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Exploring Italy by Bicycle - Naples to Amalfi - Mount Vesuvius

September 01, 2023
by CEA CAPA Content Creator

Exploring Italy on Two Wheels: My Study Abroad Adventure Part 5

Eventually, by nightfall, I arrived in Naples. Besides the atrocious and chaotic driving in the city (it's very true that Italians are terrible drivers), the rest of my solo bike ride was uneventful. I carefully coasted down the precariously steep cobblestones to my next host’s apartment. His name was Cem Eren Gültegin.

A person sitting on a balcony outside

He was a Turkish Erasmus student (European exchange program) that was studying sculpture in Naples for the semester. After biking further south, I arrived in his apartment, I put my bike down, and immediately took a shower. It’s hard to describe how satisfying it is to finally clean up after a long arduous ride. Immediately afterwards, he took me to a famous pizza place, where I promptly ordered two and devoured both as we talked about the sculptures I’d observed in museums I’d visited throughout Italy. My favorite part, however, might have been my friend Ryan from my study abroad program stopping by to for dinner. He was in Naples on a trip with other people in my CEA CAPA program.  

Later that night, Cem introduced us to his Turkish friends, and we had a couple drinks and attended an Erasmus student party (where Cem warned me not to get stabbed since it’s not unusual for there to be knives at parties in Naples). That’s where I quickly discovered that my body was incapable of rallying, and we trudged home. I was grateful that Cem led me through the streets because he said that if you walked down the wrong alley late at night, you’ll likely get mugged. Unfortunately, he spoke from experience.  

That night, I slept for eleven hours, and woke up the next morning, not to chirping birds, but Neapolitans screaming bloody murder out the window to each other. Cem told me that’s usually how he wakes up, so he didn't seem overly surprised. Maybe if I had that at home, I wouldn’t sleep through my alarms so much. After one more goodbye, I went to Ceraldi Caffè the next morning. Two coffees, two pastries, a sandwich, and two scoops of gelato later and I set off on the last—and easiest—leg of the journey. A 40 mile ride from Naples to Amalfi. Well, that was the plan at least.

A road with a mountain in the background

As I quickly progressed towards my final destination, one fixture on the horizon caught my attention: Mount Vesuvius (the volcano that destroyed Pompeii). As my route passed by, I marveled at its majesty, and I kept thinking about how amazing the view must look from the top. Like fate, one of my Instagram followers sent me a DM (I stream my location on all my big bike rides on my Instagram story). He was a cyclist I met traveling in Granada. He saw I was nearby Mount Vesuvius and asked me if I was going to climb it. I expressed my apprehension since part of me wanted to finish the ride. However, what he told me I’ll never forget: 

 “Do it now, or you’ll never do it.” 

A screenshot of a direct message on Instagram on a phone

Next thing you know, I was hiding all my luggage in a bush on the side of the road at the base of Vesuvius and full sending it up this genocidal wall with 300+ miles of fatigue in my legs. The challenge was incredible, crawling my way up hairpin turns clustered with tour buses (I like to think they were impressed with the psychotic cyclist grimacing his way up the steep gradient). But the view made it all worth it in the end.

A landscape with a body of water and hills in the back


From the top you could see everything, the city of Naples, its skyline humbled by the magnitude of this volcano, the coast snaking along the horizon, and the rocky mountain peaks around me. A camera honestly can’t do it justice. 

A picture containing sky, outdoor, mountain, highland


After descending, I met one older Italian cyclist who I talked to in a mix of Spanish and hand gestures (road, bad), and he snapped this pic of me that I’ll always cherish. 

A person wearing a helmet and standing on a fence with city and ocean views


Drew Laird studied abroad with CEA CAPA in Amsterdam in Spring '22. 

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