drawn towards Milan’s star attraction, the Duomo Catholic Cathedral. Across the square was also the impressive Galleria Vittorio Emmanuel II, Italy’s oldest shopping mall with a beautiful iron-and-glass roof. This was a super popular place with crowds of people and an impressive flock of pigeons too! We didn’t pay to go inside Duomo, choosing to admire the exterior of the building instead.
After lunch in the city centre, we walked south to Navigli to walk along Leonardo da Vinci’s canals.
Then we stopped in at Castello Sforzesco and the surrounding Sempione Park.
On our way back to our apartment we were mesmerised by a large flock of birds swarming above the buildings (almost like a Hitchcock film).
The next day we caught the morning train to Como, spending our final day in Italy taking in lake and mountain views. The town was looking stunning with the autumn trees and also a snow-capped mountain peeking through the clouds across the lake.
We visited Villa Olmo on the lake. Built in 1812 for the family Raimondi and Visconti di Modrone, it now belongs to the Como municipality and is open to the public for free, often hosting art exhibitions. The inside was rather grand, most of the rooms were left empty and undergoing restoration.
Como was getting ready for its Christmas markets while we were there (looking forward to more of this soon). After lunch, we wandered around the picturesque streets before taking the train back to Milan, ready to depart by train to France the next day.
Have fun at work!