Monday, April 1, 2013
After quickly throwing sheets onto our bunks, we set off to explore the streets.
The clouds were heavy and grey, the streets eerily quiet. Apparently Easter is a three-day holiday. This wasn’t an American holiday where you simply slice an hour or two off the workday and Golds Gym gets overly excited at the excuse to close 11 hours early.
Not a single shop or café was open. Luckily Jesus picked a convenient weekend because we didn’t really mind the quiet streets after experiencing the absolute chaos in the catholic capitol of the world the day prior. We walked to the waterfront and had a peek at the Bay of Naples, and then continued to explore more churches and marble buildings with huge pillars and of course window shop.
As the light of day left us wandering the streets aimlessly, we realized it was past time to eat. We searched the streets for hours to find a place serving up anything besides a fluffy ‘cwah-sont’ or fun-size macaroons and ended up returning to our hostel for a dinner recommendation.
‘Any good joints around here to eat?’ We asked, excited to hear a response overflowing with tasty recommendations of places to try in the gastronomic superstar.
‘Today – no. You don’t eat today, everything is closed. Tomorrow, yes, then you can eat.’
Oh fantastic, like our metabolism knows to go on a three day holiday with the rest of this country.
I accidentally laughed out loud before we pushed back from the reception desk. We turned the corner and I looked to James. I was then treated to brief rant about how James really feels about Italy.
After being lectured about the endless possible solutions to the Italian economic crisis (the first being open your damn businesses), we set out (with lowered standards) determined to eat just about anything.
We ended up finding a quiet place with cheap (but good) local wine, amazing wood-oven pizza, and a very slightly recovered first impression of Naples.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
We were up by 8 a.m. and spent the morning hogging the common room, communal computer and coffee pot. Just before 2 p.m. we squeezed through the troll-size cutout door and poured onto the street.
We explored the main streets and hopped in and out of shops along Via Toledo before making our way to Piazza San Gaetano for the Napoli Sotterranea underground tour. The tour took us 40m underground to explore the creepy tunnels and passageways, basically a claustrophobic’s ultimate hell.
This underworld is 170km in total, but we only explored for an hour and a half. Of course not doing our research beforehand, it wasn’t until we were surround by stone and 120-plus feet underground and 13 degrees C that we learned this dungeon was the result of elbow grease by the Greeks, extracting tufa stone to be used in the construction of the walls that enclosed Ancient Naples.
The Romans extended and subsequently utilized this underground world by creating an aqueduct to get water from the nearby Mt. Vesuvius. Carrying on with this multi-purpose attitude, during WWII the aqueduct served as the air-raid shelter for thousands. We were led through winding tunnels and shown homes, wine cellars, shops, common areas and nun/monk mingling zones.
At one segment, we were given a giddy warning that the abdominal girth-challenged, claustrophobe, indecisive navigator, or directionally troubled ding-dong shouldn’t proceed into the upcoming passageways. We were given one candle per couple and stumbled blindly forward as we hugged the cold stone walls (only 50cm apart) as we walked through the 100m maze.
By the time we reappeared on ground level it was dark and time to do what Italians do, drink wine and eat pizza.
Afterwards we headed to Velvet Zone (James’ pick) to checkout what Napoli nightlife had to offer. After a cover charge we went downstairs and it felt like we were back in the damn aqueduct. Except now it was Italian-packed full of bedazzled skinny jeans and pleather jackets, house garbage and enough cigarettes to tip a cow. We didn’t last long and returned to the hostel before 1 a.m.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
We’d had enough of Naples, so Wednesday we excitedly boarded the train to Sorrento.
Ok, well we tried to jump on the train that we waited for as equally as long as everyone else. But we aren’t big enough assholes to fit in here, yet, so we literally (that’s used correctly, James) got pushed out the door of the train and back onto the platform. We waited patiently for the next one while James again reminded me how much he loves this country.
It was a short train ride, and we jumped off just before entering Sorrento, at S.Agnello. It took only several minutes down winding stone roads before James and I looked at one another and smiled.
‘I like this place’ we both agreed out loud.
We checked into Seven Hostel which is indisputably the sweetest hostel either of us had ever walked into. James quickly began snooping around borrowing ideas for how to construct his next frat. Lookout 565 Colorado.
Even though they have an awesome rooftop terrace and the place feels like Vegas, we were excited to explore Sorrento so we were out the door quickly.
The sun was out and the clean air smelled of the salty sea and sweet lemons. We walked along the street lining the cliffs overlooking the bay before coming to the main square in Sorrento. There are a handful of attractive cafes, bars and boutique shops. Oh, and holy crap the biggest lemons you’ve ever seen. Basically enough distractions to turn this short walk into an all evening excursion.
