And so my journey 'down south' continues folks. When my Rome friends discovered I was off to Naples, their words in unison were along the lines of "Naples is beautiful but always keep your eyes open".
Ah, more warnings I see although these were from Italians that have lived in this country all their lives so I was certainly inclined to take note.
I left Rome Termini in the direction of Napoli via this beast:
This was the Frecciargento - a high-speed vessel capable of transporting folk between various parts of Italy including all the way up to Milano in next to no-time. Having made it to Napoli an hour later, I can vouch for that. Still, I made good use of my time on board and wrote some content for my blog - albeit offline of course.
So I arrive at Napoli Central and within just five minutes of wandering looking for the right metro to board I was approached by beggers and of course people selling things. Thankfully they weren't aggressive, rude or scary so I fobbed them off with out too much difficulty. Passive or not, I wonder if this was a sign of things to come...?
On board the metro I clocked a decent sized monitor of live CCTV footage on board the train. That's the first of its kind I've seen on a metro. I think we know the answer to my rhetorical question above then don't we. I exit the metro and find my hostel with relative ease so I do the familiar paperwork at reception then go check into the room which looks decent. Well, I'm not too surprised as I hardly choose my hostels by pulling random names out of a hat. I didn't know though I get a little balcony and a great view of the garden area. Check out the view and communal area - all this for £25 euros (£18).
Within a few hours the remaining other empty beds became occupied and it soon seemed again I had found a decent group but sadly half were checking out the very next day, including me. The reason I was checking out was because I have booked myself the next two nights to come in a B&B. Hardly the Dorchester but these days, that was a decent "treat" for myself to celebrate my one-month travel anniversary.
I met a really nice girl from South Korea and so we set off to explore Napoil then as we had just both arrived and new nothing about it other than to be careful. In less than 15 minutes of walking and observing, unanimously and without much hesitation, we agreed Napoli was not what had imagined it to be - it was everything BUT beautiful. What on earth were people on about!?
Napoli is actually quite easy to describe so here goes: Narrow-ish roads with walkways that are cramped and congested with a variety of automotive machinery fighting to share the same small piece of road.
That's not all: it feels grubby and there's no question that it is a little dirty. At this point we were too new to the city to properly appreciate how bad the traffic was and how obnoxious the driving style is but that would come and I'll write more about that tomorrow. And there's the uneven, cobbles roads pavements. This makes it hard to walk down a lot of the streets but worse than that, you try pulling hand-luggage along these roads! It was a nightmare and was easily the worst terrain I've experienced so far. As for a lot of the Neapolitans themselves, visually, well they do look quite distinctive. There's a hardness to the look of a lot of them and the kids/teenagers look chavy but in a misguided 'cool' way. Probably not too many diamonds in the rough here...
We reached some flat ground and like a rain cloud of doom disappearing, sunlight flooded the vicinity and then everything changed. We had reached the dock area of The Gulf of Napoli. Down here the buildings were flat and relatively unstained, the cross were marginally less crowded but there was finally more open-space!
See below with Mount Vesuvius in the back ground - the only active volcano in mainland Europe I'm told! (There is also Mount Etna on the island of Sicily).
At this point Castel Sant'Elmo also became more visible from a distance. This is said to offer 360 views of the city from up here so it's a place I'd visit before I leave if I can.
We continued to walk around the port and coastal area amazed at that transformation that had occurred in such a short period of time. To think that only moments before we had uttered more unflattering words about Napoli.
No longer were we feeling uncomfortable by our surroundings, instead we were enjoying being here and seeing things like a miniature fun-park, sporting area for kids and even flat and relatively unstained buildings. But the best was yet to come...
Below is Castel dell' Ovo which is now on a peninsular which this image doesn't portrait very well. We crossed over a small man-made walkway to get to it and thankfully it wasn't crowded at all so we were really able to enjoy being here and took some nice snaps:
And now finally, the view....
Random moment of the day?
We finished our day by sitting in a nice cafe only to find out that the waiter had been in Manchester a few months earlier to watch a Noel Gallagher gig! Brilliant. So naturally we spoke some Oasis language. (I think my cousin Joe went to that gig too).
So Napoli is proof that a city can offer an extreme transition from unpleasant and really not very charming to utterly serene and stunning.
Top tip though: Get a good map as it is easy to get lost in Napoli as Mia and I found out this evening. This wont be something either of us will forget in a hurry, hey Mia!