Saturday, 18 May 2013

Stopping in Naples on the way home

I have been to a lot of places in Italy but have only ever changed trains in Naples. Today we had ~ 6 hrs in the city to visit a bit.

They say there are two countries, southern Italy and northern Italy, and the dividing line is the last gas station on the outskirts of Rome. I've spent a bunch of time in the south and would agree. Naples is the real start of the poor section of Italy, and while many people think of Rome as fairly dirty, unkept, and congested, it's a palatial palace compared to Naples.

The Centro Storico is about all we could explore today, and it's just a crowded zoo. The historic roads are narrow, lined with tall apartments, and feature tons of laundry dangling from the windows. Some examples:
A peaceful, quiet street in Naples 
Wide boulevards 
Laundry day 
More laundry 
Wonder what people do when it drips on them? 
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
Walking in Naples is an exercise in bravery. Vehicles don't stop at pedestrian crosswalks. It's everyone for themselves; you just walk through the traffic, never making eye contact with the driver hurtling at you (if you do, you have to give way). Imagine strolling across the Deerfoot or the Gardner Expressway or your favourite local freeway -- and locals NEVER jog across (it's a sign of weakness). Scooters pay no attention to traffic signs; to them, "ONE WAY" means "you can only drive one way at a time", I guess. Sidewalks -- such as they are -- are fair game to drive a scooter on. The "pedestrian area" of downtown means the roads have only 5 cars a minute, rather than the normal 50, and of course it doesn't apply to the scooters. No rules apply to scooters here.
A scooter exits a cupboard. I saw up to 12 scooters in them
A truck can't get in because a scooter is parked in the middle
So wandering around is taking your life in your hands, and I said to KC that these were the bravest people I have ever seen.

And so we wandered, staying close to the edge of the road, and only nearly getting run over twice. We wandered to the Duomo (pretty, but no photos allowed inside).
Big. Really big. With 2 full independent churches inside
We took a tour (Us? An organized tour?) into the "basement of Naples". Underneath the city is another city, and below that, the aqueducts that served the original city. An explanation is in order (and is in historical order):

  • Naples was settled by the Greeks. Greeks built underground aqueducts to feed the rivers into the city. Houses had "wells" that lowered buckets into reservoirs below the houses fed by the aqueducts.
  • The Greeks were kicked out. The Romans took the place over. They built a city, using parts of the old Greek city.
  • The Romans were kicked out. The Roman stuff was buried. An entirely new city was built on top, but the aqueducts were still used as a water source.
  • Cholera hit the city. The aqueducts were "closed".
  • Several hundreds of years past. The aqueducts were rediscovered.
  • WW2 hit. The aqueducts were drained and became bomb shelters.
  • Someone found the old Roman plans of the city. The Roman stuff was found under existing buildings.
So we went 30-40 m under the city, into the aqueduct network. It was cool (literally; 14° and 90% humidity, compared to 25° and 35% up top).

The tour was of these underground places. Caves and slots dug in the tufa. Hard to take pictures in the basements, so I apologize for what you are about to see. We explored HUGE caverns. There's 70 miles of tunnels), and also did a candlelight walk 100 m down an aqueduct so narrow I got stuck because my shoulders were too wide. It reminded me of my caving days.
Into the abyss
Part of the abyss 
A well that they used to dip water out of 
An underground reservoir. Real, but the water's added 
Shaft for aqueduct cleaning. Simulated wire dude. 
The candlelight section 
We all get candles 
The entrance to the Roman Theatre
Yes, the Roman Theatre was under someone's house (or it was till they bought the house off them). That trap door was used by the family to access their "wine cellar", which was in fact part of the backstage area of a 2,000 year old theatre. 

After the tour, we went outside and had a typical Neapolitan lunch. The most awesome €4 lunch I have ever had, ever. One Pizza Forno (basically, an 8" pizza marghereita), one Pizza Fritta (an 8" pizza shell, covered in ricotta cheese and another pizza shell, then deep fried) and two giant aranccini (risotto stuffed with mozzzarella di buffalo and ham, then breaded and fried). All for €4.

Freaking glorious.
Pizzaria Di Matteo, with the pizza forno & pizza fritta visible
We ate this in front of a church in one of the busiest piazzas in Naples -- just as a wedding came out of the church across the street. We barely saw the wedding party. But the guests (and their shoes) were a riot.
Clearly, we were underdressed 
What the modern young Italian women wear for shoes
It's a shame that platforms are back in a big way. They were ugly in the 70's, and they're not that attractive now.

We did get into the church above the entrance to the aqueducts.
St. Paolo Maggiore 
One side 
From the front door 
Inlaid marble walls
After lunch we wandered town, running across the "music district" (sadly, mostly closed). One shop had multiple outlets, with a small shop selling drums, another keyboards, another guitars. There were luthiers, selling celli, mandolin and other such instruments. There were instrument restoration shops.
Electronics inside a violin? 
A lute?
We found the world's least inviting church.
A wall of nasty lava pyramids
Guys selling illegal knock-off stuff...
Sunglass man 1 
Sunglass man 2 
Dolce & Gabbana's latest outlet -- or so they try to tell you
...who are chased away by the police on a regular basis.
They're everywhere
Here's what some think of the police.
He might think so
Naples is busier, wilder, more chaotic, obviously poorer, and dirtier than Rome. But it was interesting enough that I will have to go back there one day.

And it's easy to get to. We got a high speed Trenitalia train on the way home, a Ferricargento, which runs on the dedicated high speed rail line between Rome and Naples. This puppy goes. We were in Rome in 70 minutes after leaving Naples. Don't know what speed we hit but the train can do 250 km/hr (160 mph). Our train on the way down was a FrecciaBlanca, no slouch of a train than can do 160 km/hr on the old rail lines. Took us 105 minutes to get there.

An excellent end to an excellent weekend away. Tomorrow: laundry.

And sleeping in. I'm tired of getting up at "a quarter to stupid." 

1 comment:

Edwin said...

Keep 'em coming, love it!