How to get to Sorrento and the Amalfi cost by train

Last week I was on a train leaving Roma Termini heading for Napoli Centrale – on my way to Sorrento. Amongst the cacophony of Italians shifting their luggage and trying to find their seat on the train I heard two people arguing in English. The couple was heading to Sorrento for their honeymoon. Their bags were on the ground. The husband had his hands in the air. The wife was pointing at the husband. Since the commotion was getting most everyone’s attention on the train, I decided to walk over and see if I could help. Long story short, we ended up talking for the majority of the ride to Napoli Centrale.

They had just landed in Rome and we slowly making there way to Sorrento. Several things happen to them within the first 48 hours of their honeymoon; missed one train, purchased the wrong train ticket, were late getting into their destination, and had several arguments.

Over the next hour the conversation seemed to clam the couple down.

Once we arrived at Napoli Centrale I helped them with their connection to Sorrento. That interaction was a great reminder just of how hard it can be to travel when all the “Italian travel factors’ are hitting you all at once. Even the simplest things, can become disastrous, making it really hard to get from point A to point B.

Here are 6 steps to get to, and from, Sorrento.

1. Arrive at Napoli Centrale. Once you have arrived at Napoli Centrale located the Circumvesuviana logo. The logo is on most signs and directing traffic to ticket office and track numbers. The circumvesuviana signs points toward the escalator heading under the main platform.

Here is the Circumvesuviana logo.


2. Head toward the Circumvesuviana. The circumvesuviana is located in a separate part of the Napoli Centrale train station. Once you get off the escalator under the main platform, turn left, and head straight down the hall way.  The circumvesuviana track and ticket window is located about 100 yards at the end of the hallway, and south of the main train platform.
3. Buy tickets. Once you arrive at the circumvesuviana window, tickets are available for the train to Sorrento and cost 4 euro each way. I recommend purchasing two tickets per person in advance. Tickets are not time sensitive and only become active when you validate them. It’s really nice not to worry about your return ticket while in Sorrento, and it can save time to already have a return ticket purchased when you arrive.
4. Find the train to Sorrento. The train that leaves for Sorrento departs from track 3 – in Italian it’s binario 3. Here are two important time management items to remember when on the train, (1) the trip to Sorrento from Napoli Centrale takes about 110 minutes and (2) there are 33 quick stops between Circumvesuviana at Napoli Centrale station and Sorrento.

Please note: There are three different destinations departing from track 3. Make sure the final destination on the train says Sorrento.

Click here to view the train departure schedules.

5. Arrive in Sorrento. Sorrento’s city center several blocks from the station. To get there, you must head down the stairs of the train station, head straight for two blocks, turn left, and continue about 5 blocks to Sorrento’s city center.
6. Go onward. There are buses departing to Positano, Ravello, Vietri, and Amalfi all available right out side the train station. Tickets can be purchased at the coffee bar across the street from the station.

The Amalfi coast, like most sights in Italy, is really busy during the height of tourist season. In the off-season it’s very mellow and easy to move between the cities.
For Italian enthusiasts the Amalfi coast easily makes their top 10 list of places to see. It’s full of southern Italian beauty and a great place to soak up the Mediterranean sun!

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Tips for traveling with your kids in Italy

I have been asked twice about bring kids to Italy in the last month.  Once by a coworker; once by an old friend – who is looking to join me on a trip next year. My first response, off the top of my head, is almost always no.  There are always exceptions, and every kid is different. But generally, I don’t recommend it – I’ll get off my soap box now.  For those brave few who tackle this daunting task I can lend some insight.

Here are the top 3 things to help your kids have a great time in Italy.

