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Circumvesuviana train was a terrible experience

This train was the recommended way to get to Sorrento but I have to say it was one of the worst travel experiences I've had during 40 years of travel. My husband and I arrived at Napoli Centrale after a quick, comfortable trip on the Freccia Rossa from Roma. This was Sept. 16. We bought our tickets and went to the platform, where a large crowd was already waiting. When the train arrived there was lots of rushing and pushing to get on. We ended up in the no man's land between the cars. We had roller bags, a small pack and I a Travelon purse zipped and held close to my body. At each stop more people got on and the train workers just shouted and pushed them in. It was miserably hot and that was when the trio of thieves started their work. One started talking to my husband and the other two started moving around. Before I knew it we were separated and one of the men was first on one side of me, then the other. I thought I was being careful with my bag and we had talked about the possibility of pickpockets being at the stations and on the trains each time we got on one. I think it was the combination of the discomfort -so hot, so squished, so many stops and the fact of never having had this happen before that I didn't realize he was unzipping my purse. Luckily I looked and he had worked my wallet out of two zipped pockets. I yanked it away and spoke across the car to my husband saying, "He's trying to take my wallet!" Well, those guys disappeared into thin air. I was shaken but relieved.

This train is a disgrace! Given the number of tourists who travel to the Amalfi Coast, there should be clean, safe, adequately equipped trains and buses. We were able to take the airport shuttle bus from Sorrento when we left because I was not getting back on that train. I have seen the Rick shows about traveling to the Amalfi using the Circumvesuviana and I think that the hazards and discomforts have been understated. I would recommend trying to find another way to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.

Posted by
329 posts

I feel for you! We hired a driver from Napoli station to Positano as we had no desire to experience the circumv then a bus from Sorrento. It wasn't cheap but worth every penny! And Italy has been so hot this September. I feel safer wearing a money belt on trains & in transit.

Posted by
6248 posts

It's a local train, not a train specifically geared for tourists to get to Pompeii. Most users are locals. It's definitely old, rickety, and can be crowded and hot. Other than that, I thought it was fine (not comfortable, but ok). I ignored the shady characters so the whole experience was just like any other old crowded train with poor/no A/C...I've been on those in the US and overseas so the Circumvesuviana doesn't stand out for any reason.

Posted by
752 posts

Never a purse, never a wallet, only a money belt which i tuck inside my undies or neck wallet, which i wear long and also tuck inside my undies, and i wear a scarf around my neck to hide the ribbons.

The ferries are recommended over that train.

Posted by
11733 posts

During high and shoulder seasons, there's also the Campania Express which costs just a little more but makes far fewer stops. This one IS designed for tourists due to stopping only at the couple of locations they're most likely to go. It's also air-conditioned.

http://www.napoliunplugged.com/campania-express-tourist-train-to-herculaneum-pompeii-and-sorrento

It didn't do very well its first year - I'm guessing because it wasn't well advertised - so I was pleased to see it operating again this season. Hopefully as more tourists use it, they'll increase the number of runs.

Very sorry to hear about your misfortune, shealey. Like Sandra, I almost never carry anything of value in a purse in Europe. Cards; cash; ID... all is tucked well under my clothing or in our locking Pacsafe bag. We were sardined into a train from Brussels to Bruges, and thank goodness the fella whose armpit my nose was buried into for an hour practiced healthy hygiene. It was so tight that a pickpocket wouldn't have had wiggle room to get to anyone!

Posted by
842 posts

I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but it isn't always that terrible. Last September/October I took it from Naples to Sorrento, Sorrento to Pompeii and back, and Sorrento to Naples. On the Naples-Sorrento trips I even had my luggage backpack and a day pack to manage. I only had to stand for a short time on the route from Pompeii to Sorrento. Every other time I had a seat. While it is kind of rickety and not super clean, It served my purpose well. Maybe because I had read so much about these terrible gangs of thieves that I expected the worst, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't notice any gangs of thieves and no one bothered me. Certainly there are other choices, but if someone is looking for budget transportation, this one isn't so bad. Just don't expect the same train you might have on a regular train from say Rome to Naples, and take normal precautions against pickpockets.

