We had an apartment booked on the via Duomo – the street of the cathedral – in the old town. Because we’d be arriving at 11pm we gladly agreed to the owner’s suggestion that we be driven to the accommodation by her driver (also known as her husband) who’d transport us to our lodgings and check us in for a fee. The apartment was in a grand old building on the fifth floor. A bit rickety true, but very charming.
Our Saturday involved exploration of the city of Naples. We had no idea where we were going -we turned left from our building upon exit. After about a hundred metres we stumbled across the imposing edifice of Naples Cathedral. I was a little mesmerised, which didn’t translate well when I proclaimed, ‘What the fuck is THAT?’. As is always the case with Italian churches it was tarted up in frills and gold to announce the splendour and wealth of the church. Morally the Catholic Church may be suspect, but I will always appreciate their churches. Afterwards we wandered the narrow laneways of inner Naples – the clothes drying on the lines between buildings, the narrow streets teeming with vendors selling their wares. We strolled to the Archaeological Museum of Naples with its magnificent displays of statues down through the millenia, as well as the Secret Room – a room of pornographic art rescued from the excavations of Pompeii. A truly splendid museum. After a pizza lunch we walked over to the Piazza del Plebiscito – the grand square in the centre of town beside Naples Harbour. That evening we dined on the street in a little trattoria where a two-course meal and a bottle of wine cost fifty euros between us.
Having visited Pompeii a few years earlier I decided not to revisit it on this occasion. It’s definitely worth further exploration, but I was fearful of spoiling my memories by returning too soon. Instead, we chose the ruins of the village of Ercolano / Herculaneum. This is located in the suburbs of Naples and was also a victim to the same eruption of Vesuvius in the year 79AD. Discovered in the early 18th century (earlier than the rediscovery of Pompeii) it is much smaller in scale. It’s almost perfectly preserved and navigable however which makes it just as impressive. I love these ruins – frozen in time and fossilised at the moment of their destruction.
After a pizza lunch we reboarded the train and continued our journey to the coastal village of Sorrento – as lovely as you’d expect with the charming town, gorgeous coastline and laid-back atmosphere. We had some drinks at a beach bar where we were entertained by a drunk Scottish couple in the throes of a relationship breakup. They’d been drinking since 3pm and were vocalising their discontent with each other. They were videoing in their friends from back home, slurring to them how amazing it all was. Thankfully they left soon after we arrived. I predicted an evening of tears, piss and vomit. We arrived back to Naples quite late, so it was straight to bed.
Monday was a day for sailing. Our apartment was located a few minutes-walk to the ferry. We’d decided to go glamourous on our final full day and take a ferry to the island of Capri. We disembarked the boat and wondered aloud what to do. It was 1pm. Our return ferry was at 8.20. Perhaps a little preplanning would have been wise. All the vendors were hawking a boat-trip to the Blue Grotto and around the island so that is what we selected. The Blue Grotto is a cavern in a rock – a narrow entrance on small sail-boat reveals a grand chamber where the water is sky blue thanks to the sunlight entering from the cave entrance. Our portly guide claimed to be Pavarotti’s brother. They must have some amazing mother – Luciano would be nearly 90 if he was alive. Our sailor was about 30. He serenaded us to Nessun Dorma in the cave. It was strangely moving.
The trip around the island was fascinating on a double count. Firstly, the island is stunning – the scenery and geology is breath-taking. We had an Instagram influencer on board with us. She spent the trip posing seductively in front of the various sights, the pictures being taken by her hapless boyfriend. She was an incredibly beautiful woman (although at a quick glance I could spot a nose-job, lip implants, Botox, and a boob-job) but missed the whole point of the trip. The beauty was around her. Then again if I looked like she did, I’d probably want to record it for the ages as well.
Reaching land again we decided to visit the old town, which was inland, up a steep hill. A very steep hill. By the time we reached the summit we were ready to cry. A twenty-euro pizza and a twelve-euro beer revived us. Capri is an island for jetsetters and the prices match. As we wandered the maze of tiny streets of the town, we marvelled at the pictures of the rich and famous who frequent this island. While waiting for the boat back to Naples, I noticed that we could have paid three euros to take a funicular to the peak of the island. Next time.
Our final meal in Naples that evening was in a pizza restaurant outside our door. They didn’t tell us that their card payment system wasn’t working when we arrived, so I was frogmarched to an ATM at bill-time. I didn’t care – Naples is a chaotic, melodramatic city – lovely in its pandemonium and grime.
We left on Tuesday.
I love Naples.