Geographically Challenged in Italy: Sorrento & Capri

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The Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius from the hotel balcony

In my quest to find hotels in Sorrento I mistakenly thought Hotel Torre Barbara was closer to the town of Sorrento and easily accessible via the train. Not so much. It turns out our hotel was in Vico Equense which is not too far from Sorrento, but definitely not within walking distance. Rick Steves recommended using Sorrento as a “home base” for getting around the area. Who am I to argue with Rick Steves? Well, those crazy little online maps you use when picking hotels in a particular area can be deceptive if you don’t pay attention to scale. Guess what? I didn’t pay attention to scale and we stayed not exactly in Sorrento but up the road a little way, or maybe more. Live and learn I guess!

View of Vico Equense from the balcony

View of Vico Equense from the balcony

This charming hotel, Hotel Torre Barbara, is perched on the side of a steep hill and has several rooms. It was clean, spacious, and our room had a huge balcony with French doors, chaise lounges and a dazzling view of Mt. Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. The staff was wonderful, even if there was a bit of a language barrier. They even have an outdoor restaurant perched at the top of a hill next to a garden with lemon trees, and a stunning view of the bay!

Lemon trees in a courtyard

Lemon trees in a courtyard

Laughing in the Sorrento market after buying a t-shirt to cool off

Laughing in the Sorrento market after buying a t-shirt to cool off

Public transportation in Italy is fantastic. I liked it even better than NYC. I live in a rural area where public transportation doesn’t exist, so I’m not exactly savvy. Nonetheless, I do like to research. The easiest way to get to Sorrento from Rome is via the direct (and much faster) Trenitalia Frecciarossa train from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrali. Figure anywhere from $20 Euros to $100 Euros per person, depending on which class ticket you choose, the day, and the departure time. I recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time and using the e-ticket option. It takes about an hour and ten minutes to get to Naples on the Frecciarossa train. You can then transfer to the local train to Sorrento, or in our case, Vico Equense from the Napoli Centrali station.

Ancient Greek gate at the Marina Grande in Sorrento

Ancient Greek gate at the Marina Grande in Sorrento

Marina Grande, Sorrento

Marina Grande, Sorrento

Getting to the train from your hotel without too much trouble is easy if your hotel has a shuttle to the train. The train station in Vico Equense is a little confusing and is not manned, but once you figure it out it takes no time at all to get to Sorrento or Pompeii. The going was never the problem, it was coming back that proved more difficult. More on that in a moment…

Capri from the Hydrofoil

Marina Grande on Capri from the Hydrofoil

Local trains are inexpensive! For several Euros you can get a ticket to and fro and the trains run pretty frequently. The train station in Sorrento is in town and a short walking distance from everything you’ll want to see in the city and it is the same at the Pompeii Scavi stop in the other direction.

Marina Grande in Sorrento

Marina Grande in Sorrento

Remember I was telling you about coming back being more difficult? Well, returning to the station in Vico Equense is easy. Getting back to the hotel leaves you with few options. You can call a taxi and pay about $15 Euros for a very short, windy trip to the hotel. Or you can walk. We opted for walking. The hotel was a little over a mile away. How hard could that be? Anytime you ask yourself that question you should know before throwing it out to the universe that it’s not going to go as planned. Honestly, it wasn’t bad, but it is hilly there and it seemed longer than a mile by the time we reached the hotel. At least I got FitBit steps for that loooooong, winding hill. On the bright side all those calories burned walking earned me more food!

The town of Capri

The town of Capri

The point of all this? Don’t do what I did and be sure to pay attention to scale if you’re using public transportation as your means to get around ’cause booking far from where you think you are might be a problem. As for renting a car I’ll be honest, after watching Italian drivers whip around corners while hugging the cliffs at lightning speed, I’m not sure that’s the best option unless you’re sure of where you’re going. Italian drivers are sharp, aggressive, and don’t mess around. If you do take the plunge and rent a car, gird your loins and prepare for your ears to be assaulted with horns and the occasional shout whilst getting passed at Mach 10. In Italy driving is no joke.

The Carthusian monastery Certosa di San Giacomo

The Carthusian monastery Certosa di San Giacomo

The trip to Capri is an easy one, all you need is a ticket for a Hydrofoil and you’re on your way! Once there, walking is the best way to get around the marina. The town of Capri is way up the hill so you’ll need to take the super cool Funicular (cliff railway) to the top. Anacapri, the quieter, smaller sister town on the island is accessible by way of bus, taxi from the Marina Grande. If you’re visiting the Blue Grotto, get there early. Everyone wants to visit the grotto, understandably. You’ll wait a long time to get in, but it’s the most extraordinary and unforgettable 15 minutes you’ll ever spend once you emerge inside the grotto.

Waiting in the dingy to get in the grotto

Waiting in the dinghy to get in the grotto

The glow of the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) is magical

The glow of the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) is magical

2 comments on “Geographically Challenged in Italy: Sorrento & Capri

  1. Gahhhh Capri is paradise! <3 I spent a long weekend based in Sorrento with a day trip to Capri when I studied abroad in Italy a few years back. Most.Amazing.Place.Ever. Cliff diving! Pebble beaches! Crazy scary taxi rides on mountainous islands along harrowing cliffs! The Siren rocks from The Odyssey! The one thing I didn't do was the Blue Grotto and some hiking trails, so I HAVE to go back to Capri eventually 😀

    • Hi Liz!

      Capri really is beautiful. The ride over on the hydrofoil was such a great way to see the coast. I wish I had more time on the island though. It took us much longer to do the grotto that we expected, but my son said that was one of his most favorite things, so how do I feel bad about that? The taxi rides are something else, are they not? You are so lucky to have studied abroad in Italy!! I’m already thinking about when I can go back, I loved it there!

      ~Mindy

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