Posted by
11983 posts

Yes. The train is a disgrace, but that is the state of commuter transportation in many parts of Italy, and frankly here in America as well. People don't want to pay taxes to fund it and at the same time want cheap fares to get to work. Well, that is the result. People get what they pay for. Do we like fancy transportation? Ok, then we pay Frecciarossa or Private limo prices. Do we want cheap? Then we get graffiti and rickety trains and buses. Ever been in the NYC subway or Chicago's El train? Or any buses?Not the Frecciarossa for sure. I've seen people defecating on the BART trains in Oakland, when I worked there.

Posted by
14036 posts

First, let me say that I do sympathize with your very disturbing experience. Thank goodness you were sharp enough to avoid real damage.

I'd call this the expectation gap. When people are planning a trip, they see "train" and think it's going to be like the Trenitalia regionale - a real train, albeit an old, slow one. In fact, as you discovered, it is the equivalent of a U.S. or European city el/subway. It was built for the locals with few seats and lots of standing room and in rush hour it is no different from any other rush hour city train or tram.

Posted by
31073 posts

Sorry to hear about your experiences on the Circumvesuviana. There are warnings published here on the forum on a regular basis about what to expect on that trip, so your experience is not surprising. As mentioned, this is primarily a commuter train so not specifically configured for tourists. Many tourists ride that train without any problems aside from the crowding and heat, but there are always a few that encounter the scammers.

As mentioned above, the usual alternatives are to either arrange for a private driver from Naples to Sorrento, take the Campania Express if it's operating or use the Ferries.

Posted by
11733 posts

As with some of the others, we didn't have any trouble with the Circumvesuviana, although it's a battered, bare-bones commuter to be sure. The comparison to subway or elevated trains here in the States is accurate, and I read some local criticism about the shiny new Campania Express. They were miffed that the money could be found for a comfier train mainly for tourists - which was running largely empty that first year - but not for the many citizens who rely on the Circ. line for daily life.

I guess It's one example of how "living like a local" in Italy isn't always that peachy?

Posted by
6953 posts

If this is the suggested transportation in the RS guidebook, then a caveat needs to be included. This may have been the way to go for ETBD when originally written way back when, but times have changed and recommendations need to be updated for those who only read the guidebooks and not this Forum. I've never seen the guidebook; could someone who has tell us what it says?

Aren't you glad you don't have to commute on that train (and other like it) daily. Locals get pickpocketed too.

Posted by
11733 posts

Thing is, even if using other forms of transport from Naples to hotels on the Sorrentine/Amalfi coasts, the Circ. is the most affordable method of transport to Pompeii and Herculaneum from Naples/Sorrento so it's used by thousands of independent travelers yearly just for that purpose. You can avoid it if you have the means to pay for private drivers but many don't have the budget for that.

Editing to add: just tuck your valuables safely away - not in purses, pockets, or anywhere else hands other than yours can try to access without you knowing - and pickpockets are no problem. Some swear by moneybelts; others on several forums of theft-proof bags (always worn strap-across-chest); still others on clothing with theft-resistant features. Whatever works.

Posted by
1731 posts

We definitely are thinking of using the Circumvesuviana from Napoli Centrale station to Sorrento in early March (with our luggage), and then from Sorrento on daytrips to Naples and Ercolano at least twice. Could it be as crowded in late winter as described by the OP ?! We have already decided to use the Curreri Viaggi bus from Sorrento station to Napoli Capodichino airport when we leave--that's a no-brainer.

Posted by
14 posts

We are arriving in Naples around 4pm on Sunday, November 6th and plan to take the Circumvesuviana from Napoli to our hotel in Sorrento. The OP was leaving on a Friday (I assume) afternoon/evening, which seems like it would be one of the busiest rush-hour times to leave Napoli.

My question is two-fold - (1) will it likely be less crowded on a Sunday afternoon/evening and (2) will it likely be less crowded in November? I'm guessing yes...

I'll have my moneybelt safely tucked away, but we will both have a locked rollerbag/carry-ons, so I think we'll be just fine, but certainly would like to avoid a situation like shealey described above! (man, that sucks!!)

Thanks!

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for the good feelings. I can only speak about my own experience but if I had to do it again I would find an alternative. I am a believer in using public transportation when I travel and have been on plenty of slow, hot trains. This was another story.

Posted by
983 posts

Can someone please recommend a private car service they used for the Napoli-Sorrento route? Thank you!

Posted by
150 posts

I would love a suggestion for hiring a car as well-we will be arriving in Naples from Venice via train and the hassle as described here makes me very anxious. We will contact our hotel in Sorrento for suggestions as well.

