In this week’s blog we have a very special guest writer, Husband Chris, telling of our journey through Naples, Italy. If we get a positive response we may ask him to come back more regularly for some future publications!
So we arrived into Rome Airport, Fiumicino and caught the train into Rome Central train station. There we had about an hour to kill waiting for a train to Napoli. We had a sandwich and a coffee at one of the coffee shops there, the service was less than friendly. About 15 minutes before our train was about to leave we misjudged our positioning in the train station, we ended up running out onto the street and then back into the station to make it to our required platform. Thankfully, we made the train.
The journey to Napoli was largely uneventful. Anca was reading in another seat because we were separated due to booking complications. I remember seeing some old Roman aqueducts during the trip as if they were simply part of the normal scenery and not some amazing reminder of archeological discovery and engineering. We arrived into Napoli and I remember seeing the commercial district as we came into the train station. I cannot remember seeing it the last time I was in the city, 5 years previously, and it looked like a set out of some Batman movie. We asked the very friendly tourist information staff of how to get to our hotel from the central station. After a few stories about how they had relatives in different parts of Australia they eventually told us that we could walk to the hotel, about 20 minutes. Or, we could catch the bus, but one of the lady staff said “If you catch the bus, please sit down on the bus because there are pick-pocketers”. So we decided to walk. Needless to say, it took us an hour to reach our B & B. We were dragging two 20kg suitcases and the footpaths were by no means made for suitcase dragging. Every second cobblestone was about 5cm above or below the other one. It was the equivalent of dragging suitcases up the fire escape stairs of the Empire State building. We made it to the Medea B & B. And thankfully, the B & B was absolutely awesome. The rooms were so spacious and clean, I think I cracked a beer immediately. We went out for dinner and got our pizza places mixed up. We went to Sorbillo’s pizza place, which we told was the best in Napoli. It’s true, it probably is the best in Napoli, but not this Sorbillo’s.
Anca had to work that night for a bit and the next morning and I was still sore from carrying the suitcases the previous night. So we went out for lunch to have Pizza. This time we found the pizza place that had been recommended by the B & B staff. Gino Sorbillo’s is without a doubt the best pizza I have ever had. Funnily enough I had already been to this pizza place 5 years earlier. It had been recommended to me by Giovanni, from the famous Giovanni’s House youth hostel. So that would be two separate independent recommendations about this place. Everyone has their opinion about what is the best pizza in Napoli, this has to be up there. There is line up outside full of university students, many of them I would say come there every day. The line moves quickly though, it is one of those great Italian culinary business inventions, fast delicious food, high turnover of customers with low margins. Much like espresso is served I guess. Anyway, at Gino’s my favourite pizza there is the Osvaldo: tomatoes, smoked cheese and basil. We ate there, I think, 7 out of the 8 times we ate in Napoli. Words cannot describe my love for this pizza.
The following day we caught the teleferic up to the Certosa di San Martino, a former monastery now a beautiful visiting location. The museum was quite large and slightly run down, however that added to the charm. The best parts about it were the view of the Amalfi coast and an old court yard that had skulls sculptured sitting on pillars. There was also some interesting maritime history displays that I’m sure my dad would have appreciated.
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli is absolutely superb. I went there last time I was in Naples and we were not going to miss going there on this trip. The highlight by a long way is the Alexander Mosaic, originally from the House of the Faun in Pompeii. The level of detail and the sheer size of the piece is absolutely breathtaking. We sat there looking at it for about 30 minutes while a French teacher was explaining to his class details about the piece. Weirdly enough I could understand some of his explanation. Therefore, Anca probably understood all of it. We had also seen an explanation on Khan Academy about the piece and this was still clear in my mind as we were looking at it. There are other, more complete mosaics lifted from Pompeii and these are equally impressing if not as large in scale. We ventured into the rude section of the museum to have look at some of the more X-rated mosaics and sculptures. We soon got pretty tired and decided we had reached our limit. It’s impossible to see everything in such an impressive collection. When we went outside it was raining, for the first time since we had been in Naples, and we walked back to the B & B.
We caught the train the next day to Pompeii. The train travels around Mt. Vesuvius and the soils there look so fertile. The tomato vines and blood orange trees bear fruit like crazy. I would love to be able to replicate this in Toronto somehow. Anca used some of her sweet talking to get us a free second audio guide so we didn’t have to share. Pompeii is again huge, with so much to see. The casts of the people frozen in ash are the most haunting reality of the events that had taken place here on more than one occasion. Many of the main attractions (houses) seemed to be closed for reconstruction this time around. So we mainly walked around the town listening and learning with our audio guides.
Apart from our tourist excursions around Naples we visited many amazing churches around the city. Really, really beautiful some of them. Naples is a city that we really loved, the chaos, the colour and the life of the place is something that really appealed to us. Anca called it “Bucharest on steroids”. And that is exactly what it is, in a good way.
And back to Anca for a couple of regulars:
Not much to add here as Chris described it all. We Sorbillo-ed our trip to Napoli. We were so obsessed with the pizza there that we stole a menu, well I did and it was a printed piece of paper so it is not as bad as it sounds. The only reason for that is so Chris can replicate them when we he decides to make pizza again. As you read through it, mouth watering already, you see two dedication pizzas: Nonno Luigi and Nonna Carolina: ” Un omaggio all’unica famiglia al mondo composta da 21 figli tutti pizzaioli” (An homage to the only family in the world that has 21 sons, all pizza makers). This is the kind of family tradition we are taking about. We did venture one night to have dinner at a trattoria, although decent, we were just there trying to sort out how long the queue will be the next day at Sorbillo’s.
Oh how good I was. After the suitcase gate, Chris was not so keen on shopping. He was absolutely dreading the idea of me buying more stuff that he has to carry around.
Me, I have a short memory when it comes to how tiring something can be. But I think I was relatively good, goodish. I bought myself a ring from the bottom of the Certosa di San Martino. Napoli is well supplied with Cameo Jewelry and I like a true tourist, I like to respect local economy so Cameo Factory De Paola provided that avenue. We were told that they create the pieces by hand and they have been doing it father and son, they also had a little working table at the front so we bought it. I love my ring and I have worn it with great pleasure since.
I also bought something for our walls, most likely our future kitchen walls from an underground, and I don’t mean that metaphorically, shop on S. Domenica Maggiore 2 from a lovely couple who create furniture and art from various materials. Their atelier and shop is spread over three or four rooms and it is a truly movie like feeling being in there. I did not buy any furniture, but we bought a lovely colored hen standing out on a black background, made by Teresa Cervo.
We also went into a bookshop a couple of times. It was easier to resist buying books since I have not learned Italian but I found some fun illustrated booklets, a couple for friends and one for us “Migrazioni Surmoderne” by Otarebill.