We stayed at the Hotel Il Gabbiano in Baia from August 14 thru August 19, 2005. Our initial reaction was one of total dismay when we saw the slightly shabby neighborhood and the even smaller than expected hotel. This was our first European vacation, and most of our previous vacations have been at resorts in Mexico. Therefore, we were used to large hotels with swimming pools, tennis courts, beaches, etc. The Il Gabbiano has none of these. There is a beach close by, but getting to it is something of a challenge, and we never tried it. One thing the Gabbiano does have is a superb, but very expensive, restaurant. I can reccommend eating there, but bring lots of money, because it will cost you that.
After the initial surprise of the hotel itself came the fact that there is no bell staff at the hotel. Most of your luggage moving will be done by you. They will help when they can, but that isn't often.
Then came surprise number three. August 15 is a HUGE holiday in Italy, and virtually nothing is open. This turned out not to be such a bad thing, however, since we needed a day to adjust to their time, having flown in from Chicago. So, our real vacation didn't begin until Tuesday the 16th. That's when we found out that the Il Gabbiano is actually a pretty good little hotel. For a vacation in the Naples-Amalfi area, a bigger, resort-type hotel would have been a waste, and maybe even a hinderance, because what you do on such a vacation is go-go-go.
On Tuesday, we bought boat tickets to Capri, but, since we started a little late, we wound up taking a boat trip to Amalfi, instead. Let me say right at the beginning that all of the Naples area, with the exception of Naples itself, is beautiful. Naples is a fascinating city - busy, congested, noisy, and a bit frightening. We kept looking for a part of Naples that was "clean and touristy", but there isn't one. Fancy, expensive designer stores exist on the same block as vendors with their goods spread out on the sidewalk and people selling fruit, vegetables, or raw seafood from carts. Museums and banks stand across the street from broken down areas where there are derelicts sleeping on the ground and rats side-stepping them. It is all, however, quite fascinating.
But, I digress. Tuesday was Amalfi, and it is a very pretty place. There is plenty of shopping, and the mountainous scenery is amazing. There are plenty of great restaurants and stands. Also, in the way back, we got our first close-up look at Mt. Vesuvius. It is absolutely breathtaking. Make sure you get photographs from the water as you pass. These are more dramatic photos than I knew I could take.
Wednesday we used our boat tickets to Capri. Like Amalfi, there is wonderful shopping, great eating, beautiful scenery, and great people watching. The funicula up to Amalfi City was a bit disappointing, and we opted for the bus ride back down to the port when the time came.
Thursday, I realized a life long dream when we visited Pompei and Vesuvius. A word of warning: There are people and companies that will sell you tours of Pompei and/or Vesuvius for $100 or more. Don't do it. There is a train out of Naples that is called Circumvesuviana. It takes you right to the gate of Pompei and it runs every half-hour. Then, pick up a guide book from the entrance and plunge right in. I suppose maybe there are some advantages to a guided tour, but the sense of discovery as you find your way around the ancient city is thrilling in itself. Vesuvius was a challenge, and not one I would take again. Not to suggest I'm not glad that I went to the top. It is a steep walk, but I'm not so old that I can't handle it, yet. In fact, there were people far older than me going up and down the mountain. It's just that in the long run, the view of the crater wasn't worth the time, energy, or money you spend to get there. (You take a bus to within a thousand feet or so of the top, which is relatively expensive, only to find that you have to pay again to go all the way to the top on foot.) Still, I'm glad that I went to the top. I would have been very disppointed had I not done so.
Friday was a very interesting, exciting, and scary day. Checkout time at the hotel was noon. Our flight wasn't scheduled until 11:00 p.m. This seemed to be no problem since the hotel allowed us to leave our luggage in the hotel office. With almost a whole day to kill, we decided to get on the Circumvesuviana again, and ride past Pompei to Sorrento. In many ways this was the high point of the trip. Sorrento is gorgeous. It is a beautiful little town, perfect for strolling, swimming, boating, shopping...you name it. If ever we go to this part of Italy again, we will stay in Sorrento. It would still function as a jumping off point for the rest of the area, but would also stand alone should there be a day we want to do nothing.
But, when we boarded the train to return to Naples, we were informed after 3 stops that there had been a fire on another train, and we would have to be bussed to a different stop for another train. This wouldn't have been so bad, except that it took almost two hours for buses to show up. Then, when they finally did, someone came out and announced that the trains were now running. So, we went back onto the platform, where we waited almost 45 minutes for a train to arrive. All of this was taking us well beyond our pick-up time for the taxi to the airport. In fact, we were two hours late getting back to the hotel, but still managed to get to the airport around 10:30. We were informed when we arrived that the flight would be about an hour late. But the fiasco wasn't over,yet. About an hour later, British Airways announced that the flight was being delayed until noon the next day due to an illness in the flight crew. So, we were put up over night at the Holiday Inn in Naples. The flight was from Naples to London-Gatwick, and we had to travel to London-Heathrow for our connecting flight. Needless to say, we didn't make that connection on time, and we had to stay one night in London. The customer sevice rep for BA at Heathrow originally tried to tell us that it would have to be at our own expense, but our objections were heard by another BA rep, who supplied us with vouchers for the Renaissance Heathrow hotel, transportation to the hotel, dinner vouchers and breakfast vouchers and transportation back to the airport. I wish I knew this second persons name so I could tell the world how great he was, but I didn't get it. All I can say is thank god he was there.
In summing up, despite the adventures of the last two days, it really was a wonderful trip, and the Il Gabbiano turned out to be a pleasant if not extravagant hotel.
Just one thing more. Our trip was booked through Travelocity, and, as usual, everything went smoothly. However, when booking through these websites, be aware of what you are booking. Our booking was for a "double room - single use". It turns out that means a double room with only one person it it. The hotel mentioned this, although they did not try to charge me extra for the fact that there were two of us in the room. (I would have been forced to ask why a double room - single use had three beds in it!) I don't know why Travelocity would offer a trip for two to a single-use room, but, there it is.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.