Friday, November 6, 2009


By Claire
I have wanted to see Naples for 20 years. However, I have also always been very intimidated by this crusty city. Warnings from my Italian language teacher about Vespas roaring by grabbing my earrings or purse, even if I were dragged along, added to my fears. But, it houses the Archeological Museum with most of the haul from Pompeii and I really wanted to see the art and artifacts taken from the site.

I dressed as I had for Rome; no purse and very little in the pockets of my rain jacket. Yes, we have rain again. It rained all night after a gorgeous day yesterday. It just added to the atmosphere of Naples.

We made our way by the Circumvesuviana train, a 30 minute ride from Pompeii. In fact, the train station is just next door to the entrance to the Ruins. We always have a few challenges on our first day on a new transportation system and this day was just like all the others. However, we did really well, especially after finding the T.I. (tourist information). She was helpful and we managed to get on the correct metro to the next stop. Yes, just one very long ride to the next stop and then a few blocks to the museum. I enjoyed the street scenes around us.

The museum was a manageable size, filled with what seemed like hundreds of statues. As usual, we followed a self-guided Rick Steves tour, eschewing the €110/2 hour guided tour offered to us as we walked in. We found his tour frustrating. I’m beginning to think Rick hasn’t been in this area for some time. Like maybe 10 years. We had the same problem at Pompeii. His directions simply made no sense there or at the museum. We ended up asking for help finding various pieces we wanted to see.

We were curious about “The Secret Room” which is full of 2000 year old porn found in the ruins of Pompeii. During the high season you need reservations and are given only 15 minutes. Today, we were the only ones in the room. I found the art pretty tame and also felt that not much has changed over the years.

Chuck was especially interested in seeing the mosaic of the Battle of Alexander. It’s amazing to think that it took over one and a half million pieces to complete. This is only one section of the huge piece.

The other biggie was the tangled Toro Farnese, carved out of one piece of marble. At 13 feet, it’s the largest intact statue from antiquity.

My interests were more about the artifacts from everyday life.

Dental tools—some things never change, right Carolyn?

The spoons, tweezers, scissors, and knives were fascinating as were so many of the statues.

Here’s a piglet for you, Merlyn

Caesar, modeling my hair cut

By 12:30 we were ready to sit down and eat. Our goal was to try Neapolitan pizza, supposedly the best. We made our way to Antica Pizzeria da Michele, the choice for purists, but it had a crowd surrounding the front door. We got into the “line” then Chuck went to investigate how this system might work. Turns out they gave out numbers. Ours was #34. But, we never heard any numbers called yet people occasionally went in as if they had been. We realized it would probably be at least 30 minutes, if not an hour, before we would get inside. It just wasn’t worth it. So, we went across the street to Pizzeria Trianon, da Michele’s arch rival since 1923.

I’m so glad we made that choice. We were immediately seated inside this lively place and what a relief it was to finally sit down. We both ordered the classic Margherita pizza with hope that we would finally find the pizza of our dreams. I think we did.

This pizza had real, fresh basil on it. Not a lot, but it was there. I ordered an Italian beer, the only kind on the menu, and almost managed to eat my whole pizza. Lucky for me, I have a human garbage disposer with me at all times. We really liked this place. Mostly full of men, the kind who looked a little scary but probably weren’t, it still managed to have a very comfortable feeling. Climbing up 3 flights of stairs to the bathroom, I chuckled at the cigarette ashes someone had tapped into the bathroom sink without bothering to rinse them out.

We took our time, then checked our usual guidebook and found that a highly recommended gelateria was in the neighborhood. And wouldn’t you know, it was right across the street! Delicious and cheap. And by the way, our pizzas were only €3.60 each. We are finding southern Italy a good bargain. We are also finding better food. I really did not like Roman pizza. The only other memorable pizza is the pesto pizza in Vernazza.

It was time to move on before exhaustion set in so we meandered around the neighborhoods for awhile with the goal of ending at the metro station. Crossing the busy Via Duomo, we entered a neighborhood that immediately intensified. I found out later that this is the center of the Camorra (organized crime). Here are more street scenes as we walked along.

We made it back unscathed and were only approached once by a guy who wanted something but I didn’t give him time to tell me. A firm “no!” sent him on his way.

We suffered the usual frustration trying to figure out which train to take. The signs just aren’t very helpful or we’re really stupid. By tomorrow, we’ll be pros.

We love the fact that most campgrounds are located near food markets so we took advantage and walked from the train station, past Camping Spartacus and up the street. It always feels good to be stocked up.

Oh, I forgot to mention. I loved Naples. It was far more manageable than Rome and didn’t feel touristy at all. It was certainly dirty with lots of trash and graffiti but it was also colorful and very different. Walking back to the metro I felt as if I were walking on the Champs-Elysées, Naples style.

1 comment:

Arianna said...

Congratulations for taking on Naples! It's one of the only places I haven't been in Italy and really look forward to it someday! Glad you enjoyed it and had an uneventful visit! From what you described, I think parts (west side) of Sicily will have a similar feel.

Gram said she's been loving reading about your travels also