The train to Napoli left at 7:35, so an early hike to the station. The train was a Frecciarossa, meaning it travelled at up to 300km/h. As we sped through the countryside I explained to Mina and Jess that New Zealanders fought in this area during World War 2 against the Germans. Just as I was saying this I looked out the window and there was Monte Cassino high on a hill next to us. I then had to explain that New Zealand’s most famous general was responsible for blowing it up.
After just over an hour we arrived at Napoli Central station, and made our way to a left luggage place a few blocks North. We then walked down to the Porta Nolana station which is where the Circumvesuviana train actually starts from (Napoli Central is the second stop where most people board). This proved to be a good move since as soon as the doors opened we rushed for some of the rare seats. Already the train was quite full, and over the course of the next few stops it became very full. There were obviously football games on, so fans were crowding on the train, with loud banter, loud music from boom-boxes, and the wafting smell of marijuana drifting through the train. The train stopped at one point for about 20 minutes at a station, eventually starting up again to a loud cheer from those on board.
Eventually we arrived at Pompeii. It was by now about 11am and getting hot. The stone streets of the city, and high angle of the sun (meaning hardly any shade), made walking hot work. There’s no way you can see all of Pompeii in a day, so I picked out a few important sites for us to visit (this wasn’t made easy by the guide book we bought only loosely matching the map).
Visiting the places selected took a little longer than it should have, and we had only booked the storage locker for 6 hours, so we had to rush to get back on the Circumvesuviana , which fortuitously pulled up just as we arrived on the platform (the train only once every half hour). Maybe we would make it back to our locker in time! But then with only a few stops to go the train stopped again. Finally the train arrived at Napoli Central and we walked as fast as possible to the locker, arriving about 5 minutes late. However our luggage was released without penalty anyway. We then caught a taxi to the hotel, after working out public transport would take as long (if not longer) than walking. The taxi driver was friendly, dispensing plenty of tourist advice. We checked in to Hotel Piazza Bellini, regrettably for only one night. It’s in an old palace, and was a very nice place, and a bargain to boot. Free welcome drinks and a welcome bag of pasta greeted us.
We quickly dumped our gear and headed out immediately, there being a couple of things I still wanted to do in our very short time in Napoli. The first was Sotterranea. We got the at 3:45 and were told to come back at 4pm, so grabbed a quick gelato (I discovered the cherry flavour here, to add to the delicious pistaccio flavour that had been my favourite till now). The tour started a wee bit late and had a lot of people. First we descended 40m underground to caves dug out by the ancients for rock, the used as an aquifer till a cholera outbreak, then used as a trash dump, and finally as a bomb shelter during World War 2. It was quite fun and a cool change crawling through the narrow passages. We were then shown excavations of an ancient Greek theatre that had been incorporated quite literally into the framework of the modern buildings. Families’ homes were abutting into the ruins.
We then made our way to Museo Cappella Sansevero. This place is famous for the sculpture of the Veiled Christ. In the one room however were a number of marble sculptures of equal worth. I honestly thought the statues here are better than those at the Borghese Gallery. Unfortunately they have a strict “No Foto” policy and a lot of guards to enforce it.
We tried in vain to find an ATM since we were very low on cash, and were unable to find one after wandering around to Dante piazza. There was some great music a a good vibe coming from there. Eventually we gave up and went home a straight to sleep, exhausted after a long day. According to Mina’s phone we did well over 20km on foot.
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