Seven Days in Sorrento

Our recent week in Sorrento was a great, active break – and we felt we fitted in everything we hoped to do and one week was the perfect length of time. So here I share with you my ideal seven days in Sorrento.

  1. Explore Sorrento and find the station

We all do the same things on our arrival in a new place, don’t we? Get your bearings! First find Sorrento main town and the nearest train station.

We actually stayed in Saint’Agnello, a nearby town east of Sorrento. It was a 15-20 minute walk to Sorrento, which in the July heat was quite exhausting so if you can afford to I would recommend staying in the main town. We found our way to Sorrento, explored the winding streets and the many shops within.

Important parts of Sorrento to find is the stairs down to the port. This is on the main Corso Italia road, on the Piazza Torquato Tasso. You will see a railing with a view of the sea, to the left are the steps leading you down to a road. It is only a short walk to the port where you can pick up a boat to Capri. There are a lot of steps, however I believe there is also a lift somewhere west of this point – though we never used it.

Also find the station, if like us you’re happy to travel cheaply to the many sites around Sorrento you’ll need to find this. In Sorrento this in on a little road just off of Corso Italia. if you headed east from the steps. The road Via Ernest De Curtis is on the right, and you will see the sign for Circumvesuviana, the name of the train line.

We found a nearer station in Saint’Agnello, it was a little dirty inside but walk up those steps and the station is fine! (We circled the whole building checking it was the right entrance!) You may wish to walk to Sorrento in the hopes of getting a seat since Sorrento is the start of the line, but at Saint’Agnello we spotted the front carriages had empty seats (right if looking at the train line) so made a beeline for those.

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2. Pompeii

We spent out first full day in Pompeii – this may have been a mistake as we weren’t ready for the climate, though we were aware of the vast size of the site! You may wish to move this later in your week.

We took the Circumvesuviana line to Pompei Scavi station and on exiting you will be greeted by tour companies. It is your decision if you want to use these but we did. It cost an extra 12 euro on top of entry fee but it meant we skipped the queue and had a guide to point out the important aspects of Pompeii life. (Make sure you have cash to pay for your ticket into the site.)

Our tour lasted a couple of hours, but only covered one area of Pompeii so we stayed another couple of hours to visit the Villa De Mistri and the colosseum. (Yes, they are polar opposite locations!) The Villa De Mistri is a fair walk away from the main part of Pompeii, but you see beautiful gardens and then the site itself is rather different to every other home you see. Then we headed across the site to view the colosseum, you can enter it by going around the side – it isn’t obvious at first look. There is also an indoor museum next door where you can view more artefacts.

There are plenty of places to eat around Pompeii, we weren’t shocked by the prices in our one (exiting Pompei by the colosseum) but we may have walked off the beaten track slightly. Definitely allow yourself a full day here!

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3. Amalfi Coast

To visit the Amalfi Coast we bought tickets for the ‘City Sightseeing’ tour bus. We thought it was good value being 10 euro there, and 6 euro to come back again. Plus the on board commentary via headphones. Be warned though this bus is not ‘hop on hop off’ like others you may have used to explore big cities. It only stops once during the journey to a town I don’t recall the name of, and it’ll be another 6 euro to get back on at this point.

And make sure on your outbound journey you sit on the right! We were excited to have front seats on the left that we didn’t think about the fact the coast was on the other side of the bus! We sat on the left on the return to get a better view.

At Amalfi we spent a few hours exploring the town, we headed up to the shops and explored the outside of the cathedral. We were duped into buying expensive ice cream because we took a seat (it costs a lot extra to sit in at some of these places, but they do give you more and in a fancy glass, just find out prices first!)

There is a small area to sunbathe and paddle, we preferred sitting on the cliff top looking over them and enjoying a glass of limoncello.

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4. Mount Vesuvius & Herculaneum

On the train again, the stop is called Ercolano. Be aware, even though a station is crossed out on the map the train still stops there! I was thinking London Underground and noticed the stop before Ercolano was crossed out so we were a little concerned when we first left the train. This must be a regular occurrence as the train driver pointed us and other tourists back on the train!

Leaving the station there is a tourist company to the left that will drive you to Mount Vesuvius. I’m not sure how regular their coaches are but we were not waiting long. We paid for our ticket in the office, and were given a little red sticker on board when showing our ticket. Mine came off my bag strap on the coach so I stuck it to my vest, by the time I was off the coach it was in my armpit so I took it off and stuck it to my bus ticket. James lost his too and we found one on our journey up Mount Vesuvius. It was fine boarding again for our return as we showed the ticket, but maybe just stick your sticker to the ticket to be on the safe side.

