Thursday, November 23, 2006

Vesuvius, Sorrento and Positano 11.20.06

Mt. Vesuvius, Naples 11.19.06

The sun is shining now through the dark clouds. It rained last night after a beautiful couple of days. On Sunday after a lazy morning at home we drove around Vesuvius to see how far up we could get. Since it was already afternoon, we didn't expect the Observation Center to be open and didn't follow the directions our guidebook gave us, instead, looking at the map we tried to figure out an alternate way to get there. Not the best move, since the road we took went past some of the least attractive, downright unpleasant looking little places.

The only shining moment was finding a wonderful little Salumeria (like a delicatessen) whose name, also a surprise "Alfonso Living Food" - that could easily fit in some of the more upscale towns - was there in a place called San Giuseppe Vesuviano, within the Parco Nationale Vesuvio. The owners were delightful, friendly people. We asked them to make a couple of panini for us and tasted the delicious rice balls, everything made fresh on the premises. The shelves are well stocked with wonderful wines, fat prosciutto hams hang above the counters, the deli case a treasure trove of local delicacies. We were offered a taste of the prosciutto and a glass of wine as their young son played nearby and friends talked and laughed together, sampling the goodies and we presume, taking some home. Since 1918, there has been a shop here, run by the same family.

If you find yourself in this area, please stop and say hello, and by all means, eat! Alfonso's wife speaks very good English, having family in New York. Alfonso Living Food, Via Carbonari, n. 12, 80047 San Giuseppe Vesuviano, Naples.

We drove away from there with such a good feeling but within a short distance, the area of the Parco, on the east side of the volcano, left a lot to be desired. Piles of garbage bags surrounded all the bins, which were overflowing, trash littered the sides of the streets and an overall atmosphere of neglect and squalor took us by surprise. According to the guidebook, Mt. Vesuvius is one of the most visited places in Italy, and one would expect the area around it to be a little more cared for. I hate to be so judgmental about it, but our overall impression of this area was that we weren't in any hurry to go back, except to visit Alfonso's!

The higher up the side of the volcano we drove, the nicer the surrounding area, as the yucky stuff gave way to olive groves and some vineyards and a few homes scattered here and there. Eventually we arrived at a point where, if you wanted to hike further on, you could park your car, but the road ended. We were not in a position to do that as it was getting late and we didn't want to leave our car unattended in this somewhat remote location. Perhaps another day, we'll do as the guidebook suggests and visit the Observatory and learn more about the volcano. But on this particular day, we simply got back in our car and headed back to Vietri, a little disappointed, a little tired, but that's the way it goes.

(to be continued: Sorrento and Positano 11.20.06)

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