Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Bus Tour of the Amalfi Coast

Join me in welcoming Jessica Lawlor, today's Guest Gypsy.  Jessica is a college student spending her summer in Rome.  Today: an inexpensive weekend trip to Italy's celebrated Amalfi Coast.

This weekend I traveled to Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast. I took a bus trip through Bus2alps, a company that plans weekend trips for study abroad students in different countries throughout Europe.

The trip sounded like a great deal: €199 for transportation to Sorrento, Capri, Positano and Pompeii, hostel accommodation and breakfast each morning. My friends and I have been looking for cheap ways to get to all the places we want to visit and this trip sounded perfect.

Word got out and about 40 people from Temple University’s program booked the same trip.

We were instructed to arrive at Termini train station. My friends and I got there about thirty minutes early, but we found no tour guides. This was the first sign of a very disorganized trip. When the guides arrived, they had been given a different departure time than us.

When we checked in the guides told us that the group was going to be housed in two different hostels. The distance between us made it difficult for us to get together at night.

The bus ride held even more disappointment. We were told in our itinerary that we would be making a stop during the long bus ride, but we didn’t. Many people chose not to eat before leaving for the trip since we thought we would be making a stop. When we got to our hostels, food was not readily available, so some participants on the program went hungry for the night.

After getting settled, we met some of the other students on the trip – all college students studying in Italy. Seven Hostel is absolutely beautiful. It was my first hostel experience, and I couldn’t have had a better time there. Seven is very modern looking with an outdoor lobby, a bar and a rooftop terrace. There was musical entertainment each night and a different lunch and dinner menu each day. I was placed in a 12 person room, which sounds terrible, but actually worked out quite well. We each had a bunk bed and a cubby to place our belongings in. We had communal bathrooms, but they were kept very clean. The staff was extremely friendly.

We woke up early on Friday morning expecting to head to Capri. We were informed by our tour guide that we couldn’t go to Capri because our ferry couldn’t leave due to high winds. We were disappointed, but we went to Pompeii instead. Our tour bus drove us the forty minutes to Pompeii. From there, we were told we could take a guided tour for €20 or walk around the town by ourselves
for €11. My friends and I opted to take the guided tour which was very good.

We hopped back on the bus and drove about twenty minutes to Mount Vesuvius. We paid €4.50 and climbed up Mount Vesuvius, a still active volcano. It was very steep and I’m sure it wasn’t a good idea to attempt to climb a volcano in flip flops (hey, I didn’t know I’d be hiking this weekend!) but I made it to the top!

Friday morning, we headed to Capri. We took our bus to a certain point and then were told we needed to walk down a very narrow road the rest of the way to the ferry. We got on a ferry, which was quite rocky (a few people even got seasick!).  The ferry took us to blue grotto, which is a cave in Capri that lights up electric blue when the sun hits it. We paid €10. Money well spent! This was an absolutely incredible sight to see.

We hopped back on the ferry and docked at the beach. We had the choice of taking a walking tour of Capri or staying on the beach. I opted to hang out on the rocky beach. The water was absolutely freezing, but the Mediterranean sun was very hot, so I took a dip to cool off.  A few of my friends who did the walking tour also had a great time. Many girls purchased hand made sandals made to fit their feet perfectly. This is a very popular item to purchase in Capri. I made a few jewelry purchases myself at the beach.

Sunday morning, we woke up and took a bus to Positano where, after a harrowing walk down the hill, we relaxed at the beach. Some people chose to spend €10 to rent a speed boat to cliff dive. They were told that the water was too choppy to cliff dive, but the captain allowed them to jump off the boat and swim for a bit. People seemed satisfied with being allowed to do that.

After a day in Positano, we climbed back up the stairs to the top of the town. We got back on our bus and headed back to Rome.

Overall, I had a wonderful weekend. However, I was disappointed with the way this trip was organized and run. I felt that our tour guides could have been way more helpful. They seemed uninformed and not very knowledgeable about the cities we were visiting. I don’t have a problem with a lot of walking, but I was upset that we weren’t informed ahead of time about the amount of walking, and that we weren’t advised to bring sneakers. The trip definitely wasn’t as relaxing as I thought it would be.

The Amalfi Coast is gorgeous and definitely worth visiting if you ever get the chance. I probably wouldn’t travel again with Bus2alps, but I would definitely go to the Amalfi Coast again!

Thanks, Jessica!  

You can read more about Jessica's adventures in Italy at her blog: Philly to Roma.


jessiev said...

so interesting, and a good lesson to those still thinking to use that particular tour company. i am so glad you had so many GOOD experiences, although all of those add-on costs add up, don't they? sounds like a good time, and you're very flexible and cheerful. thanks for sharing this weekend with us!

Andy Hayes said...

A shame about the poor organisational skills but thankfully sounds like you hit the hot spots. And hopefully got some good food in the end?

Lilu said...

Argh... you got a good picture taken at the blue grotto... I'm so jealous.. all I got were blue blurs :-P

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