Head straight up! There is more walking than you realise, even when you think you’re near the top. We just had enough time to walk up and back, toilet (you need to pay the guy sitting nearby…) and a can of drink before the coach returned.

Once we were back at the station we headed to Herculaneum. If you had come out of the station you are almost walking straight ahead off you, just keep walking in that direction and you find the entrance at the bottom of the road about 5-10 minutes walk. This was a lot quieter than Pompeii and we were able to wander around at our own pace. The free guide was really useful, there are numbers around the site that link to the information in the book. We managed to go the wrong way around but it seemed everyone was doing the same!

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5. Capri

There are many different options for Capri, there was a massive ferry taking people over but we went with a smaller tour. It was 45 euro and took us along the Sorrento coast, over to Capri, toured around the island, we saw the coral grotto and the green grotto. We saw the outside of the famous blue grotto, but the hoard of boats, and queue along the coast for row boats kind of killed the mood of this. We weren’t going to have the time to queue for a row boat so we skipped this, it sounds amazing inside though.

The boat trip was about two hours and following a week of sun and walking it was a welcomed rest! Once on the island we wandered around the shops looking at the Capri bells, knowing we would be buying one for our Christmas tree. We stopped for ice cream and explored along the coast to the end of the beach. We weren’t prepared for lying on the beach too long, plus our time was short as we only had about 2 hours before the return boat trip.

If you’re looking to explore the island at a leisurely pace this tour would not have suited you. We had no idea where we were going though and were quite happy just chilling around the harbour.

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6. A day exploring Sorrento

Sorrento isn’t really a ‘beachy’ holiday, but you can have a day lying by the sea on a sunbed with on demand service if you like.

We spent the morning wandering the streets of Sorrento picking up souvenirs and searching for anything quirky. We walked further and further west until we came to a stretch of beach covered in sunbeds, and signs indicating the sunbeds were free to their customers so we bought some drinks and had a lie down. If you’re that way inclined you could spend a whole day in this area.

There isn’t a whole lot to do in town, we ended up going back to the hotel to change into nicer clothes for the evening meal, the only time we had done this. The shops were open fairly late too so we look around at clothes. Then a late night waffle.

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7. A day in Naples

Our last full day was in Naples. The train journey is roughly 2 hours and is the full way along the Circumvesuviana Line. It is a little rough on leaving the station but the area gets nice as you walk on.

Our day consisted of visiting the National Archaeological Museum, which has free entry on the first Sunday of each month. We picked up an audio guide for £5, and they have free lockers since you cannot take large bags in with you. The museum has lots of exhibits around Pompeii and Herculaneum, including mosaic art and sculptures. It is definitely worth a visit if you spent time in one of the two sites. There are vending machines inside if you need a drink or a snack.

After this we found the Underground Naples tour and descended under the city streets to see the town it was built on. This tour was a good price at 10 Euro. We were shown the ancient Roman site and given lots of new information, which helped with understanding Pompeii a little more too.

There are plenty of places to eat around Naples, it was hard to choose somewhere for our last meal!

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So this is what I considered to be a great way to spend seven days in Sorrento, and hope it inspires you!

12. See the bigger picture

Part 12 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“So, when you need inspiration, think of fellow members out there. We’re all different, but through challenge, friendship, fun and adventure, we can achieve great things.”

It can be difficult sometimes to remember we’re all a part of this giant movement, and to encourage the Brownies to look wider than even our own unit.

A few years ago we took part in an exciting project at World Centre Sangaam in India. The Centre was looking to raise money by selling friendship bracelets made by girlguiding members around the world so we spent an evening making bracelets, having spent a couple weeks learning about India, and in return we received a postcard from the centre thanking us for the donation.

I wish there were more projects like this we could get involved in.

We have run international pen pals and postcard exchanges a couple times over the years and this gets the Brownies thinking about those further afield. Plus we had a lovely district day learning all about Guiding in a different region, for us we looked at Asia and learned to wear Saris and henna painting.

And me? I’m yet to have an international adventure with Guiding. I think the two biggest factors against doing it is a) the cost (if there is fundraising to do I’d rather do it for the unit or the church), b) the time away from James – it doesn’t seem fair for me to use my annual leave to go on holiday without him. So I cannot see myself taking on an overseas trip for Girlguiding any time soon. But James and I have our own adventures abroad and I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

I do love seeing what goes on in Guiding around the world though, and Facebook is great for seeing this. I’m a member of a few international groups and like a few international pages, such as Free Being Me and Girlguiding South Africa, which gives me a glimpse into the life of memebrs and volunteers around the world.

11. Find the fun

Part 11 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“In tough times, a sense of humour gets us through, and it’s extremely useful for teaching those you lead new skills and tackling challenging issues.”

