Driving Naples & the Amalfi Coast

June 22, 2018

 

I'm gonna be honest, I didn't drive the Amalfi Coast. I had every intention of driving the coast, but my hopes and dreams - and I'm pretty sure a large portion of my soul - were ripped from me in Naples. 

 

To be fair, people did warn me about Naples. They told me not to go because it's riddled with garbage and crime. But I'm from Detroit, so that meant absolutely nothing to me. If anything it piqued my interest. What they failed to mention, however, was the fact that the city is straight up bananas. Maybe it would have been better if we hadn't been driving, but I'm not sure I'll ever go back to find out. I was traumatized to say the least.

 

Our initial plan was to stay in Naples and just take day trips to other cities like Pompeii, Positano, and Ravello, but this is how it really went down...

 

 

Wednesday Morning

We woke up in Rome after a wonderful night of debauchery, ready for a road trip along the west coast of Italy. We took the coast route 1) for the views, but 2) to avoid the €14.70 toll road. Yeah, that's not a typo.

 

We had to pick up the rental car from the Ciampino Airport, so we packed up our bags and began our trek to the airport. This was a budget trip, so our plan was to walk to the metro station, take the metro to a bus stop, and then hop on the bus to the airport. It would only cost us €1.50 and take about 45 minutes. Ha. We made it to the metro station and the bus stop just fine, but we were stuck at the bus stop in the blazing sun with 30 lb. backpacks on for an hour. We had timed our leave perfectly so we'd only have to wait in the heat for a maximum of 5 minutes, but clearly this bus had other plans.

 

When we finally made it to the airport, the instructions we had from the car rental company were the GD worst. "Exit the airport and cross parking lot 5. There will be a shuttle waiting there for you." Yeah, no. They lied.

 

Then we flagged down a shuttle to "all of the car rental companies" only to find out that our rental company was another mile or so up the road. What the actual fuck.

 

 

 

So I called Autoclick (never, ever use them) to come pick us up:

 

"Hey, this is Norrissa Thomas. I have a reservation with your company and I need to be picked up." 

 

"Oh hello, Norrissa. We cancelled your reservation because you were late. You can still come here and we can rebook your car."

 

You pieces of shit. You're an airport car rental service. People are constantly late coming from the airport! Not to mention you're impossible to find! But I'm sure that's how they make all of their money... They lure people in with cheap prices, then they cancel your reservation when you're 15 minutes late. Needless to say, I was livid.

 

"Go f*ck yourself," I replied.

 

So then we started shopping around for a new rental agreement. After talking to every agency, we finally settled on the cheapest option... an hour later.

 

 

Agent: "Do you want insurance? Where are you going?"

Me: "Napoli."

Agent: "Napoli or the Amalfi Coast...?"

Me: "Both. But we're staying in Naples."

Agent: "Umm, I'm going to add insurance to your vehicle. The Amalfi Coast is calm and peaceful, but Napoli is very chaotic. I'm certain something will happen to the car and I don't want you to have to pay for it. Fiats are a problem there."

 

I'm not freaking out, you're freaking out.

 

Me: "Ok."

Agent: "And make sure you pay to park your car in a safe place."

Me: "Ok."

Agent: "Great! Let me go get your car."

 

Well I'm immediately regretting this. Too late now. We hopped in the car and made our way to Naples.

 

Wednesday Afternoon - Gaeta

The "scenic" drive was all vineyards and roundabouts. It was pretty, but long. When we finally make it to the coast, we stopped in Gaeta for a little beach action. 

 

The beach in Gaeta was gorgeous! The only problem was we needed to grab towels before we could enjoy the sea...

 

Ugh. We ended up getting lost, and then when we finally got to the superstore on our map, it didn't even exist. So we drove around until we found an expensive little beach shop with sticky towels. I was too tired and desperate to care at this point. We paid the rude ass store owners and left.

 

 

Between the bus, car rental, and navigation issues, we were so behind in our day that by the time we bought towels and changed, we realized that we only had enough time to dip in and air dry before we had to get on the road again.