Posted by
126 posts

I went to Pompeii last October and had originally intended to take the Circumvesuviana, but changed my mind after doing a bit of research. Since I was traveling alone, I made the decision to go with a booked tour instead. Yes, it was quite expensive, but so worth every penny; and I made a couple friends on the RS tour so we all went together. It worked out great!

Posted by
5399 posts

We have taken Circumvesuviana train several times, both Napoli to/from Sorrento (with bags) and Sorrento to/from both Pompeii and Herculaneum. Sometimes crowded, even off-season. There's also a special 4-a-day tourist train that only stops at Napoli-Herculaneum-Pompeii Scavi-Sorrento with fewer travelers (more expensive than regular Circumvesuviana, but much less than a hired car or tour.)

Posted by
11733 posts

There's also a special 4-a-day tourist train....

Laura, that's the train I linked above.

Posted by
254 posts

I feel your pain. We took that train from Naples to Sorrento in Sept 2010. We found Naples to be a little scary. We had heard of Gypsy thieves so we were very alert to them. They disguise themselves as tourist, even carry the Rick Steves book with them. We were able to kind of spot them. Walking through the terminal to the tracks, one security/policeman, gestured to my wife to put her small back pack in front of her instead of on her back. That was the only for of security we observed. That being said, it seemed to be only the train leaving Naples was scary. Once we got out of the area, and made some stops, we saw them get off. We took the train to Pompeii and back from Sorrento with no problem. But when it came time to return to Rome, we ended up taking the bus. We did not want to get on that train back to Rome. The bus was much better. And since it didn't leave until 5pm, we got to stay in Sorrento a little longer and find the restaurant Bagni Delfino to have a wonderful lunch and afternoon waiting for the bus.

Posted by
671 posts

In an upcoming trip, we plan to hire a private driver to go from Sorrento to Napoli Centrale (to catch a train to Florence), with a 2-hour stop at Pompeii on the way. That will kill two birds with one stone and avoid riding on the Circumvesuviana.

Posted by
5934 posts

We traveled on the Circumvesuviana twice last September without any problems but made sure we didn't travel in ush hour. It was old and rather grungy as we had read. The other train, air conditioned and more expensive, would have been a better choice for you. Sorry about the problems you encountered.
We used the following driver for a transfer from Sorrento to the Naples airport.
Marcello Maresca at See Sorrento, marcellomaresca@hotmail.com.

Posted by
4142 posts

She, we're sorry to hear about your bad experience. We've never had trouble on that line, except for the ticket clerk in Sorrento not giving me my change. Please don't let this ruin your trip.

Posted by
14036 posts

My visit was in February and the train was never crowded. When I boarded in Naples on a Saturday afternoon with my luggage, there were no empty seats but there was plenty of standing room. Do make sure you get on the right train - there's more than one line stopping on the platform.

If you board in Naples around rush hour, it will probably be crowded. Avoid that if you can.

Posted by
1731 posts

So many choices, so 'much' time...

For us on a Saturday afternoon in early March, our hotel in Sorrento wants 95 Euro ($106) for car transport Napoli Centrale to their hotel, which seems kind of steep. In the grand scheme of things on the trip, though, maybe not. By renting a cheap apartment in Rome and economizing on meals here & there--not because I have to but because I want to--it might be worth it. I've learned when traveling there are times to keep the wallet in the pocket and times to splurge.

It being a non-rush hour weekend, however, maybe the CV train would be all right. But the OP's (and others') description of the Circumvesuviana seems a little more than one would bargain for, with baggage no less, even at an el cheapo rate. Have never experienced the rickety 'Chicago El-style' Italian trains that Roberto describes, only the fast (or Freccia) trains through France, Switzerland and Italy, which are such a pleasure. Even the Swiss regional train was miles better than anything we have here in the States.

As I said upthread, our trip finishes with a Curreri Viaggi bus Sorrento station direct to Naples airport for 11 bucks apiece. Unfortunately, from what I've been able to tell so far they don't do a Naples Centrale/Sorrento station route.

Posted by
11733 posts

Unfortunately, from what I've been able to tell so far they don't do a
Naples Centrale/Sorrento station route.