For this I want to reminisce over the times where I could relax being the authoritative figure and could just have a laugh with the Brownies.

Recently we had an evening making animal masks for the Friends to Animals badge. Rather than wandering the room and checking everyone was okay I found myself at a table where the newer Brownies had settled and started making a mask myself. This night was a brilliant way to get to know our new recruits. One especially is very quiet, but we spent the whole night working together and chatting about geckos like the one in Tangled. We all made up names for our alter egos while wearing our masks.

Another great time was on a Christmas sleepover. When we go to activity sites there isn’t usually time for us leaders to have a go at activities but one this day I had a go at a few things, such as caving. The Brownies had begged me to join them as some were scared and there I found myself crawling through a pitch black tunnel, but we all came out the other side sharing stories and some defeating their fears.

On the same sleepover, another lovely moment I won’t forget is the group of us, 6 Brownies and 2 leaders, having an impromptu singing of ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree’, it was just a lovely moment.

The look on the Brownies faces when they saw my fellow leader and I racing to slot all the giant four in a row coins back onto the board was a treat! We just started putting the game away ready for next use and turned it into a race and the Brownies couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

I love any time that the Brownies suggest I have a go, one of the best times I took them up on it was at the ‘Spark’ nationwide event at the roller disco. Not only did I enjoy getting stuck in and having a go on roller skates for the first time in ten years I was also able to help a small Brownie skate for the first time too.

Finding the fun as leaders is essential, I have to remind myself sometimes I am a member of the unit too!

10. Take Some Me-Time

Part 10 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“When you’re leading a group, it can be all too easy to burn out – so it’s important to take care of yourself. Practise saying no, and being polite but firm.”

So this is my guilty post.

I’m glad this is on the list though, as it justifies the recent ‘No’ I handed out.

A couple months ago I was asked to consider becoming a Peer Educator Trainer, a local session was going to be run later this year and they were looked for people aged 19-30 to train to become trainers. I loved the idea of passing on my Peer Educator knowledge and a weekend away with similar aged guiding members would be fun so I said I was interested.

Then I received the email with the details of what would be expected and I was not prepared for the amount of time this commitment would take. One weekend to train in London, completing two qualifications, and then being committed to four weekends a year anywhere nationwide, for the next three years.

At first I was excited by the prospect of gaining a preparing to teach qualification. I was considering it, although it was A LOT more than I expected. I was thinking like a day or two to train and then one weekend away later in the year, and maybe one next year! I suppose I was rather naïve, and I do completely understand why Girlguiding would want that big commitment from the people it is putting their money into training.

So I discussed it with James, and talking it through really put it in perspective. One weekend away on top of the two weekends already with the Brownies, plus the occasional volunteering at a big event and many day trips through the year was already difficult for him to hear. And I hate seeing him like that. So another four was unthinkable. And he was right. One weekend every three months, plus my Brownie commitments, plus not knowing how far I would need to travel before being at work at 9am on the Monday after.

This was a time I had to put James, and my own wellbeing, first. I said No.

I have complete respect for any Girlguiding member that takes on this commitment, I had no idea how much goes into becoming a Girlguiding trainer! From what I had previously read online I thought it would be more laid back, it was a role I had thought I would progress into but it is indeed a huge commitment and that would be one thing too many for me right now.

So I’m going to focus on my Brownies, take a few steps towards helping the local Senior Section and make sure I include some me time during each week.

9. Jump right in

Part 9 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“To keep young members on their toes, try to give them at least one brand new experience to enjoy each term. It can be as small or as big as you like – whether it’s a fun sports event, a food–tasting session or an international trip – all activities are enriching in their own way.”

This is a thought provoking topic! Are we giving our girls new experiences?

It is a difficult one to judge, what we think may be a new experience for the girls could turn out to be a little run of the mill. When we invited in a yoga teacher for a session, one parent commented how much her daughters enjoy yoga. Plus kids have so many opportunities to try out archery, climbing and pedal karts that a day at an activity centre may nor be as exciting as I would’ve found it.

This won’t be for every girl, but here are some of the experiences we have offered which have been quite unique:

Watching the Paralympic athletics. I cannot say another group will ever have this opportunity with us! In 2012 we took a group of Brownies to watch the events in the stadium, while some may have seen other events that year I think this is the only activity we will never be able to repeat! (Although taking the Brownies to another sporting event could be a good idea.)

Spy night. There was a lot of buzz following this themed evening in our unit. The Brownies and leaders dressed up, everyone had code names (I was Alpha Snake) and the Brownies took on four tasks, including a laser room, to claim the four clues to the whereabouts of their Easter eggs. I think these are the rare activities the Brownies cannot experience elsewhere.