    • Snacks.  Let’s face it when we are tired, hungry, overheated, and missing the comforts of home, it always helps to have a comfort item to help deal with life.  A heart snack for those kids, or adults, who either can wait to the next meal, or are having trouble adapting to a new diet, is a life saver.
    • Water. More tourist die in Italy of heat stroke than anything else.  The Mediterranean sun is deceiving and hits you hard – especially when you least expect it.  Bring, or buy a bottle of water, and have it available when you’re out and about.
    • Kid Zone.  In all honesty, unless your kids love history and trying a new food, Italy doesn’t have much to offer in the way of kid friendly activates. Italy’s greatest strength is its ability to build memories.  I find that parents who are great a building memories thrive in Italy regardless of who is along for the ride. I encourage parents to turn a park into a playground. Have a picnic. Throw a Frisbee. Pass a soccer ball. There is nothing like a relaxing day in a park in the middle of
    • Food.  Italy has an amazing kid centric dish that is a combination of American and Italian food.  French fries and hotdog pizza is a staple among Italian kids.  You can get them at just about any pizzeria.
    • Cruise.  The best way to see parts of Italy while having a great place for kids to play is on a cruise.  There are many cruise lines that stop at major ports in Italy.   You don’t get to see much of the country side, but if you want to hit a few major spots, and be able to keep an eye on the kids then a cruise is a great way to go.

I’m always curious about what other parents recommend when traveling with their kids internationally.  Please don’t hesitate to leave your suggestions on traveling with kids.

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Who Else Wants to Visit and Experience Naples Italy?

If you’re asking: where to travel in Italy? Naples is a must see! The city has been a part of history for centuries. It is one of the few places in europe still dripping with old world elegance. It is a tough place to live. With organized crime, unemployment at staggering heights, it’s a place where people are bred to survive. It has been said that if you can live in Naples, you can live anywhere. Nevertheless, its a beautiful place to visit.

Here is the top 5 thing travlers must see, or do, in Naples.

  1. Castle Nuovo.  The castle sitting on the mediteranian this historic castle is one of two which sits on the bay.
  2. Piazza del Plebiscito.  The piazza is the heart of the downtown Naples. It’s a great place to have a quick sack lunch, and soak up one of the few open spaces in Naples.
  3. Galleria Umberto.  A hidden gem within downtown naples, the Galleria Umberto is elegant and sophistocated. It really shows how grand naples can be. The Galleria has a sister in the heart of Milano, but don’t tell the Neapolitans.
  4. Marechiaro.  This small clifside section of old naples is often forgotten. Back in the 1950s this was the place lovers spend their time. I often joke saying, it is where Sinatra’s spent his time in Naples. A small cultural fact: there are countless songs and idioms dedicated to this cove.
  5. Pizza.  Naples is the birthplace of pizza! Don’t waste your time with pizza in anyother city. The neapolitan pizza is unique flavors, ingrediants, dough and much more, only found in Naples. If you travel an hour north, the pizza is completely different!

All five things can be done by using the metro directly from Piazza Garibaldi – or rather, the train station in Naples. Naples is my favorite city in Italy. The people are real. The streets are alive. The sea is beyond beautiful. Do not miss an opportunity to make a stop in Naples.

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6 Preparations to Successfully Navigate the Intercity

The first time I tried to get from point A to point B in Rome I failed miserably.  The city was so busy and not clear marked – or so I thought – to properly direct me anywhere.  Yesterday I caught up with a friend who just spent the past year traveling the world.  Her trip was very missional in focus and she spent a lot of time helping orphanages, fighting against human trafficking, and working a variety of building projects.  During out conversation, I brought up how much I like Rome, She immediately said “I hated Rome.” I was surprised, especially after seeing a huge chunk of the world.  She said “It was too busy and it took me forever to find things I wanted to see.”

It made me realize that she was right.  I have spent so much time in Rome that I forgot how difficult it is to navigate the intercity.  As I thought about it most of the cities I visited for the first time were a headache to try and “figure out” for the first time.

Here are just a few European cities I had trouble navigating the first time through:

  • Rome
  • Naples
  • Venice
  • Munich
  • London
  • Frankfurt
  • Salzburg
  • Vienna

Most of these cities are fairly straight forward and I realize everyone’s’ struggles are different.  For me traveling came with a learning curve.

Here are 6 intercity preparations I make before traveling to a new city – or an old one.