No, unfortunately they don't although you could transfer from Centrale (bus or cab) to the airport to pick it up. If you took a cab, it would be far less expensive than a driver to Sorrento. But I still don't think the Circ. will be a big problem if traveling on non-rush hours. It wasn't for us. And it shouldn't be overly warm on the train in March. Sounds like cab to airport and bus to Sorrento is probably more to your liking, though.

Posted by
2507 posts

I know public transportation in a new city can be confusing until one gets used to it. I'm sorry you were uncomfortable. If solo, I often dislike the first ride in a new city. However, I took the CV train with my step daughter and daughter several times. We had no problem, but we weren't on it at rush hour. Even so, if all valuables are hidden away then there shouldn't be any issue regardless, and the pickpockets can be entertaining as the fear is lessened (this might be a good time to wear a money belt if you are not used to public transportation). I have to say that a city's public transportation shouldn't cater to tourists, but rather to commuters. And most public commuter trains/subways are not pleasant at rush hour.

Posted by
4707 posts

It would be helpful to understand if "between cars" meant that you were in a "concertina" connection, or actually on a steel platform in the open air. In the latter case, I would not have boarded the train. It's unsafe, possible pickpockets aside.

When we rode the CV two years ago, we got on a car with just enough floor space to put our bags against a wall without blocking the door, and I stood beside the bags until an adjacent seat opened up that let me, barely, touch one of the bags with my hand.

Although the OP said she's been traveling for 40 years, I think traveling on public transportation requires a different mindset than parking a giant SUV in an American mall. As several wiser and more temperate posters have already noted, public transportation is very difficult to fund in any country, because it can never pay its own way. It requires government subsidy.

On our first trip to Rome, in 1988, a "Gypsy" child got his hand into my belt pouch (which I never use anymore) and had my wallet in his hand. An honorable shopkeeper in front of his business cuffed the boy, and my wallet fell to the ground, where I snatched it up and thanked the local resident. I learned a lot, but I have never felt bitter or angry towards the city of Rome. We have spent a few nights in Rome at least three times since that trip, in conjunction with other destinations.

Edit: Typo only

Posted by
6248 posts

I think some perspective is needed for the folks willing to pay ~ 100 EUR just to avoid the Circumvesuviana via a private service. The OP had a number of factors come into play simultaneously which made it a very uncomfortable experience - pickpockets, heat, crowds, and luggage. What are the chances, with prior knowledge and planning, that one can avoid at least one, two, three, or even four of these factors? Probably a decent chance if one uses the service selectively instead of writing it off completely out of some overwhelming fear. Avoiding having luggage with you will make you a smaller mark for pickpockets. Riding during off-peak hours will help. Having ridden slow, commuter rails elsewhere will help. Knowing the difference between a modern, high speed long distance train with few stops vs. a rickety, old commuter train will help (not all "trains" are the same). Having right-sized expectations of comfort vs. price will help (this is a really inexpensive option relative to others). As the prior poster mentioned, it does take some tolerance to ride public transit in close quarters with the public. As for the pushing, isn't it well-known that Italians don't queue neatly? They're not the only ones, especially when there are crowds.

If a local can ride this train round trip every single day, why can't a tourist bear it for a single round-trip ride? If nothing else, it gives you an unsanitized experience of how others live, which is humbling. And it gives you solid training in dealing with protecting your valuables from thieves. I personally wouldn't trade that experience for a private driver just to avoid some discomfort (unless I had some kind of health or mobility issues). Having said that, TripAdvisor has a handful of complaints about what a horrible experience this train is...so this undoubtedly reinforces the fear. I found it to be a run-of-the-mill experience and not particularly traumatizing. Definitely not the most comfortable trip, but nothing out of the ordinary. Best it advice is don't ride when it's hot or during peak periods.

Posted by
11613 posts

Taking the Circumvesuviana (which I have done perhaps a hundred times over the years) requires vigilance (this was not always the case). The gypsies usually disembark by the fourth or fifth stop out of Napoli, and a lot of seats open up, then, too, which makes it easier to keep track of your stuff.

Main safeguard on a crowded train is to never have anything of value beside or behind you, and to be able to keep your hands on or near zippered bags if you are not using a deep-storage type belt or wallet inside clothing.

As the previous poster noted, I was pickpocketed a few years ago on the Circumvesuviana (distracted while assisting a travel companion), but I certainly didn't blame Napoli for it.

Posted by
6248 posts

What would you consider peak periods for the Circumvesuviana?