Kidzania. This summer we’re hoping to take the Brownies to this interactive indoor city for kids. I know for some they will have visited before but as Brownies we haven’t, and I know some parents want their girls to go but cannot personally take them. I hope this will be an exciting new activity.

Visiting the Police Station. I think this has been the best unit meeting trip we’ve had. The police officers were so accommodating. The Brownies were very excited to see the  vehicles, handcuffs, cells, and all aspects behind the scenes.

8. Keep up to date

Part 8 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“Having the latest information is key to leading well, and keeping your email address up to date on Go! will ensure you receive all Girlguiding communications. These, along with our website, will give you the need–to–know on everything from insurance to events.”

I am not one for social media, but for Brownies our leadership team set up a closed group for the parents to keep more informed. Due to this I technically have a Facebook profile, but I keep it clear of friends as I do not want those distractions. What I do use it for is keeping up to date with all things Girlguiding and some other interests too.

I can spend ages scrolling through my Facebook feed, finding out about events tacking place locally for Brownies, discussions from fellow leaders and taking inspiration from what other units have done. We recently got the paints out and each Brownie painted a mini masterpiece following an idea from Facebook – it was messy fun! It all stemmed from one Brownie saying the stain glass paint set we bought her for Christmas went in the bin because her Mum doesn’t let her get paints out. Well, what is Brownies here for!

It also gives us great ideas for trips. We are very close to being within a neighbouring county, and therefore while we don’t receive direct updates about what they are up to we can find out about trips and events they’re offering through Facebook. We’ve joined a few events at venues much closer than the ones offered in our County, and the Brownies gets some great new experiences.

Keeping the parents informed works so much better with Facebook too. On the morning of each meeting I add a status as to what the Brownies are doing that evening. Then in the days following we add a few photos to show what they did. We also use it to remind of consent forms, due payments and changes to meeting times and venues. Plus we can see who has seen the message!

7. Be inspired… and inspiring

Part 7 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“In guiding, we promise to ‘be true to myself’, which means taking steps to be happy in your own skin. Self–reflection isn’t always easy, but it can be rewarding – and being ourselves can inspire others.”

Who the heck am I? And what inspires me?

I suppose I am inspired to make our Brownie unit the best it can possibly be. But I cannot help feeling I am holding some things back, as it isn’t who I am and therefore is difficult / I do not agree with sharing it with the Brownies.

So to start, the good things about who I am and how they impact the group:

I like to challenge myself, and therefore I don’t always choose the easiest option when it comes to planning activities. It is rare the unit uses Baker Ross pre-planned crafts. In the past we have done an owl stitched soft toy on Brownie Holiday – the sewing aspect was quite a challenge. We have also done sequin pinned Easter eggs, not quite so challenging. I think it has been since then, about three years ago, I’ve avoided these sorts of crafts.

Another challenge I give myself when it comes to planning in ensuring we either leave the unit place, or welcome a visitor, at least once per term. In the past year we have been on chip walk (of course), the park, had a visit from a local clay company, a yoga session and visit to Pets at Home. I’m also planning a bouncy castle for the end of term.

I do enjoy a craft, I keep scrapbooks, in the past I’ve made my own cards and bracelets. Oh, and I love to draw! I try to use these things sparingly in the unit though. I know the stigma of the ‘only does crafts every week’ Brownie units. When we do a craft I try to keep it something with some skill. On Brownie Holiday we made awesome dreamcatchers – I will write about those at some point – and for some that was their favourite activity over the on site stuff.

So on the self-reflective side – things I could do better at to help the unit…

Go outside more. I really wish I had the forethought to ensure more of our meetings could take place out on the green during the summer months. We head outside for gardening twice a year, plus sometimes games outside and chip walk. There has been the odd meeting where we decide to spend the entire meeting, circle included, outside. But this isn’t often enough. I hoped Brownie Holiday would tackle this, intending the be outside as much as possible, but some things were just so difficult.

Lead better planning pow-wows. Sometimes I look at the term ahead, a plan decided on by the Brownies, and I wish we could do so much more. But these are the ideas the Brownies have thought of and chosen. I do offer my ideas, but the number wanting to do science experiments and the more educational interest badges are few. There is so much Brownies could do that I never get a chance to lead!

Pamper / girly nights. This is difficult because I just don’t agree with it. I think at Brownies the girls should be playing games, learning about the world and team building. We always do fun activities too. But stopping everything for a pamper evening just seems a waste of time to me. I completely agree with teaching the Brownies how to care for their nails and hair, I recall these things being in my Brownie handbook, but facemasks, nail varnish etc, for a group of nine year olds just seems wrong to me. And I don’t want to encourage an interest in it. Especially when we can run Free Being Me sessions instead.