Sunday, April 28, 2013

Travel Day, Naples Italy: Eating Pizza in its Birthplace 4/28/2013

My day started early, as all my travel days do.  I had a 7:30 am train to Naples to catch, I woke up around 6:00 am, left my linens and key one a bench in front of the front desk at the hostel (it did not open until 8 am), and walked in the drizzle to Bern's Central Station.

I sat in first class the first part of the trip, from Bern to Milan, then I had a second class seat, first class was booked. I forgot today was Sunday, it is easy to lose track of days when you move around as often as I do, explains why the train was busy.  The train stopped in Bologna, Rome and one other destination North of Rome before arriving in Italy.  One thing I noticed walking to the cafe, there is no real difference between first and second class on European trains, difference on the Italian train, leather seats, that was all.

Scene from train in Switzerland on my way to Naples
I spent most of my day on a train, traveling from Bern to Naples to around 8 hours.  The ride from Bern to Milan was quiet, the first class carriage was almost empty, plenty of room to spread out.  The train from Milan was full, I enjoyed watching the cultural change from Switzerland to Italy.  The Swiss seem to be reserved people, the Italians were the opposite, loud, expressive, full of life.  I did not mind the packed train, I enjoyed the company of the Italians on the train with me, even if we could not communicate due to the language barrier.

My lack of Italian did not stop the Italians from trying to speak with me, even when I told them I do not speak English. At times, I overhead Italian and responded, a young woman sitting across from me told her brother, he seat was number 13, I knew I was sitting in her seat, but it did not matter, it was the same seat, both aisle seats.  Since I understood, I felt compelled to respond, I told her, my seat is 14, she did the Italian wave of the hands, it does not matter.  She did not speak any English to me, I did not speak any Italian to her, but we understood each other. 

When we arrived in Rome, another woman sitting next to me, several minutes before the train stop, again spoke to my in Italian, this was easier to understand, she wanted me to move so she could get out of her seat and get her luggage.  I also learned my first Italian word on the train La Aqua, an older Italian man wanted me to buy him water when I went to the snack bar, he must have sensed I was going, I was searching for coins.  I did not understand him, I told him I do not speak Italian, he spoke Italian louder and waved his hands, he was going to make me understand.  The Italian man said La Aqua repeatedly, I figured it out, water, I showed him my water bottle to confirm, he said Si.  

The Italian man held out a handful of change, I told him wait until I got back, the water was 1.60 Euros, I took 1 Euro from the older man, I did not have enough change to give him and the man at the snack bar gave me a discount of at least 10 cents anyways.  The old man and I were the only two left in our row of four chairs  facing each other, we sat back and relaxed for the hour long ride from Rome to Naples. 

When I arrived in Naples, I tried to orient myself, I knew I wanted to buy a train ticket to Bari, Italy so I could take the ferry to Patras Greece on April 30th, I also wanted to go to the tourist desk for information on Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius.  There was little information in the tourist office, the woman told me to just go to Pompeii, no tour needed, then go to Mt. Vesuvius, she told me how to get to my hotel too.  I still got lost, and when I found the hotel I was at the wrong one, there are two, owned by a brother and sister team. 

Lynnae in front of Fountan at Naples Central Station 
I booked my ticket to Bari, Italy, the place ferries leave for Patras, Greece, I emailed the ferry operator, I will see if I get booked on a ferry leaving April 30th, if not I may go to Rome instead and work my way over to Spain, we will see what happens.  After booking my ticket, I found the Naples Subway, got off where the tourist office suggested, it was not too hard, I thought.  I asked for directions from a train station worker, he did not speak English, a man directed me to Naples National Archaeological Museum down the road, the landmark I was looking for, I could find my way from there, I thought.

My plan was to drop my things off at the hotel and go to the museum, it did not happen that way.  I took the wrong turn going to the hotel and ended up in Naples Slums, I kept thinking to myself the further I went, where would a Bed and Breakfast be in this area, I could not picture it.  I also could not find anyone who could speak English or point me in the right direction. I finally found a shopkeeper, she gestured to me to go down the street a long way.  I said gratsi, the second Italian word I learned today. 