I don't know exactly, but I would guess before 10 am and after 4 pm (that's a rough guess). When I was on that train, it wasn't crowded.

Posted by
158 posts

I have ridden that train many times and have never been robbed but have watched people (not always "gypsies")
observe other passengers very closely while acting very nonchalant and it is obvious they are looking for easy prey.
As always one needs to be aware and alert. It is always an interesting ride.

Posted by
158 posts

Weekends will be crowded. Everywhere in Italy weekends are crowded because a lot of Italians go places just like the rest of us tourists.

Posted by
11733 posts

....have never been robbed but have watched people (not always
"gypsies")

Exactly. Often it's the people you least expect to be pickpockets who are. Again, just keep your valuables where hands can't get to them and you'll be fine. This applies to more forms of public transport in Italy than just the Circ.

Posted by
70 posts

We rode the Circumvesuviana train twice earlier this month and did not have any problems. We were lucky to ride the train early in the day so it was not terribly crowded. We rode from Naples to Sorrento and Sorrento to Pompeii. We decided to splurge on a driver when we went back to Naples. It was a nice relaxing ride. One thing we always make sure of when we travel overseas is to use a money belt. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience.

Posted by
14036 posts

Jay - take into account that it's March, so you'll probably be wearing coats. Pickpockets are opporunists, looking for easy marks in crowded places. Which is why, as Zoe says, they leave the train fairly soon out of Naples.

The trains are fine - much like the Chicago El trains of today. BTW, at the Sorrento station there is an elevator to street level. You descend a few steps from the train platform, then turn to the left and you'll find it. . . . easier with luggage than going down the couple of flights of stairs. From there it's downhill to the town center, so not difficult walking, if that's where your hotel is.

Posted by
767 posts

I have taken the Circumvesuviana between Naples and Sorrento with luggage and agree it was not a pleasant experience. It was hot, crowded, and we ended up having to stand the majority of the time. And the trip took about 1.5 hours, not counting the nearly 45 minutes it had broken down. No one in the group was pick pocketed (nor did it seem an attempt was made, but you never know). I knew this about the train but we managed. And at the end of the day, we were sitting on a balcony in our lovely hotel, enjoying a drink and a beautiful view. And we still talk about our adventure on the train.

But on the way back to Naples, the group decided to do a private transfer. It was about 130 euro for the four of us. It took about the same amount of time with some traffic. And we all felt it was money well spent. I would take the Circumvesuviana again if necessary but for me, that extra money was worth the comfort.

We also had purchased economy tickets on the fast train to Rome. So for me, the whole cost of travel from Sorrento to Rome was about 65 euro. That didn't seem so bad.

EDIT:
And we used "Amalfi Coast Destination Private Tours" for a couple of transfers and a tour. They were excellent.

Posted by
3475 posts

Two ways to avoide the Corcumvesuvian.

Easiest way is to train to Naples. Taxi to the airport (5-10 minutes) under $20 then this bus to Sorrento.
http://www.curreriviaggi.it/eng/autolinee.html

E 10,00 1H15m.
You could also take the Alibus to the airport.
10 minute walk, from the train station. Cross the street to the left of the taxi rank then straight one block to the stoplight, cross to the right, 1/2 block turn right ticket booth to your left.
Travel time is about the same as the taxi cost E 4,00

We happened to be on this train the same time and day as the OP.
Only going from Sorrento to Naples. My one traveling companion had the same opinion until I explained that we, the tourists, were imposing on the infrastructure of the locals. Personally, I'd rather ride this train than the NYC metro at rush hour.

Posted by
6248 posts

My one traveling companion had the same opinion until I explained that we, the tourists, were imposing on the infrastructure of the locals.

It's called public transit for a reason. It's open to the public at large and can't exclude anyone. You're hardly "imposing", they appreciate the added revenue.

Posted by
2 posts

Wow! Just the post I wanted to read this morning, as I am headed to Sorrento tomorrow and planned on taking the Circumvesuviana!

I've been in Rome for a week, and I take the metro everywhere. My question for people who have experienced both...is the Circumvesuviana like taking the metro in Rome? I can handle scruffy and crowded. My concern is for the likelihood of being more of a target for thieves, being a solo female.

About my security set up...if anyone can see holes in my plan, please advise...or am I way over thinking this? I mean, once I get to Sorrento I'm not nervous about taking the train to Pompeii, because all of the important stuff will be safely locked away in the apartment I'm renting.

