Naples pays her debts

The last time I came to Naples was on my previous Interrail trip, in other words, nearly thirty nine years ago. I remember that visit being a bit of a disaster as a threatening atmosphere around the railway station and a total lack of tourist information had driven us back onto the next train out of the city. Believe it or not, I felt pretty much the same when I arrived on this occasion too. Many of the bigger European cities (London especially) confound their visitors with more than one main railway station and confusing directions about how to cross the city to get from one to the other. Naples does it with just the one.

I was suitably cheated when I changed up some money and sent around in so many circles trying to find out how to get the suburban bus that eventually I gave in to the frustration and allowed myself to be cheated again by taking a taxi. At Alex’s family’s apartment in the beautiful Rione Alto district overlooking the city, a warm welcome and a glass of rosso meant that I was soon laughing it off and feeling strong enough to contemplate getting to Pompeii on my own on the following day. Younger than I am, Alex’s parents still go out work so in the morning I was packed off with instructions, tickets, picnic and a bottle of sunscreen because Joli wasn’t impressed by what the Athens sun had done to my complexion. I tried explaining that there were some things that it had just not been practical to carry all around Europe from the Arctic but I’m not sure that my Italian was up to the job.

I managed the bus journey down to Piazza Garibaldi quite comfortably and picked up the splendidly named Circumvesuviana suburban railway to Pompeii. In spite of the forcast rain, I had wonderful weather and wandered the site for over five hours. This was my first ever visit, made even sweeter by the fact that it was culture week and the entrance was free. So impressed was I that I’ll save writing about it for a separate post but when it came time to return to Reino Alto my problems began affresh. One of the half-hourly trains was cancelled and so it took me nearly two hours to get back into the city and then I found it absolutely impossible to find my bus stop.

How difficult can it be? The bus “O.F.” was scheduled to stop in the Piazza Garibaldi but could I find it? I’m afraid not. There was no bus station to speak of, it all having been swallowed up by a great building site in the middle of the square so I asked in the Trenitalia station, the Circumvesurina station and the Metro station as well. They were starting to become quite familiar by now and I was absolutely determined not to be beaten down into getting a taxi again. Alex’s brother tried to help with a succession of text messages but there are two branches of McDonalds in the square so which one was I supposed to be standing with my back to? Considering that I had no luggage, was not in desperate need of a toilet and was clutching the correct type of ticket in my hand, Napoli Centrale definitely failed the sanity test. In other words: It Was Not My Fault.

A young man in one of the stations took pity on me (he was from out of town and disliked Naples as much as I was beginning to) and helped me to get to the correct bus station: on the other side of the square and round the corner. I’m happy to be able to say that once I was on the bus everything changed. A group of ladies heard me mispronounce my destination and had a conference about which of them was getting off nearest to the correct stop. I was then virtually taken by the hand and walked to my friends’ apartment. It was probably just as well because by that stage my brain had turned to custard.

Yes, I was feeling strong enough to go out for a meal and so we visited the gorgeous Mergellina district with Andrea, Alex’s brother. I’m afraid I’ve had to borrow a picture of the famous Castel del Ouvo but it really is that pretty. Another place on the list for a return visit but it was Pompeii that was uppermost in my mind and not seeing all the treasures at the museum was going to be something of a disappointment. This is where Naples at last seemed to relent and decided that I should not leave without having my heart’s desire.

On the following morning I said my goodbyes and was dropped off at the bus stop. I fairly flew down to the ticket office at Centrale and all my bookings through to Basel were organised in a trice. The left luggage chap could not have been more helpful and there was someone on hand to show me which Metro Station to take to the museum. As if in reparation for the three and a half hours that had been stolen from me on the day before, I found myself (fortified with a double espresso) on the steps of the Archaeological Museum just before it opened its doors at 9am.

And it was still culture week so it was still free! We had two and a half hours quality time together before I made my way back to the mainline station to catch my two fast trains to Switzerland.

Categories: Europe, Mediterranean


  • Chris says:

    Glad to hear that you made it to the museum

  • Sandy says:

    It has been confusing to travel the way you have chosen, but infinitely cheaper and more wonderful than a tour. I’m glad you have chosen boarders from strategically placed countries! and that you got to meet their parents!

  • Alex says:

    Glad you enjoyed your staying. It would have be nicer with sunshine maybe. As you said Naples disorganisation is an old story, that’s the “debt” that the city had to pay for Italian unification since 1861.

  • nicola ainsworth says:

    Don’t worry about the sunshine, there are some pretty pictures of Pompeii still to come.

    It’s all very sad about the corruption and disorganisation in Naples as I’ve been finding more about with my reading. I’ve added three more pictures: one of the rubbish in 2008 and two that are much more idyllic.

    Let’s hope that circumstances improve in time for my next visit. I won’t leave it for so long next time.

    Thanks again to all the family

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