Naples Slum I walked into when I got Lost 
I finally got directions to the hotel, I passed it several times after finding the tiny street it was located on.  The hotel was a hole in the wall, with two men loitering inside and outside the hole, turn out one of the loiterers was half of the brother and sister team who runs the two bed and breakfast.  I asked another man where the hotel was, he pointed me to it, the man confirmed I was in the rights place, told me it was on the first floor, I went through the hole in the wall.

Hole in the Door Wall at First Bed and Breakfast 
When we got inside, he realized I was booked at his sister's bed and breakfast.  He gave me directions on how to walk there, then decided to call me a cab, he said they would pay for it, I was relieved, I had been walking for over an hour with my luggage at that point.  I knew my sightseeing plans were not going to happen today, I was OK with it, I knew I had Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius to see tomorrow, the reasons I came to Naples. 

I got in the wrong cab when I went outside to wait for the cab the owner of the bed and breakfast had called.  I asked him if he was there to take me to the hotel, he said yes, I got in, the cab the owner called pulled up just before we pulled away.  I changed cabs for the short ride to the other bed and breakfast.  The started off talking to me in Italian, I told him I did not understand, I speak English, he apologized for his English. I apologized for my Italian, I am in his country and cannot speak the language, why is he apologizing to me?  He told me, 2 million people speak English it is the language everywhere, I think he meant 2 billion people, I am not sure. 

We finally arrived at the bed and breakfast, a man was standing outside who recognized me from the first bed and breakfast, or from me walking up and down the street looking for it, he smiled and said hello, remember me, or something to that effect.  I did not remember the man but I told him, yes, I remember, he pointed me to the entrance of the bed and breakfast, I was relieved to finally be there.  I may get lost but I eventually find my way. 

I found my way to the floor with the bed and breakfast, the sister was waiting for me.  She showed  me my room, gave me a map, and pointed out the beautiful parts of Naples.  She commented I wont be able to see much in two days, I agreed, I did not tell her I was not here to see Naples, I came to visit Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius.  Depending on what happens with the ferry to Greece, I may have some time to look around Maples Tuesday.  

I asked the owner where I could find good pizza, she pointed me to a street and told me all the pizza restaurants were good there.  I put my stuff in my room, locked myself in and briefly could not get out.  I had to press a button after locking the door to release the latch, hard to explain.  Once I got out of my room, I went looking for pizza, I do not know if I made it to the main street she told me to go to, I followed her instructions and what I could understand from the map, go left, then right, then left, I saw a lot of people on the road, I figured I was in the right place. 

I think I was on the road I was on when I was lost earlier today, I saw many African men selling boot leg Louis Vuitton and other designer bags, like I had earlier, this time they were packing up for the day. The street was somewhat, dingy, dirty, not the typical tourist area with bright cafes I have found in all the other cities I have visited  this is Naples, old-town Naples. 

I stopped at the first pizza shop I got to, there were some English speakers sitting outside, their pizza looked good, except for the bugs flying around the area, I decided I would eat outside.  There is no special ambiance eating outside in a Naples slum on a narrow street with no sunshine, at least not for me.   I ordered a pizza with spicy salami (tasted and looked like pepperoni), basil and mozzarella cheese, I cannot remember the name of the pizza, I do remember the pizza was delicious.    

Me with my first Naples Pizza 
I had a bad experience with pizza during my trip to Europe when I was 13 years old, today's pizza made up for that, Italians can make a delicious pizza.  I had the best pizza I have had in Europe, all other countries skimp with the sauce, not in Naples at this restaurant and I only paid 5 Euros for the pizza, one of the cheapest meals I have had during my Europe travels. 
I returned to my hotel after eating my pizza, I ate all of it, it was thin crust, I was very hungry, was just enough.  Now it is time for me to go to my room and settle in, it is the rare hotel I am staying in in Europe, most times I am in a hostel with several roommates.  I am going to enjoy the freedom of having my own space for a couple of days, although it is nice to have the company you get in a hostel. 

Naples Day 1 Photos

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