Money belt with all of the critical goodies under 3 layers of clothes. My handbag is one of the ones that's slash proof, metal cord in the strap, and the zipper latches, and takes effort to unlatch, RFID protected. My suitcase is a small carry on and easy to manage, has a TSA lock.

Feedback would be appreciated. Like I said, I get on just fine here in Rome, so I am hoping I can expect a similar experience.

Thanks!

UPDATE: Thanks to the advice from in this thread, I took the CV and arrived in Sorrento with no problems. However, I just want to echo what others have said. I got on a little after 2pm, and though it wasn't rush hour, it was still crowded, so look to arriving mid day. I took the advice and marched to the end of the platform so I could position myself as close to the conductor as possible, after about 5 stops, it did thin out a little and I was able to get a seat. Just be aware of your surroundings, put the important goodies in your money belt, and you will be just fine. Embrace it as an "interesting cultural experience" as Rick suggests. I'll do it again, without hesitation.

Posted by
11613 posts

Karey, the Circumvesuviana is scruffier and more crowded at comparable times than the Metro in Roma.

Your security plan sounds fine. I traveled on the Cirvumvesuviana as a solo female traveler for years without incident, was pickpocketed on the train when traveling with a friend who needed assistance.

Posted by
16796 posts

Bets, I think the description in Rick's Italy book is adequate. It's a long chapter, so I'll just quote the first bits that I see:

p. 991-2 Orientation to Naples/Theft Alert: Perhaps your biggest risk of theft is while catching or riding the Circumvesuviana commuter train. At the train station, carry your own bags--there are no official porters. If you’re connecting from a long-distance express, you’ll be going from a relatively secure compartment into an often crowded and dingy train, where disoriented tourists with luggage delicately mix with the residents of Naples’ most down-and-out districts. It’s prime hunting ground for thieves. While I ride the Circumvesuviana comfortably and safely, each year I hear of many travelers who get ripped off on this ride. You won’t be mugged--but you may be conned or pickpocketed. Be ready for this very common trick: A team of thieves blocks the door at a stop, pretending it's stuck. While everyone rushes to try to open it, an accomplice picks their pockets. Especially late at night, the Circumvesuviana train is plagued by intimidating ruffians. For maximum safety and peace of mind, sit in the front car, where the driver will double as your protector, and avoid riding it after dark.

p. 1030 Getting Around the Region: By Circumvesuviana Train: This useful narrow-gauge commuter train--popular with locals, tourists, and pickpockets--links Naples, Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Sorrento. ... Be on guard: Many readers report being ripped off on the Circumvesuviana (see Theft Alert, p. 991).

Posted by
6953 posts

Thank Laura.
It's pretty clearly stated! No one needs to read between the lines or second guess.

Posted by
715 posts

I lost an iPhone on the circumvesuviana - it fell out of my pocket - and some citizen gave it to the police. The police then took the time to find out it was owned my me and brought it to the US consulate. This would never happen in the US.

Posted by
182 posts

I just got back from Europe last night. We started our trip in Naples. Then we took the ferry to Sorrento. When it was time to return to Naples for our train to Riomaggore, we took the Circumvesuviana early in the morning. It really wasn't bad taking it from that direction. Not crowded, and as others state, it is not a tourist train. It is pretty bare bones, no amenities such as a wc on board.

Posted by
3 posts

I'm sure that was a traumatic experience. I've been on that train four or five times with no negative experiences except that it's a rickety commuter train so not very comfortable. It's extremely important for your own peace of mind to NEVER carry anything valuable in a purse or wallet. Valuables in your money belt and a little cash in a front pocket (yes I'm a woman. I still have pockets). You can be pickpocketed anywhere so this is critical to a happy trip. I've been on some super crowded buses in Rome that would be prime pickpocket territory and have, instead, had people go out of their way to help me get off at the right stop and get through the crowds. Don't let this experience deter you from your adventures!

Posted by
7 posts

I'm sorry for your experience, She. What a terrible thing to go through.

My husband, 7 yo daughter and I took the Circumvesuviana train from Sorrento to Pompeii and back...it was fine for that. We specifically took the bus from Rome to Sorrento (even though is took longer) so that we could avoid the local train. When we go again, we will hirer a drive from Naples to Sorrento.