  1. By reviewing a metro/bus map online before you arrive. Sounds straight forward but know where you need to be and how you are getting there are invaluable.  Just waving down a cab and saying “to this address.” Isn’t going to cut it.
  2. By downloading free Smartphone apps:  Most metropolitan cities have bus, metro, or tram apps available for your Smartphone. I have found a lot of them to be free. They can mean a 20 minutes difference.
  3. By asking locals opinion before you venture out.  Most locals are very proud of their city. And, if the city is visited often by tourists, they will be used to people asking questions.  They can be a great resource to double check information.
  4. By knowing what options you have available.  Not all cities offer all the same amenities; not all people prefer to travel on a train.  By knowing what public transportation is available to you before you arrive will help take the stress off of getting to your destination.
  5. By budgeting accordingly.  Most people do not even think about budgeting for metro or bus tickets; especially, when one only costs €1,50.  Most cities have website that will give you an idea of what tickets will cost and if there are any package deals available.
  6. By allotting the proper amount of time.  This one always gets people.  There are many who underestimate the amount of time it takes to get to any given destination – especially during peak tourist season. You generally know one of two of these people.  I recommend at lease an extra 15 to 20 minutes, depending on where you are headed, per location or sight.  It is always good to see 100% of all the items for that day – verses 80%.

The preparation time you have before a trip will make or break you.  These tips save time and allow for smooth navigation while traveling.

Question of the day:

In your opinion, what is the worst city to try and navigate?

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The Top Things Not to Wear While Traveling

The notion that there are so many poorly dressed people who travel internationally, is sad, but true.  There is a reason why stereotypes exist.  The term “ugly American” didn’t just come out of thin air.  The following are things I hope to never see again by people, especially my country men, while traveling internationally. If I offend you; I’m sorry.  I think I speak for many who travel when I say the following.

  • Hawaiian print.  Keep the flowers at home!  Until Dolce & Gabbana comes out with its Hawaiian Collection; please, please, please do not bring your bright Hawaiian prints to Italy – or anywhere internationally, for that matter. The only exception is if, and only if, you are traveling to the islands, or somewhere tropical.
  • Political t-shirts.  I’m very patriotic and proud of my country and its leaders.  However, a few years ago, I saw a man in Roma who wore a T-shirt with Obama’s Face front and center, with big letters that read “yes we can.” Regardless what you, or others, think of Obama, you never know what message you are sending.  Remember we are visitors in someone else’s country. When you travel, make the best effort to be at peace with those you interact with.  A t-shirt like that could throw gas on an already well lit fire.
  • Tank Tops.  I know the Italian climate, especially in the summer, can be extremely hot.  Please refrain from wearing tank tops as you walk around in public.  Men and women both.
  • Florescent colors.  I know 80s fashion has come back, Lord knows why, and some Italians might have even jumped on board. For the most part is laud and annoying.  It will mark you as a tourist; can attract unwanted guests.
  • Backpacks, pockets, cameras.  Let’s be realistic you need a day pack to carry stuff around throughout the day.  Just make sure you are conscious of the things you take with you.  Pick pockets in Italy are professionals.  Pockets, if I see another person with a passport, plane/train ticket, or other important paper work in the from shirt pocket of anyone will still it myself.  Not really but those who think their front shirt pocket is the Ft. Knocks compartments, I want to spit, crew, and scream! It’s such an easy target; don’t fall victim. When not in use keep cameras in a safe place out of sight.

These are a few of the things that have caught my eye as I started to pack this week.  I’m sure there are more.  If you have any personal fashion red flags, feel free to post them in the comment section below.

* Photo above was taken from the Google image search: “redneck horseshoes”

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Firenze | Florence

When I was looking at places to visit for my last trip I automatically omitted Florence, or Firenze, from the list. The mental image that came to mind – as I reflected on the people I talk with about this city – was overweight, loud mouth Americans, who loved the fact no Italian was needed to enjoy the city. As I got over the hordes of tour groups – wearing Hawaiian shirts, lead by a small flag down the streets of Florence – in my mind, I decided, now is as good of time as any to go for a visit. Maybe I should clear this issue up.

