So I have some catching up to do, I know. Here it is, about a week or so later, and I’m just wrapping up my travels from last weekend. Anyways, it will be a bit of a trend as we move forward into my last two weeks here in Italia!
After a good – albeit short – night’s rest following the volcanic hike up Stromboli, I awoke a bit early to try and see some more of the island. I failed in my attempt to get around to the other side of the mountain, but did succeed in having some fantastic breakfast – debatably my best thus far this summer (and that means a lot, coming from someone who is not a fan of using superlatives). At the main bar in town, I got some homemade fragola e limone granita accompanied by a warm corneto and a caffe. It gave me the energy I would need to attack the rest of the long day ahead!
After walking along the black rock beaches and encountering some less than fortunate jellyfish stranded by the tide’s ebb, I hopped on my speedy catamaran ferry to Napoli (aka Naples). Five hours later, we docked in the grittiest town seen thus far.
When I first stepped off the boat, I was a bit turned around – the ferry had thrown an aggressive head fake and docked south of where I expected it might, meaning I walked an extra 2km or so to make up for my blunder. Don’t worry, I was never lost, I just was taking the roundabout route. I got to see hundreds of people sunbathing on the rocks like reptiles needing their daily rays, my first true introduction to southern Italian summers. With my heavy pack in tow in the bright Napolean sun, the tour of the town was off to a great start.
I hit up some of the most major sights in the city during my first few hours of racing around, including: la Piazza Plebescito, il Castel Nuovo, and la Galleria Umberto. After taking the funicular (cable car) up to the second tier of the city (it is a port town with a pretty stark hill separating the upper and lower parts of town, which I imagine also has some socioeconomic implications…), I ventured to la Villa Floridiana, and the highlight of the visit, il Castel Sant’Elmo. Up in this elevated neighborhood dubbed Vomero, the sights of the urban sprawl below are spectacular. And so continued the summer of panoramic views!
My next stops were down in the old city center, which apparently is an area known for its petty crime, specifically pick-pocketing. As a result, I threw on the walker’s evil eye I learned so well to adorn when living in New York City (though I hadn’t needed it for a while, it felt so natural – like putting on an old well-broken in kangaroo leather baseball mitt). Needless to say, no pickpockets messed with me on this day, though I was a bit concerned someone might get some ideas based on my large hiking backpack… Maybe it was the evil eye, or maybe it was the extra push-ups this summer, but either way I managed to snap some photos without any petty crime threats.
The old city center is a crowded, dirty, tight space peppered with churches. The people are out in full force, making walking tricky, and cars can barely fit through the tight one-way roads. As an outsider, the culture seemed so thick one could almost cut it with a knife. The town seemed to not need me as a tourist, and almost point me to the door, not caring if I went or stayed. An interesting experience to say the least, and the best word I can use to describe the city is one I have already used in this post: gritty.
I’m glad to have stopped in Napoli, even if it was for just a brief seven-hour stint. It would be a great place to spend a bit more time to try and explore what makes the city tick, though I’ll leave that for some more of you cultural urbanites. As for me, I ventured back to Rome, and got ready for the brief work week ahead!