Sunday, July 3, 2011

From SDT to Paestum, Sorrento and Ercolano

A view of the landscape in the park around the temples.  We liked the peace and quiet.
Since the whole world revolves around Santa Domenica Talao, let it be known that you could easily stay here and take the train as a day trip and see these sights. Or, take the train and stay one night in Sorrento. We chose to drive in order to bring our friend Vince (the dog). We drove north on SS18 thru Sapri and Policastro. Traffic was fairly light in the mountains and it was a stunning drive worth your time.

Paestum is off the beaten track, but there is plenty to buy or eat

Paestum is an ancient Greek site we found just 2 hours north of SDT and just south of Salerno. The 2500 year-old site contains some of the best-preserved Doric column structures in Italy. If you took a little Latin, like Guido, you are likely to pronounce this “ae” as pye-stum. Howard Hillman’s website says pest’m. We stopped at a bar in Paestum for a rest on the ride home and when I asked the owner, he said pastum. If you mumble a mix of peh and pah, you’ll make it.  Above, plenty of tourist facilities surround the site.

Pretty pics are Apollo (also Temple of Neptune) and is the best preserved of the 3 temples. Interpretive signing was getting pretty beaten in the elements, but at least they had some. Interpretation in Italy is sketchy.

Di stands by temple Hera.

View of Sorrento  on the way to the town center

Sorrento, aka Little America of Italy
In the image above are the villages of Castellamare di Stabia,Vico Equense and Meta with Sorrento at the top. They all blur together and the traffic is something to experience. We'd like to back just to take a boat tour along the Amalfi coast and Capri, but when we return it will be via treno!

We make the crack about Americans because the majority of the people on the busy streets, on tours, at bars, etc were speaking American. Just blew us away. Just a handful of UKers and some Germans. We had to get deep into the side streets of the historic area to hear Italian and to speak it. The storico is very nice with many, many shops and little restaurants and pizzarie tucked away all over. A handout states Sorrento has 100 hotels. We stayed at the Plaza in the next photo which accepted the dog in our room. Warning, Sorrento is highly developed with no vacant lots and the parks are fenced to keep dogs out of vegetation. We had a pet friendly hotel in Sorrento but what we didn’t know is there is not a single place you can walk a dog other than the pavement (we and Vince are pretty unused to that scene—besides the place was wall-to-wall tourists day and night so it was hard to be discrete….)
Not the best town for a dog the size of ours!

Our hotel--the Plaza--not our fav
This is one of the hotels where we wished we'd stayed.  Next time

Nice frescos in this domed space in the historic district. 

Although we saw some sandy beaches, the bulk of the sunbathing and swimming seems attached to these constructed piers.

Once in Sorrento, all you have to do is take the train to Naples and get off either in Pompeii, or Ercolano. The train is easy and gives fair warning of the stops. You can walk to the station from Sorrento centro storico

Ercolano (Herculaneum) is a 50 minute,  € 2,00 train ride from Sorrento. No AC on the train, so try to grab seats out of the sun. There are lots of cool tunnels...

Ercolano was a Roman resort for the elite that was buried under 20-30 meters of mud and debris that flowed from Vesuvius in 79AD – the same eruption that took Pompei. Pompei was covered more by ash and supposedly was easier to excavate. We skipped Pompei after reports of huge tour groups, but then learned that the excavated ruins at Ercolano are in better condition and, because of the wealth of the Roman users, contains some lovely tile work, engravings and paintings that can be seen now. Hardly anyone to share the 5 acre site with. It was a good choice. Just imagine the effort to clean-away 20 meters of debris from all that you see in that image. It is a great destination and they have done a good job with interpretive signs and self-guided recorded tours.

Below, old streets. They actually had a sewer system running under all of this which carried waste to the nearby sea.  Some of art on the walls is amazing and somehow didn't get trashed by the mud.  Same with mosaic tile floors.

Having seen the solid stone columns that the Egyptians created, we found this Roman construction interesting. The columns and some walls have an internal structure of brick, then an overlay facade made from cement or similar material. Don't know how the got the fluting in columns so perfect. There were also curved or domed ceilings that had an overlay that looked so good I thought it must have had a corrugated form of sort to create the surface.

Next you see modern Ercolano which is built on volcanic fill all around the historic site.

One fascinating item is that the seashore used to be about a mile closer before the eruption. In this photo the wet area represents what used to be nearly sea level, so the walkway and everything to the left is part of the debris flow that covered the resort. 

 Last night in Sorrento
We discovered this nice hotel, dating to 1880's, where we made dinner reservations. We didn't walk thru the place, but given the dress of staff and the "look" of some guests (yeah Americans), the rooms are probably in the €4-500 range. It and several others perched over the sea have romantic views and are away from noisy traffic too. We enjoyed that Sorrento sunset and our meals.

Can't you imagine Grace Kelly and Cary Grant here? Ah, but also Di and Guido. 

As always, we were glad to come home to Casa del Tramonto and our own piece of the Med.


  1. Just the places that we would like to visit when and if we get back to Italy. As usual your pictures are beautiful. I especially love the one of the temple with the two trees in the foreground!!!

  2. Aw, Gil, your're so nice to us! I hope it's a "when" and not the "if".

  3. Looks like you had a great trip. I went back to Napoli airport via Paestum last summer and loved the drive over the mountains, although next time will take the new road as quicker. Heracleaum is planned for this Sept's visit so I enjoyed your sneak peak.

  4. Sounds like you had a lovely time. Policastro is not very far from where we. If you had just turned up through the historic centre of Policastro you would have wound your way up through the mountain road to Santa Marina. We know what you mean about Little America (it feels like you are cheating if you start talking in English when you can speak Italian doesn't it) and the road along the Amalfi Coast. We tried to drive along there the first time we were in Italy on the way back to the airport and found it was taking far too long, so had to cut up over the mountain to make sure that we made our flight. We found Pompeii even better than Ercolano, but both are quite remarkable in their own ways. Wonder where your next trip will take you? Best wishes John & Toni

  5. Thanks Sue! You'll love it.
    John and Toni--we did think of you as we passed your "neighborhood"
    Next big trip is Sardenia--probably next year.



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