Let’s get one thing clear; I am proud to be an American. I am blessed to live in a place like the United States; however, our people don’t represent our country well abroad. For are readers who have witnessed an ugly American, I sincerely apologize. There will be more to come on this topic – I am mulling over a blog post on cultural do and don’ts.

But after I spent a week around the city, my opinion of the city was quite the opposite. I found Firenze to be great and I cannot wait to return. In my opinion the best parts of the city are;

Size: Smaller than Roma, with a similar feel, you can absorb the city much easier.

Cleanliness: Not to say other cities are dirty, but it would appear Florentine people scrub the streets every night.

Gastronomy: The food is great. It’s true country Italian-famous for their stake. As for the wine, there is no better city for quality and price, than Firenze. The only down side is the bread. It’s terrible. Too dry, and turns to crumbs in your mouth.

Culture: The people in Firenze dress like the fashion elite. It is the capital of European country living. It’s as if a magazine comes to life.

I give Firenze 83 pts out of 100. It is a great city; I will be back.

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The Cost of Train Tickets

I’m helping lead a mission trip to Italy in a few short weeks.  One member of our team came up to me early in our training and asked “How much does a typical train ticket from Rome to Naples cost?”   I answered with my standard response “It depends.”  I directed her toward the trenitalia website.  As I thought about it, I realized, the site isn’t very straight forward and it might be helpful if we covered how to look up train prices via the website.

First go to trenitalia and look at the top right hand side of the page.  There click on the British flag to change the language to English.

  • Pull down fields.  On the left hand side of the page there are fill in menus to indicate where you are going to and coming from.
  • Dates.  Fill in the dates you plan on traveling. If you just want to get an idea of the price, the date does not have to be exact.  To check the departure times of a train you want to at least include the exact day of the week – I’ve found most schedules run them times on the same days of the week.
  • Time.  This is the field that often confuses people. In Italy they require you to indicate the time of day you wish to travel. Most of Europe uses military time, so keep that in mind when you fill out those fields (one for the hour, one for the minute).
  • Trains. It can get very difficult to understand the differences between trains.  There are two main trains you must be familiar with: the Eurostar, and the intercity.  The Eurostar trains, indicated by the red ES*A category, stop at main stations that run along a north to south route.  The six major stops are:  Milano, Bologna, Firenze, Roma, Napoli, and Salerno. Any stop along these routs you can get there fast and in style.  Any other city or stop you will need to take an intercity train, indicated by the bold iC category.

The Eurostar trains are fast especially is you want to get between major cities quickly – but it costs more. It’s a great way to travel.  I have always said the intercity train is ridiculous for one reasons. It stops at every vineyard, Roman ruin, and castle in the country along the way your destination.  The one draw back to the iC trains is they aren’t cheap.

Ticket prices often remain the same throughout the year per route.  This is the method I use when I am budgeting for my in country transportation costs.  I highly recommend it.

* The photos were screen shots taken from my computer the day of the post.

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Italian Locks

Italians are known for many things.  Off the top of my head I can think of five:  food, fashion, cars, love & romance, and history – just to name a few.  Italians live life with a class and style all their own, but like every culture they have their idiosyncrasies.  The first time I saw the locks I had not clue – I thought is just looked ugly.   If you have not idea what I’m talking about, you in good company.   Most people don’t. Even I didn’t know for almost 5 years.  Until I was educated; here’s the story.

Where ever streets have picturesque views in Italy you see a chain, a guardrail full of locks.  The locks are next to and on top of each other.  It doesn’t matter, as long as they’re stationary.  Each lock has two initials and or a heart.  The tradition goes like this.  After a long  romantic walk couples usually  take a lock; Inscribe both their initials, securely fasten it to the chain.  Then throws away the key.  As if to say our love will last forever.  The Italians took carving initials into a tree a step further.  They mark their relationship in style.  It’s an incredible sight to behold when the locks blend into the Italian landscapes. As odd as this sounds it’s a more common and beautiful than one would think.  It’s one of those things that marks the Italian as a great people.  Next time you travel. Mind the locks.

