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Napoli, Vesuvio and the Amalfi coast: a whole lotta lava

The Pros

You are in Italy.
The weather is good, coffee is religion, and pizza was invented here. Mozzarela, the nectar of all cheeses, is at its best, a science in itself. Men are attractive, and women may actually look at you. The language sounds like a lullaby and a song was written for most of the places you are about to visit. Sophia Loren was born just around the corner and great films were filmed a bit everywhere (my favorite: The talented Mr Ripley, on the island of Procida, just off the bay of Naples), prices are correct and the carabinieri prefer to look the other way when you drive a bit too fast or park diagonally, because everybody does… The Vesuvio is omnipresent, and the sea so blue it kills you to have to go back.
And yet, somehow this is not the Italy I am used to…

The Cons

The city of Napoli is so chaotic it makes you feel lost in a maze.
Let’s begin  with one’s first impression, starting as you leave the airport: Driving, either your own car or being driven.
It is mad. Someone is always trying to overtake you even in the craziest of traffic jams, where you would not even be able to open your car door if you had to; somebody always cuts you and takes your priority, looking you in the eye with a hooded-killer look that should make you think twice before telling them to sod off. Congestion is ubiquitous from the moment you leave the airport; you are going to have to pay dearly for parking during your whole stay here, even when you have to take a wee. And if you dare come in peak season, you will have to hold it until you take the plane back home: I know people that had to scrape whole legs of their trip because there was not a single place to park their car! Moreover, this may be one of the most corrupt places on earth, but parking tickets seems to be the one thing the carabinieri will always dutifully give you if you dare not pay.
Of course, there is the positive side of the whole situation: if you can drive in Napoli and not get killed, you can drive almost anywhere else on the planet –including in India!
The people are also different. The words thank you do not come easy apparently, especially if you are using a credit card. In other words, they are doing you a favor, and not vice versa! This is what being spoilt by money does to one.  

As for the scenery and environmental standards…
Napoli is a very dirty city. Sidewalks are almost non-existent and you will have to share your little space with abundant dog poop, so mind your step… During our visit scaffolds hid virtually every interesting building, and it was one of the rare occasions I put my camera back in my sack for days.
Now, the Costa Amalfitana,  the dream of the average European romantic thrill-seeker: can it be a little overrated?
There may have been a time when building your own ramshackle bar on the beach with whatever material was at hand was OK, original in a handy sort of way. But these were the times when Marcelo Mastroianni was still alive, driving around the Colosseum on a Vespa, and playing your guitar by the beach-fire could get you laid. Nowadays, it is just ugly. And despite the nice pics you may have seen a bit everywhere, you may be surprised to see n’importe quoi  when it comes to architecture and styling.
In the end, places like that (solid tourism despite low standards, combined with environmental screwing) look the same. Positano could have been in Corsica, or Corfu. Capri could have been Hydra, etc.
The most unique and beautiful village was Ravello. Your whole trip is probably worth just to admire the emblematic Rufalo gardens (picture above), the quintessence of this coast…

And the winner is:

It is getting late. I suggest you finish that pizza, take your car, if it’s still there (…), and head on, the road awaiting you is long and winding!

And if you are looking for a place with real sand on the beach, equally good but less pretentious food and people that may thank you for being there, you know where to find me!
So there you go, I hope the postcards give you a faint idea of the places we visited.