Archive for the ‘Naples’ Tag

Pompeii and Amalfi Coast – Festive period 2022/23

The obvious out-of-Naples places to visit are Pompeii/Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast. Pompeii we self-organised. We took at train from Naples Central towards Salerno and a short shuttle bus to the Pompeii excavation from Pompeii railways station. All very straightforward. The Pompeii site closes about 1700 at this time of the year, so there was a bit of a rush to the train back to Naples. In the summer I suspect it is a bit of a crush.

The second – Amalfi Coast – we subcontracted out to a company called Tramvia. Tickets are sold from the many street kiosks. They pick up in the morning on a big coach from around the town and then separate passengers by tour at a spot on the edge of the city. We ended up in a transit van (with seats, obviously) with a driver who shocked many of us with his clifftop hustling and adventurous overtaking. In the dark. We were first dropped off at Positano (right). We had a couple of hours to walk down to the beach, get coffee, visit the church and wander through some of the many pottery shops. Enough time.

And then on to Amalfi itself. Another two hours sufficient for a bit of wandering along alleys in search of an entrance to the so-called cathedral (left) which we did not find – the entrance, that is. We settled for a glass of wine and a light snack. Suffice to say, the driver wasted no time getting back to Naples. We needed more wine to calm the nerves, or that is at least our excuse.

Pompeii…well, at least we controlled the getting there. We hired a guide (shared with a few others) who was good value. His Italian English was perfect. He sounded a bit like Francesco da Mosto, for those in know. And mischievous with it. We subsequently found out that some of the things he told us were not absolutely true; though it took the great Mary Beard to put him right. For example, the difference between slaves and slave owners was not as great as we were told. Beard tells us that many slaves won their freedom and became citizens of the city in their own right, though not if they did something that warranted a flogging. To be flogged is to be permanently labelled. Moreover, some slaves were highly educated and skilled by the standards of the time. The rich could have a slave doctor, for example. What was constant was food – rich and poor, slave and slave owner all ate much the same – seafood, grains and nuts.

Pompeii is a great experience. There is plenty of room and quiet areas, apart from the ever-popular brothel – which is not really worth visiting – there is more erotica on display in the Naples Archaeology Museum which we also checked out. There are a few lessons for all of us to take from Pompeii. Many people died because they did not know that Vesuvius was a volcano. And when they tried to flee, they hid. Knowledge is important; there was nowhere to hide from the ash. And those not prepared to forfeit their wealth, perished with it. Knowledge also was lacking in the plumbing. Whilst it was sophisticated in terms of capture of rainwater, piping and pressurizing, the lead pipes were also lethal (above right).

It is quite an extensive excavation – and ongoing (above left). The killer – Vesuvius – sits to the north. Pompeii itself used to sit directly on the shoreline, but the eruption essentially moved it backwards! The city is a great snapshot, too, in the developments in architecture. This bit of Italy is prone to earthquakes as well as volcanic activity. The Pompeiian – if that is who they are – architects learned how to strengthen their buildings – eventually adopting the diamond formation (right).

But ultimately the lives of the people before the eruption look just like our own: domestic, consumptive, with entertainment (albeit gladiators) and eating (restaurants/home).

And having written all of this, I suddenly read this in the Guardian under the headline ‘Astonishing’ Pompeii home of men freed from slavery reopens to public.

Naples – Festive season, 2022/3

The dread of winter, of course, prompts thoughts of being somewhere a little warmer for at least some of the colder time. We’ve been to Seville/Andalucia over this period before, but travelling by train there this time proved prohibitively expensive. Second best – though with hindsight unfairly so – was Naples.

We travelled on 25 December Euro City Munich to Padua (end station, Venice) and then TrenItalia Frecciarossa (high speed, right) to Napoli via Rom. It is a good day to travel – busy but not too busy. A cafe was open in Padua station (above left). The coffee was timely and great! Total journey time around 12 hours. One hour changing time in Padua. A bit of a delay in Rom. Dodgy power sockets on train.

We were staying in the Municipio district of Naples – three stops on Line 1 on the metro. There was a ticket kiosk in the passage between the main station and the metro station. It takes about ten minutes to walk between the two.

The first thing to say about Naples – and it has been said many times by many – it is busy. Crazily so. Be prepared for cars – and particularly motor scooters – to demand you get out of the way, even in streets (for want of a better word) that look like pedestrian walkways. They are not.

Eating is easy, even on 25 December. A local diner (right) was open adjacent to the hotel. There are many examples like this. Pizza, of course. Pasta and a mix of vegetables for those seeking vegetarian options, as we were.

In fact, we had many eating experiences. There are a couple of vegetarian options. Both good, one less friendly than the other. Friendly was Cavali Nostri (left). This place was not a concession to vegetarian food. Whoever runs it knows what is vegetarian food. So good the first time that we entrusted to them new year’s eve. We knew there was a special menu, but we had not quite digested the fact that there would be nine courses. Nine! And course 6 would be risotto – a meal in itself. Still, we got some of our new favourite vegetable, friarielli broccoli. Not really broccoli. More like tough and chewy spinach.

The other place was Un Sorriso Integrale Amico Bio. The menu was extensive and interesting. And it was quick. But we never felt truly welcome. The first time we went it was “full” – we could come back in an hour (by then 2130); the second time, we could come back, but we’d get ignored once the order was taken. And so it proved. It became a rather an inexpensive meal, in retrospect.

We had various other experiences in – and off – the main thoroughfares. All very similar. Pizzas are great. Service mixed. Prices very fair, including for wine. Mostly street food, including fried pizza, for which people were well prepared to queue quite some time to get. One of the odd things about pizzas is that many people cut off the crusts and leave them (along with other food items – food waste is a problem here, I sense).

There are many wonderful little bars for coffee and cake. Quite a lot are quirky, and not traditional in any way; for example, this place on the left – Posca-Bar Bakery Bistro – is located on Via Port ‘Alba close to the Dante Metro.

And so to the nine courses at Cavali Nostri: