Normally, I have nothing but complimentary travel posts, this one is a bit different! If you have a different opinion to me then feel free to comment and persuade me otherwise!
See Naples and die. A phrase stuck in many travellers’ minds, including my own. This phrase originated in the 16th century and that’s where it should stay. Many travel sites describe Naples as ‘gritty’ and ‘chaotic’. And that’s the best compliment Naples could ever hope for.
My harrowing journey began in Sorrento on a sweaty train, with windows that just simply would not open. Then there were the buskers who wouldn’t stop busking on their untuned accordions, hoping to have money thrown into their polystyrene coffee cup on every repeat. After the two hour train journey that, according to the timetable, should only take 40 minutes, we arrived in Naples, expecting all the glamour and history that Rome has to offer. Walking through the busy station we emerged outside, still the ever-hopeful tourists with cameras slung around our necks and sunburn etched on the corners of our skin.
Needless to say, we were shocked. The streets surrounding made Selly Oak look like the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Yes- they were that bad; dirt, graffiti and yet more highly annoying buskers and street sellers, lined the streets. Regardless, we decided to press on and head to the national archaeological museum, home to some of Pompeii and Herculaneum’s most desirable relics. After a long hour or so walk through the grime and many unsuccessful trips to not-so-nice toilets – which you have to pay for?! – we arrived, and after inspecting the perimeter to find a grand entrance we were well and truly shocked to find it closed. Eventually, we found one bumbling old security guard. Who told us the museum was not opening today. It was a Tuesday. A Tuesday. This frustrated us all greatly – who shuts a museum on a Tuesday, during peak season? The logic is clearly beyond me. Not only was the museum closed, it took us an hour on foot to get to, away from the port where all the other attractions where situated.
Thus ensued another hour or so walk through the back streets of Naples. Everywhere we looked the streets where covered in grime, bin bags lined the streets and graffiti tags submerged buildings. Family members were insistent we tucked all valuables into a tightly zipped rucksack, but whilst the streets seemed filthy, the people seemed friendly. I knew very few Italian phrases and many Italians knew little English but where happy to help as much as possible Eventually, we stumbled across a piazza that led onto a main road. This was not like other bustling Italian piazzas, but was rather lined with newspaper shops and one small cafe. In Italy, even paying customers of restaurants have to pay to use the toilets – I wouldn’t mind if they were nice and had commodities like loo roll, hand soap and a lavender scent. Many times I just simply refused to go.
From here we carried on again. After hours of harrowing quiet followed by short bursts of mopeds trying to run us over, we found the Naples we expected. Well the ‘busy,’ and ‘chaotic,’ part at least in the form of a bustling high street lined with designer, high-end shops. A completely different Naples to the one we had just experienced. But the family spirits had already been damped and tempers were running high after all the walking in the midday sun. Nevertheless, I was determined to make a day of it yet. Ok yes, the phrase ‘see Naples and die,’ was not all it was cracked up to be, but I was still determined to have a pizza there. Naples is famous for its glorious stonebaked pizza and I was determined to try some. A perk that the Italians offer many tourists unknowingly is cheap, good food; in this case it did not disappoint. After being fed and watered for a princely sum of 5 euros, we carried on.
We were now approaching the port, which homed some of the most glorious castles I have ever laid my eyes upon. One of these was Castle Nuovo, an exquisite 13th century castle on the Port of Naples. The entry fee is a small sum of 6 Euros and in my opinion is well worth it, as underneath the castle is a Roman villa visible through a glass floor. The second castle we visited was where disaster struck. On route along the harbour walls I was stung by a monstrous insect, and keeping to my pale British name, my skin didn’t take too nicely to it. At first, I just thought it was a small bite and carried on walking, but after a while it formed into a horrific pus-filled blister that just would not stop growing and started restricting the movement in my ankles. But, I still wouldn’t let this overcome me. No; I soldiered on. And, in the blistering heat, we made it to the second castle on our itinerary, this time much closer to the port. It had a terrific sea view of the sparkling blue waters and a triumphant Vesuvius stood tall in the background. The sunlight was bouncing off the walls so that the castle looked like it was covered all over in crystals. Below the castle’s towering walls we sat and had a drink in the shade of a parasol and admired the view, for the first time on that long day.
We decided to call it quits, and checked our train schedule – something I did not rely on in the UK, let alone Italy. A power-walk to the train station thus ensued, as we were worried that if we missed this train there would be another hour’s wait – a wait no one was prepared to make. Arriving in the nick of time – I was not shocked by the fact that the train was late; the platform was heaving and when we eventually made it onto the right train, we had to stand – injured leg and all.
Naples was a horror, in a country full of wonders. But looking back, the pizza wasn’t all that bad.