The Badger Herald will feature a regular travel column straight from the hostels and hotels of the
Southern Mediterranean. This week, an exploration of the winding road from Roma to the island of Capri.
Only about eight hours by train from Rome, the island of Capri is a beautiful travel destination. The most direct way there is probably to take the train from Roma (Rome) to Napoli (Naples). The Napoli train station is located right in the center of the downtown area, but beware if you decide to
venture into the city for shopping or lunch. The traffic is completely unruly and cars stop for no one. It seems that the people of Napoli will drive and park anywhere they please — even on the sidewalk.
The southern part of Italy is renowned for its seafood and, after walking just a few blocks from the train station, one can encounter an outdoor fish market. Unlike most fish markets in the U.S., the fish are mostly all alive with big barrels of water holding swimming octopi, crabs and eels.
Once you are ready to leave Napoli, you should take a train called the “circumvesuvius.” This train goes around and sometimes through Mount Vesuvius, the still-active volcano which erupted in ancient times and buried the city of Pompei. The ruins of Pompei are along the circumvesuvius
route; just get off at “i ruini di Pompei” and walk about two blocks to the front entrance gate. Simply pick up a free map at the information booth because most of the tours are in Italian.
The ruins are amazingly well preserved and vast. One could spend the majority of a day walking up and down the ancient streets, in and out of gardens and temples, without seeing it all. If you climb up into one of the temples and look out you can see the city’s wall and beyond it, far in the distance, is the looming Mount Vesuvius — a hauntingly poignant reminder of the city’s tragic history.
Equally sad testaments to Pompei’s horrific end are the lava preserved bodies of some of the former citizens. In glass cases scattered throughout the city, these frozen people are forever locked in expressions of terror and remorse. However, because of its intactness, Pompei is a spectacular place to visit in order to get a sense of the way that Italy looked during the time of the Roman empire.
Getting back on the Circumvesuvius will take you on to the city of Spoleto. While Capri is mainly a resort locality for the wealthy and the hotels are therefore generally unaffordable, Spoleto is a much more economic place to spend the night. The town has an active nightlife with plenty of outdoor bars and discoteques. The streets are lined with vibrant orange tree, but don’t be tempted to eat one as the fruit is bitter and tough.
Walking around Spoleto, you will find cliffs which overlook the Mediterranean Sea and you can see Capri close by. Buy a ticket for a hydrofoil and head to the docks. Every hour or so these giant boats ferry droves of people from Spoleto to Capri in trips that take about 20 minutes.
Once you arrive on the docks in Capri, tour guides will appear out of nowhere and try to sell you day trips by boat around the island. The trips don’t cost very much and provide the only way to see the famous “Blue Grotto.” Accessible only by boat, these famous caves are constantly bathed in a surreal blue light.
If you opt to stay on land, there are plenty of seafood restaurants and shops to peruse. You can take a bus to the other side of the island to get to the larger beaches but there are a few small ones near the docks. These are rock, not sand, beaches and the water is frequently too cold for swimming, but the view is beautiful. You must pay for the right to sit in a lounge chair but you can loiter on the beach for as long as you like.
This tropical, seaside part of Italy is completely different from the central and northern regions of the country and it is worth the trip to see all the vastly different beauty Italy has to offer.