We left a cold and wet Perugia on Sunday morning with heavy hearts and hopped on the train to Naples, via Roma Termini. Despite the long hours and frequent stops made by the trains, I love the opportunity it provides to see the countryside.
Naples is a place that has always received mixed reviews. Some of the people we had spoken to, looked at us with disdain and asked “why?” when we told them we would be visiting. Whilst others, warned us that it wasn’t Florence or Umbria, but said it was the City of Sun. We were certainly looking forward to the heat after only 6 degrees on our last evening in Perugia. We were not disappointed.
But we were disappointed with Naples itself. Rubbish lies strewn across the walkways, scooters and cars speed down narrow streets, narrowly missing pedestrians and sounding their horns at random intervals to remind you that they are there. Graffiti covers once beautiful sculptures and fountains, despite the prevalence of sunshine, the city is devoid of warmth.
Naples is probably one of the only cities in the world where I have not felt safe. One hour walking around in Naples is like six or seven in any other city, you have to be on high alert. Getting ready to go out is like getting ready for a covert operation as a top level CIA or FBI agent. Nothing can be visible, no jewelry, no wallets: nothing. Craig and I were staying in a little studio apartment on the ground floor. It was a nice place and it became our “safe house” for the time we were in Naples.
On our second day in Naples we decided to head to Pompei. It is an easy 45 minute ride from the central station on the Circumvensaia train line (which connects Naples – Sorento). The train arrives right outside the entrance to the ruins, convenient, no?
Pompei is an incredible place, as you walk through the cobbled streets and ruined houses, you feel as though you are breathing in history. Pompei was in its’ time a very wealthy town, its’ proximity to sea trade routes made it popular with sailors and a main port for trade. Sailors would come and rest here between long sea journeys and trade with the locals, who could then send the supplies onwards into Italy to be sold at profit.
The ingenuity of the Pompelians is something that has only been discovered through the excavations. Their artwork and buildings, show a depth of understanding of painting techniques and construction far beyond their era. Mount Vesivius erupted in 79AD, many of the townspeople were caught unaware, they evacuated. However, many thought after the first eruption, it was all over. Twenty hours later, Mount Vesuvius exploded again coating Pompei in 5 – 6 metres of Pyroclastic flow, ash and gas, suffocating those inside the buildings and ending Pompei’s era of wealth and substance.
You can spend hours wandering around in Pompei, everywhere you turn there is something new to discover, and another narrow street to get lost in. Standing inside the theatres and amphitheater, you can almost sense the presence of those who used these arenas hundreds and thousands of years ago as part of their daily life.
Once you walk out of the ruins of course, you are greeted with a barrage of stalls selling tourist books, postcards, knick-knacks and offering you “deals”. Skip these, go straight to the Limoncello factory, to the right of this you will find a little self service lunch bar, where they make the best pizzas. You can choose from Margherita, Margherita with salami or Proscuitto, or Napoli Pizza (anchovies, tomato sauce and oregano, no cheese). They are made fresh in front of you, from the dough being rolled out and covered with ruby red tomato sauce to the boiling hot pizza oven, to being cut steaming in front of you.
The first bite and you are hooked. After all that walking in Pompei, I have never tasted a pizza that good.
So in conclusion, I won’t be returning to Naples, in fact Craig and I are departing back to Rome a day early. However, if you go anywhere, make sure you go to Pompei.
Roma, here we come!
Ginga Musings out.