October 13, 2004

Naples: Armpit of Italy

Posted at October 13, 2004 02:47 AM in Daily Life .

The last couple of days have been busy. Yesterday morning, we grabbed a train in Florence for Naples. Let me tell you for the record: the trains no longer run on time in Italy. This was fortunate for us as we arrived at 9:36 AM to go to Naples and there was supposed to be a Eurostar direct at 9:29. The next one was a few hours later. Our train was running 25 minutes late (and the one before it hadn't arrived either and was an hour late), so we were able to buy tickets and get the early train.

The train from Florence to Naples goes via Rome. The whole trip was abut five and a half hours on the train and this was the express.

Looking at the information on Naples, R and I had decided the night before that we really didn't want to stay there. There were a lot of warnings about crime, about going down the wrong streets at night, etc. and not a lot of positives. Instead, we decided to go to Sorrento, which is a resort town on the other side of the Gulf of Naples from the city. We're just leaving the main tourist season but it is billed as a nice place and is right by Pompeii and the island of Capri.

So, we rode the train into Naples and we saw the city from there. Skyskrapers, the first we've seen in Italy, but nasty looking slums, abandoned areas, etc. It looked like the images I've seen of Detroit. The train station only confirmed it. Dirty and nasty.

We went to the connecting station for the Circumvesuviana line and basically rode in a packed subway car through the tenement suburbs until we started going around the bay. Then we saw beautiful greenery, lots of water and the whole area was just very pretty. We finally arrived in Sorrento and it is basically the land of shops, hotels, ristorantes, and bars. Full of non-Italians as well. It is surprisingly relaxing here though.

We went to a hotel that we'd read about, a family run place, but they were full. The grandmother who owned the place told us to wait, called her daughter and asked us if we wanted to rent a small apartment. We were unsure of the costs (in a resort town after all) but they offered it to us at the same rate as the hotel (which is just about the cheapest we've had it here). The daughter came over and it turns out that she owns an Irish Pub in town and rents out this apartment to tourists. She was between bookings until Friday, so we could have it for cheap. She took us over and it's pretty damn cool. It's three smallish rooms (12' by 20') stacked on top of each other with a spiral stair that connects all three. The top room is a loft really and just above street level and has the bedroom. The lowest one (which is 15' below ground level) is a kitchen and bathroom/shower, and the middle room is just a living room. We liked it so much that we asked for a third night and she agreed. That will keep the place full until her next reservations.

We wandered around Sorrento a bit for the rest of the evening and then went to a rather nice ristorante on a terrace with its own tiny orange grove that you eat within.

Today, we decided to have a "do nothing" day and sleep in, use the Internet, and wander around. We thought about going to Capri but didn't feel like it. We signed up for a arranged tour of Pompeii and Vesuvius for tomorrow so we can ride out and have a guide in Pompeii. That should be a lot of fun. I picked up a recommended local book on Pompeii and Vesuvius as well.

We'll be here until Friday, when we then go to Roma. We leave next Wednesday morning from there.

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