Letizia and mbheart,
I have a driver recommendation for you: Nunzio

He was recommended to us by our Airbnb host and he drove us from Sorrento to Paestum and on to Salerno (where we caught the train back to Rome). He was very nice and when we asked him to include a trip to a local Bufalo farm, he had the perfect recommendation and we had there one of the best meals of our lives!

Posted by
172 posts

I'm a 70 year old woman who has always traveled alone. I've used the Circumvesuviana many times over the years, last year at least 8 times and I've never had a problem. Yes it is slow, hot and crowded but so are lots of North American commuter trains. I keep my important stuff in secret flip out pockets in my pants and skirts that can only be reached by putting ones hand down inside my pants at the front, and heaven help anyone if they tried that! They wouldn't be ably to pee for a month! I also usually have a small day pack which, on this train is on my chest, and when I have my suitcase it is a small carry on. I NEVER use a wallet or purse while travelling anywhere!

Posted by
11733 posts

We specifically took the bus from Rome to Sorrento (even though is
took longer) so that we could avoid the local train.

Amanda, the "local train" (Circumvesuviana) is only from Naples to Sorrento; not from Rome. You can - and most people do - take very nice high-speed trains from Rome to Naples. There is a nice, direct bus (Curreri Viaggi) from the Naples AIRPORT to Sorrento.

Barb, maybe we've been on more commuter trains/metros right here in the U.S. and some other parts of Europe than other travelers but we didn't find the Circ. to be any different than most of those either. We also take the similar precautions with our valuables as you do...as we do on ANY train/metro and not just this one.

Posted by
2 posts

63 Year old woman traveling alone: I traveled this line last year to Pompeii, the last city on 88 day of a self-directed Tour of Europe, in the evening when it was dark. it was a scary prospect, but I had no alternative. it was like riding the NYC subway at night into the 125th St station. Many commuters, some unsavory looking types, teenagers. I had a roller bag, knapsack and a small travel bag. Money was in a money belt and I had two Euros in a pants pocket. One safety technique I used throughout my trip was to make some kind of contact with a business-type male about 40 years old and a young man, 21 or so) who looked like he was going to college or work. A casual exchange, "Hello", "buona sera", "Wie geht's?"... something to alert them that I was there. I appeared to them as their mother or grandmother and in Europe the "elder" still gains a certain respect. In nearly every case, through all 17 cities. those same two people on the train made sure I was off the train safely and in many cases, they helped me with my bags without being asked. In two instances these contacts came in between me and some unsavory characters. Indeed, robbers can be dressed nicely and I could be allying myself with the Devil, but more often than not, this won't be the case.

Posted by
32 posts

I agree! Waiting for this train was the ONLY time I've ever felt the least bit threatened in Europe. There was a man circling around us like a wolf, and a young British couple on their honeymoon came over to stand next to my sister and me for security. I stared the man down and loudly warned my traveling companions whenever he tried to walk closer to us. Finally he gave up, but what if I had been a petite young woman waiting on the platform alone? There should be a police officer down there at all times.
The train was hot and filthy. I'll never travel on it again either. By contrast, Italy's high speed trains are wonderful!

Posted by
11733 posts

We thought München Hauptbahnhof (last year) was the most uncomfortable train-related experience we've had to date. I wouldn't call it scary, mind you, but we were mighty relieved to put some distance between us and the exterior of that station. Oh, and a (possible) bomb scare at Gare du Nord in Paris.

Posted by
2 posts

I just returned from Italy a couple of weeks ago and one of our stops included 4 days in Sorrento. We used a private transfer service, not due to fears of using the Circumvesuviana, but for ease and comfort. For those asking about private transfer services, we used Italy Limousine very successfully. The drivers were on time and very professional. It cost €90 each way between Napoli Centrale and our hotel, paid in cash in euros. We used the Circumvesuviana to go between Sorrento and Pompeii and had no problems whatsoever. I would agree with others that it's similar to Chicago's elevated train or to the NY subway. It's not particularly comfortable, but we had no safety concerns. Just be smart and pay attention to where your belongings are. It was inexpensive! I believe it was less than €3 round trip. If cost is your primary concern, I wouldn't hesitate to take this local train. With luggage would be more difficult, as the trains can be cramped, but not nearly impossible. I saw at least 12 students with large suitcases on the train. I realize that everyone has varied experiences though and my husband and I did travel during the daytime.