Somehow we made it through the alluring shops and finally found a seat on the cliffs edge overlooking Marine Piccola and Marine San Francesco.
We waited for the sun to fade (and some random guy testing his balance on the rocks below to fall in the sea) before we were satisfied and made our way back to the main square. We found a seat at one the cafes and enjoyed local wine, James got his much-needed ravioli and I got grilled eggplant (and free peanuts of course).
Afterwards we weaved down the tangled streets and found an Irish bar and ordered some Italian wine. Seems fitting.
The long days of walking around had finally caught up to us, and we were pooped so we attempted to head back to the hostel by 11 p.m. We managed to hitch a free ride from the empathetic bus driver serving the last route of the evening, but then got lost for 15 minutes before finding the correct road back. Like a toddler, I didn’t quite finish putting the sheets on my bed before plowing my face into my pillow and deciding to take a snooze in mid downward-dog. James returned after brushing his teeth and had a good laugh before calling it a night.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
We enjoyed a leisurely free breakfast and coffee in the airy Hostel Seven dining room before figuring out the day’s itinerary. Rather than returning to the mosquito infested Napoli smokers dump, we decided to instead head to Amalfi for the day and return to this sweet spot in S. Agnello later that evening.
We took the train to Sorrento and then jumped on an over-capacity bus headed towards Amalfi. It was an hour and a half roller coaster ride teetering over the cliff edge with people barfing along the way. James and I enjoyed the ride anyway. We arrived in Amalfi just before 1 p.m. and took off down the pedestrian path that hugged the sea.
We shopped, shopped some more, stopped at a cafe and got Italian beer and wine, played by the ocean, and returned to the same cafe to repeat the cycle once more.
James stalled the last bus returning to Sorrento while I purposely lollygagged on the dock waiting for the darkness to serve up the pictures I had been waiting for.
We loved Amalfi and it’s easily my favorite place in Italy so far. I kinda wish we would’ve missed that last bus…
Friday, April 5, 2013
After another lazy breakfast morning, we were on the 10:45 a.m. train to Pompeii.
Pompeii has a bit of a rough history. In AD 63 there was a massive earthquake, and before the Romans could rebuild their marble covered pillars, they were buried beneath a suffocating layer of lapilli from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79.
James’ best bud Rick Steves joined us for our tour of the ruined city. We cruised through the main gate, Porta Marina, before heading for the main piazza. We pounced across limestone columns that were used by pedestrians to cross the streets when it was raining as to avoid getting their fine leather sandals wet (and also to block carriages from entering the pedestrian zone).
We then continued to play Pompeiian and explored Terme Stabiane (the bath house). Apparently these Romans knew how it was done. We went through the men’s lockers room and into the tepidarium (steam room) and the caldarium (sauna).
We peeked into the bath house pools and then exited to find Roman McNuggets. There were fast food joints lining the street. The tracks were still distinctly carved into the stone on the street where the awning covers carried on to see the Casa del Fauno and Casa del Poeta Tragico. James announced he ‘doesn’t give a rip about some faun’ so we headed out to find the bakery and bar.
We of course jumped inside the oven and I had to make friends with the flour grinders.
We found the bar, and vuala, some vino!
After cheersing to the Romans we headed to the Teatro Grande, a theater that was capable of seating one-quarter of their total population.
We strolled over to the Teatro Piccolo (also known as the Odion, the former indoor theater) and sat down for some exquisite people watching.
We then cruised over to the oldest Roman amphitheatre in existence, the anfiteatro.
I was fed up with hearing about veneers and erections from Rick, so we called it quits and made our way to the train station to catch the next ride back to ‘dumpy’ Naples.
We were back by 6 p.m. and later had dinner at a sweet spot next to the waterfront. James ordered up a Sicilian pizza, delivering the hint that he was past ready to leave this place.
Saturday, April 7, 2013
I was up early and decided to wander aimlessly around Naples before meeting James at noon to grab our bags and train tickets.
We were on the 1:50 p.m. train to Catania, Sicily. While I may have been a bit more excited than James to board yet another train, this ride was not comparable to the others. We started out in the middle seats, but after an hour we had the carriage to ourselves. It was a seven hour ride, and we were quite excited to be forced to sit in one place with the sights passing by us, instead of vice versa. By 6 p.m. I was surprised with James’ unimpressed announcement. ‘Yo, we are getting on a ferry’ Whoa what, a train is just rolling onto a ferry? To say I was excited is a bit of an understatement.
We continued on until we arrived in Catania at 9:30 p.m. A cab took us to our new home, Ostello del plesiscitto and we were treated to wine and dinner upon our welcome.