Travelling by Train and Foot
All of the journeys described employ local trains to cover the major distances followed by a walk which varies from 100 metres to more than a mile. The local train services around the Bay of Naples offer good coverage of the area and have stations at the major tourist destinations such as Sorrento, San Agnello and Naples.
The major roman sites which have been mentioned are all accessible from a train station by walking. When walking from the station to the roman sites visitors should remember that Campania is a relatively poor area of Italy with a pleasant and respectable population. They probably don't appreciate being photographed as an example of how quaintly they live nor will they appreciate excessive noise or excessively revealing clothing. The major urban areas have a reputation for petty theft and pickpockets which is justified but often not the result of the activities of the indigenous population, Italy has suffered as a result of inward migration from other countries. It is wise not to carry expensive cameras or jewellery which might prove tempting to a thief, nor should one carry an obviously bulging wallet. The author carries some money and a credit card in a zipped, concealed security pocket in his clothing and his camera in a plain cloth bag. He is quiet, friendly and courteous and has walked through a number of the poorer areas without problems. The local people have always been pleasant and helpful.
There is a particular problem with pickpockets in the area around the main railway stations. The tourists are often carrying a lot of cash and they are easily identified by their bags and the fact that they have no idea where they are going. A partial solution to this problem is to keep the location of your money concealed, to look at a map before arriving at the station and to step out boldly and confidently towards your intended destination.
In Italy it is mandatory that you shall be able to show a form of identification when requested, this may be an identification card issued by the government of your country of origin or, for countries like the UK which do not have identification cards, your passport. If you are able to claim discounts due to your age or for any other reason you will be asked for your identification when you claim it. Always carry your identification or your passport with you.
The Train Services
Four train services are mentioned in these notes, the:
- Circumvesuviana Line
- Metro Line 2
- Cumana Line
- Ferrovia del Stato
These railways provide a part of an integrated transport service which supports Naples and the area surrounding the Bay. Tickets are purchased at the stations and have a time during which they are valid. If, for instance, you ask for a ticket in Sorrento to travel to Pompeii Scavi the ticket seller will sell you a ticket which has the amount of time which the journey will take. The validity of the ticket does not commence until the start time has been stamped on it by a machine at the station from which you start your journey. If you pass through a turnstile then the turnstile will normally stamp the time on the ticket, otherwise you will have to locate a small machine which will stamp the ticket. These validation machines are nominally yellow but both orange and blue machines are found. Before you get on the train check that the start time has been stamped on your ticket, your ticket is not valid until this has been done.
The ticket sellers do not normally speak English but if you state your destination clearly they are able to sell you the correct ticket. In areas which are not normally visited by tourists the ticket seller may appear nervous on seeing a tourist approach his window and, even if you speak Italian, he may not be confident that his heavily accented replies will be understood. If you keep the exchange simple these fears will be easily overcome, the Italians are less polite than the English so, if you can, avoid pleases and thank you because it will be easier for him to understand where you are going. It might occur that when you ask for a ticket to your chosen destination, the ticket seller will give a look which tells you quite definitely that he thinks that you don't want to go to that place. They are accustomed to selling tickets to tourists for a very limited range of destinations, if, for instance, you decide to go to see the Red Bridge, one of the few remaining parts of Augustus's Aqueduct, this could be a surprise for the ticket seller and it will show in his expression. Finally, if you arrive at a station and cannot find a ticket office, Metro Line 2 at Pozzuoli is an example, look for the newsagent he often also sells the tickets.
As you gain experience of the railway services in the Naples area you will be able to ask for 80 minute tickets (biglietto orario) or daily tickets (biglietto giornaliero) as required and travel will become a lot easier.
The Circumvesuviana is a railway which serves the communities around Vesuvius and the Sorrento peninsular. The hub is in Naples and the lines fan out from there. For the journeys described only two of the services are relevant, the line from Naples to Sorrento and from Naples to Poggiomarino. These two lines share the same track from Naples to Torre Annunziata so that for visits to Naples, Herculaneum and Oplontis trains on either of these services may be used, whilst for travel to Pompeii, Stabiae or Sorrento only the Sorrento service should be used.
