I don't think I'd be able to go back and write a travelog for this trip, which I took more than 15 years ago. It was my only solo trip to Italy, so far, but I think it was probably my favorite. I flew into Rome, then took a train to Naples, and the local Circumvesuvia (named after Mt. Vesuvius, which looms over the countryside) line to Sorrento. There, I rented a moped and spent a week exploring the south of Italy. I made it all the way south down to Metapontum -- the sole of the "boot" of Italy. I took lots of wonderful photos, some of which I have scanned and uploaded onto this page.
One of the main reason I came to Southern Italy was to visit Pompeii and Herculanaeum -- two Roman cities that were destroyed when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Sorrento is a great place to base yourself out of to visit them (and the Amalfi coast, below). It is a pleasant, tourist-friendly town with seaside views and plenty of nice hotels.
A street in Pompeii
Roman Theater in Pompeii
Wealthy Roman's villa in Pompeii
The Amalfi Coast
In my opinion, this is the most beautiful coastline in the world. The road clings to dramatic hillsides whose cliffs sometimes dive deep down into the blue-green sea. Coastal towns seem to rise up from the sea like multi-colored wedding cakes. Castles and forts guard the rocky coastline. It seems impossible to drive without stopping every mile or so to admire the breath-taking views and drink in the amazing panorama of land, sea and town.
The seaside town of Positano -- the most beautiful on the coast (this is one of my most favorite photographs I have ever taken)
Steep cliffsides lead to dramatic views with every twist and turn of the coastal road
What the beaches lack in smooth sand, they make up for with incredible views. Who needs a book to read on the beach when you're surrounded by natural beauty?
One of the many ancient castles and fortifications clinging to the rocky coastline
Amalfi's slopes take on a reddish tint as the sun sinks in the west
Rural Italy is full of photogenic charms, everything from Graeco-Roman ruins (the Greeks colonized Southern Italy before the Roman conquest) to hilltop medieval fortifications to quaint villages basking in the sunshine. The week I spent zooming along the road in a moped was one of the most scenic I'd spent anywhere in the world. Each day, my command of Italian became better and I could converse easier with the welcoming, easygoing inhabitants. When I reached the Mediterranean coast in the far south, I knew I had to turn around. It was a long way back to Sorrento, and my time was running out.
The first stop on my way south were the Greek (yes, Greek) temples at Paestum. The best-preserved Greek temple in the world happens to be in Italy!
Terra cotta rooftops and a village church spire warmed by the afternoon sun
An ancient mode of transportation on a modern roadway greets the visitor to Southern Italy
Is it a Roman temple on top of that hill? A monastery? Maybe one day I'll go back and find out...
The rugged, hilly countryside of southern Italy is cut by rivers and gorges
In the Middle Ages, Italians built their towns on top of hills to guard against Mediterranean pirates
My last day in Italy, I visited the Roman town of Herculanaeum. Where Pompeii was covered by Mt. Vesuvius' ash, this town was covered by lava flow. It is equally well preserved, if less well known. Wandering its streets was like a dream. So many relics of the ancient days stood there under the hot sun, ready for the visitor to touch or run his hands along. The colors on the murals were vibrant, more than 2,000 years later.
Villa of a wealthy Roman
Interior of a home in Heculanaeum, with brilliant decorations still visible on the walls
Close up of a mural -- the colors are simply amazing
A fountain on a street corner would have provided drinking water to the inhabitants of the town