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Top Things to Look for When Booking a Hostel or Budget Hotel

In June I’m helping to lead a STM(short-term mission) team to Italy.  At the end of our trip we are stopping in Roma for two days of vacation before we fly home.  As of last week, we need to find a place to say for our last night in Roma.  We are less than a month out not to mention it’s the busiest time of the year – the beginning of the travel season.   In my haste I realized this is a great opportunity to write a post on what to look for in a hostel or budget hotel. When it comes to last minute accommodations there are two schools of thought.   Pay a ridiculous amount of money on a nice hotel in the center of the city or, the economic choice, crash at a hostel for the night.   Since Italy isn’t cheap we’re going with the latter.

Here are the top things I look for when I choose a hostel or budget hotel.

  • Breakfast included in the ticket price.  Let’s face it. When you have limited time and are anxious to see the sights, the last thing you want to do is hassle with is breakfast.  Not to mention the amount of money you’re already spending on the hotel (and how much food can cost at a caffé) it’s beneficial to have breakfast provided.
  • Lockers.  A good hostel is provides lockers for their customers.  If you have your own private room, then it’s not much of a concern.  Lastly, make sure if you want to leave you back at reception after the check out time, double check before hand
  • Positive reviews.  Often times I find my hostels on a websites such as hostelworld.com, hostelbookers.com, or hihostels.com. Reviews are your best friend. You can get a great idea of how clean, friendly, and safe a hostel can be.  I would be careful; look at the nationality of the person who left the comment.  So I don’t get in trouble; let me clarify what I mean.  Just about every nationality is more forgiving, gracious, and tolerant then most Americans.  I have a deep respect for other cultures. I’m a ethnographer at heart.  That begin said I would rather trust a recommendation from someone living in Sãn Paolo, Brazil than someone from New York City.  Reason being both parties define quality two different ways – due to culture differences. In my observation, a Brazilian would much rather stay in a place that is clean and friendly, than luxurious and secluded. Again just a general thought.  I welcome a perspective from both parties. Please lend your perspective in the comment section.   I’m an American.  I feel like I’m speaking for Americans and the rest of the world went I say, we need to be respectful of others when we travel.  Let’s illuminate the amount of ugly American out there. Forgive me I digress.
  • Location.  When staying in a hostel, often you must walk to get to them from the main train station.  In this case the closer the hostel is to the station the better.  I find on the hostel site they have a Google map of the area around the hostel.  If not Google the address.
  • Kitchen included.  If you speak with anyone who backpacked in the olden days kitchens were a standard amenity.   Now-a-days it’s hard to find access to a kitchen.  You can cut down costs by cooking your own food; kitchens are essential.  Also some hostels offer a welcome dinner for your first night in town.

In the experience these are some of the top things to look for when investigating a low cost place to spend the night.  I will let you know where we stayed when I return – along with my review.

Questions of the day:  What do you look for in a hostel or budget hotel?

Bread

Of all the topics about Italian travel, I bet few of you figured I would write about bread.  I am hypersensitive to others speak about their travel experiences – especially travel in Italy.   If you have spent any time in a big city you know subconsciously overhearing conversation is easy to do – regardless if that’s your intent.  The comments people make about Italy always astound me.  Italy either fits you like a glove or turns you off faster than you can say ciao.  I have heard a handful of people say the bread in Italy is awful.  At first I didn’t think much of it, but on my last trip across the pond I started making observations.

The farther south I went; the better the bread tasted.  In Bologna the bread was dry and crumbly. In Firenze the bread was still dry and crumbly. By the time I got to Roma it got easier to find fresh soft bread, but often it was dry. When I arrived in Napoli I was almost amazed by the fact that it was exactly what I was looking for. The bread was soft and chewy.  After a few conversations with the locals I found my answer.  Most bread cooked in the south, especially in Napoli, uses salt in the recipe. Most bread north of Roma doesn’t typically use salt and as a result it doesn’t taste very good to American palettes. The bread at restaurants is not free and costs any where from €2,00 – €8,00.
So if a restaurant makes the bread on sight or orders it from the local bakery consider asking if salt is used before you make your final decision.

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