There is an electronic indicator on the front of the train which shows the destination. For journeys out of Naples on the lines mentioned these would be Sorrento or Poggiomarino/Scafati. This is only a problem on journeys from the Naples side of Torre Annunziata to destinations beyond Torre Annunziata. Within most of the trains there are electronic indicators which show the name of the next station, in Italian 'Prossima fermata', the next station after Torre Annunziata on the Sorrento line is Villa Regina, this would therefore reveal that the train would go to Sorrento. It occasionally occurs that none of the indicators, nor the voice announcements are working, in which case it is sufficient to know that if the train stops at the pair of platforms nearest the sea in Torre Annunziata then it is going to Sorrento.
The popular tourist destinations between Sorrento and Vico Equense all have good access to a station on this line. The station for Vico Equense is at Serano and projects onto the railway viaduct above the valley, if you are subject to vertigo don't look over the side. The trains stops at all stations between Sorrento and Torre Annunziata but between Torre Annunziata and Ercolano Scavi there may be fast services which do not stop at the intervening stations. For the purpose of visiting the sites described this should not be a concern because the trains do stop at the stations specified.
The Circumvesuviana has two stations in Central Naples, the main railway station in Piazza Garibaldi and Porto Nolana which is the terminus. The main railway station is appropriate if you are walking on to the National Museum, whilst Porto Nolana is more convenient if you are going to the University. Within the main station in Piazza Garibaldi there has been extensive rebuilding so that all of the platforms are linked by an underground concourse, the Circumvesuviana is well signed and at the west end of this concourse. The station at Porto Nolana is beside Corso Garibaldi and approximately 50 metres away from Piazza Nolana in the direction of the harbour.
Metro Line 2
The Naples metro is still being developed to cover more of the city so that the information given will soon become out of date. At the time of writing line 2 runs from Gianturco on the Vesuvius side to Pozzuoli. There are three stations within the central area of Naples, Piazza Garibaldi, Cavour and Montesanto. Piazza Garibaldi is convenient for the mainline station, Cavour serves the area around the National Museum and Montesanto serves the western part of the city centre. Any of these stations will provide a service to Pozzuoli. The city council provides a map of all of the lines within the city. As in London, the timetable is not important as the trains run at a regular interval. Some of the trains in the central section of the Metro, Montesanto, Cavour and Garibaldi, do not go to Pozzuoli or Gianturco, the line is shared with trains run by the Ferrovia dello Stato, which may be going to distant destinations.
The station at Montesanto is close to the station for the Cumana Line but not in the same piazza. As you leave the station proceed downhill and you will see Montesanto Station on your right. For the return trip, turn around to the left on leaving the Cumana Line station until you are walking uphill beside the outside of the station, Montesanto Metro Station will appear after 150 metres.
The Cumana railway runs from the station at Montesanto to Torregaveta along the coast of the Bay of Naples, there is an alternative line which is operated by the same company which uses an inland route to Torregaveta, this is the Circumflegrea. At the time of writing trains on the Cumana line leave every twenty minutes for most of the day. The Cumana line is operated by SEPSA. As above maps and timetables are available.
A number of the users of this website will be staying in the well known holiday destinations covered by the Circumvesuviana. The author has, on occasion, found that ticket sellers on the Circumvesuviana do not know the stations on the Cumana Line and that some of the ticket sellers on the Cumana Line do not know the stations on the Circumvesuviana. When travelling from another line it would be wise to have a map of the Cumana Line with the station marked in order to avoid confusion. There is a link to a map above.
Ferrovia dello Stato
The Ferrovia is the state run railway which operates between the larger towns throughout Italy. At the time of writing the branding is Ferrovia and the logo is a lower case 'f'. The line which is of particular relevance to the archaeological sites in the Bay of Naples is that which runs between Naples and Salerno. In all cases it passes close to the major archaeological sites but the Circumvesuviana has stations which are closer. The line does have advantages for visitors who are staying in Naples in that it runs from Campi Flegrei to Salerno using the same track as Metro Line 2 from Campi Flegrei to Piazza Garibaldi, the stations at Montesanto, Cavour and Garibaldi are all stops on this line. The service is relatively frequent, approximately every half hour, but you will need to use the timetable because some hours only have one train and some have three trains. The author has so far only walked the route from Ercolano Ferrovia station to the excavations but will plan to add further stations during future visits.
Finding the train times is not always easy, the website name is RFI which stands for Rete Ferroviaria Italiana, you normally need to make a web enquiry using these words plus the name of the station to which you wish to travel and the word 'orari'. The resulting page has two tabs 'partenze' and 'arrivi' select whichever is appropriate.
Enjoy your travels in the Naples area!