 

Tip: If you want to avoid the rocky beaches along the coast, go to Gaeta. It's sandy, scenic, and secluded.

 

Wednesday Night - Naples

There may appear to be 2 lanes in the road, but Italians don't see it that way. They just see spaces where their car can fit and just go for it. They also never yield. If you're driving and you plan on stopping for other cars or pedestrians, be prepared for a lot of loud, angry people behind you.

 

Then there are the motorcycles and scooters... they're the damn worst. In every other country they are respectable, but in Italy they think they can do whatever the hell they want. They weave in and out of blind spots at top speeds, come at you from wrong directions, and then will bang on your car if you come close to hitting them - even though they're the one that hit you. It's a fun game. And since they're able to go in any direction they please on one way streets, they force you to either back up or squeeze by them on an itty bitty street.  

 

Did I mention that the roads in Naples are just packed with cars swerving around each other? That's fun. And people just pull out in front of you, assuming you'll stop for them? That's also fun. And cars just park anywhere, including right behind you? That's really fun. And that there are no traffic signs? (Although I did run a red light somehow... even though I'm convinced that it didn't exist. We couldn't find it anywhere.) It was all quite maddening.

 

Now when I'm driving I like to be in control of the navigation because there's nothing worse than someone screaming, "Turn right now!" But when you're driving in a foreign country, especially on the crazy roads of Italy, self-navigation is a little tricky. My co-pilot ended up taking us down some wrong paths throughout the city, and I was trying to keep my cool, but driving in Naples was one of the most stressful things I have ever had to do. I finally said that we can just drive to a different city and stay there. Anything to make it stop.

 

 (The view from our hotel balcony. Literally the only photo I have of Naples.)

 

We decided to at least stay one night since it was already 8pm and another town meant another hour. However, I demanded pizza to calm my nerves. And like an idiot, I decided to drive there. 

 

Gino Sorbillo is cheap and amazing and you should definitely go, but NEVER, under any circumstances, try to drive there. It's all tiny roads filled with hundreds of people. I ended up scraping the side of the car on a building trying not to hit people, then got rammed by a motorcyclist who dented the car, and then had to help a cafe move their table and chairs just so I could get down the street. I was losing my mind. I wanted to ditch the car and make the police deal with it, but nevertheless, I persisted. 

 

I should mention that at this point in time I had dropped my friend off 30 minutes ago by Sorbillo's to run in and get the pizzas. There was no where to park, so I told her I'd circle around and pick her up. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my way back. The roads/alleys seemed to get smaller and smaller, and every street was a one way in the wrong direction. I took so many turns that I ended up a mile away. I had no idea how I was going to get back. Did I mention my phone was broken and I had no map or way of communicating with my friend? Yeah, that was a hoot. Luckily I speak old Italian man hand gestures and I found my way back. My poor friend was just standing in the alley holding cold pizzas, thinking I was never coming back for her. To be honest though, I didn't think I was ever going to find her. I thought I'd have to go to the embassy and file a missing person's report. 

 

Thursday

Our big morning plans for Pompeii were cancelled when we realized we'd have to hike an hour just to get to the ruins and then hike some more. After the night we had just had, we said fuck it. We also planned on driving down the Amalfi coast after Pompeii, but I told her I wasn't emotionally ready yet. So instead of risking our lives on the road, we hopped on a ferry to the island of Capri and sat on the beach all day.

 

 

Capri is a cute, but expensive town. I kind of expected things to be pricey, but I didn't expect there to be a cover charge at a restaurant. That pissed me off. I left all the small pebbles that I had stuck in my bathing suit from the beach in their bathroom, and then I stole a bunch of breadsticks. Suck it.

 

My friend did end up stepping on a sea urchin and getting the world's worst sunburn, but it was still better than driving in Naples. I just got her real drunk so she wouldn't feel the pain. That's what friends are for.

 

Friday

We had to get back in the car that afternoon to head back to Rome. I don't want to talk about.

 

If you're going to drive in Naples, here are my tips:

1) Don't do it.

2) If you don't listen to me and still decide to do it, get the insurance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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