Posted by
337 posts

By all means suggest an alternative,
Your solution is a 80E to 100E taxi ride.
Just don't complain about the condition of
infrastructure the locals use every day, and yes No air-conditioning is a fact of life. They also have to put up with
a fairly large group of tourists some of whom assume this train is just for them to get to Sorento
and a happy to crowd the aisles with their luggage , take up four seats for two, likely expecting to be mugged. Its a local transit
train, if you use it then expect there may be pickpockets, expect at times it will be crowded, if summer expect it to be hot. There are always alternatives.
Happy travels

Posted by
1731 posts

Gerard, I think most regulars on this board appreciate the people that post here with first-hand experiences, good or bad. The OP was describing the conditions, certainly not giving an 'ugly American' view that all trains he/she travels on should be comfortable, fast & clean--that's maybe a generalization on your part. It is what it is, and as you say there are alternatives. And don't begrudge those who decide to take a more comfortable & more expensive option. Everyone has their money-spending priorities. Come next March, I will be utilizing all of those--with my luggage using a car pickup Napoli Centrale/Sorrento, the Circumvesuviana Sorrento/Naples or Ercolano for daytrips, then the Curreri Viaggi bus Sorrento/Napoli Capodichino airport when we depart.

Happy travels back atcha!

Posted by
2507 posts

Jay, In this case, I have to agree with Gerard. The poster says:

This train is a disgrace! Given the number of tourists who travel to
the Amalfi Coast, there should be clean, safe, adequately equipped
trains and buses.

I think this is clearly stating that the city should provide more to tourists than to its residents. I agree that if tourists don't want to 'travel like locals' then they should expend the money necessary to have private transport. Personally, I've been on many a hot, crowded subway/train here in the USA that were no better than the C. train. To me, Sorrento is more like a resort than a real town, so many people traveling there might not want to be exposed to certain realities, but they shouldn't expect their needs to be catered to above the residents, IMO.

Posted by
11733 posts

What Wray said. I completely understand local frustration with the money to provide a new, air-conditioned, limited-run express train for tourists when they have to rely on the battered, no-frills commuter day in and day out. By all means, if one is willing to spend the 100 euro for a private transfer, then fine but I guess what's good enough for the locals is good enough for me?

I have a difficult time being critical of what ordinary citizens have to deal with all the time when I only have to do it for a couple of trips.

Posted by
1731 posts

I think we're basically all on the same page here. In fact, it's kind of interesting how many different ways there are in this instance to get from Point A to Point B. And as I said upthread, I'll be trying all of them come March.

It appears that the Circumvesuviana has either gotten worse from a rickety standpoint and also from a pickpocket point of view in the last few years, or maybe it's just being publicized more. And one would think that the tourism board, either on the A.C or Sorrento proper, would do something about this--which they've done with the new, somewhat-more-expensive line that runs during high season. But keep in mind that as one travels farther south in Italy, the health of the respective economy declines as well, with higher unemployment, which leads to more iffy infrastructure.

So bottom line is you get what you pay for. And from all the stories about the A.C. and Sorrento being completely overrun in season, it doesn't at all seem to be affecting the amount of tourists that flock there!

Peace out...

Posted by
71 posts

We recently traveled from Naples to Sorrento. We made sure we got on the Campania Express which is a lot more comfortable way to travel to Sorrento. As we were boarding the train a man reached into my wifes' back pack from behind . As he did this the people on the train yelled at him and he ran off without anything. Did it deter me from riding the trains after that ? Heck NO!!! We rode the Circumsuviana to Pompeii and then to Herculeum. I just made sure I was totally vigilant of my surroundings. We had the opportunity to ride the local train in Rome during rush hour . Kept my back pack in front and a hand in my pocket where my cash was. Now that was a treat!!! Learned to stay close to the doors or you don't get out.

Posted by
11733 posts

I'll agree, Jay: we're more on the same page than not. There are multiple ways to skin this cat and whatever works best for the individual is fine. It was was the idea of tourists deserving more comfort than citizens that some of us objected to? I'd also hate to frighten the college student or other traveler who doesn't have the funds for a private transfer away from this train when simply keeping their valuables secured (as they should anywhere at all) can be managed.

And welcome home, Paul! I remember that you'd asked about the Campania Express and am happy to hear that both that one and the commuter train worked well for you. Did you have a wonderful trip?