Monday, June 11, 2007

We're off to Italy

After a nine hour overnight flight from Cincinnati to Rome, which was only half full and gave us lots of room to lie down to sleep, our 16 day vacation started on a note of panic. Arriving at the right platform according to the information board, we found a train already at the platform. Not knowing whether this is our train to Naples I got on the train to ask someone already on the train, when all the doors were suddenly locked. I walked through three carriages to find an open door, but no such luck. There I was, on a locked train, my wife and son, and all our luggage on the platform, and I envisaged the train pulling out of the station on a 2 hour non-stop journey to Naples. Monica tried to ask someone that looked like a Trenitalia employee what was going on, but he couldn’t understand, non capisco, keep on telling her "wait". For what? The train was due to depart! At this point more people were trying to get on or get off the train. Eventually, after a good 5 minutes the doors were suddenly unlocked again, we got on and took the first available seats we could find. We were discussing our 'perceived disaster' in Afrikaans when the couple across the isle, Martin and Diana, said to us "You are speaking Afrikaans!" They were from Bedfordview in Johannesburg and on their way from Florence to Naples. So what are the odds? There are only about 5 million people in the whole world that can speak and understand Afrikaans and we would meet some of them on a train in Rome across the isle from us. Small world! It would happen again when we visited the Vatican, but later about that. I wish I had that odds when playing the Powerball lottery.

After we booked into the Hotel Eden, close to Naples' Stazione Centrale we went out in the Campania heat to explore the centro storico along Corso Umberto. I cannot comment a lot about Naples because we only walk around for about 2 - 3 hours, but I was warned in my research to watch out for the scooters in Naples and still I was nearly killed twice by scooters coming from all directions. Naples, the portion we walked through is a gigantic labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys, noise, dirt, buildings falling apart, street vendors, scooters and more scooters, and tiny little cars and the drivers all ignoring the concept of lanes and traffic lights and pavements (walkways) that are supposed to be used by pedestrians. Watch out! This is one chaotic city!

We had dinner that evening in a small family-run pizzeria, just a block away the hotel. Excellent pizza! But then Naples is the birthplace of pizza.

Standing on the balcony of our hotel room I could see, not 30 feet away, how a family was preparing and eating dinner, prostitutes soliciting their customers on the street corner, a baker delivering bread to shops and hotels. One thing I realized after visiting and staying in city centers of London, Chicago and especially in Naples, I like to live out in suburbia. I like space. OK, Danville’s suburbia is more like out in the country, but still, Naples' closeness is far too close for comfort for me. Naples is in your face living.

Lodging: Hotel Eden

Rating: 7 out of 10
Comments: The hotel is very modern and clean and was picked for the one night we were staying in Naples because of its closeness to the station. Desk service was very good. The shower leaked in one of the rooms we had, so stepping out of the shower you step into a swimming pool. Breakfast was included and it was a very good breakfast.

A street scene in Naples.

A 13th century Gothic church down one of Naples' narrow alleys. I wished the old door survived.

It seems, in Italy, where ever you turn you see a church dome. This one is in Naples.
Another street scene in Naples.

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