Day 32: A FULL Day In Naples

I left Venice last night at midnight and arrived in Naples at 8:45 this morning. I had planned on trying to get a couchette (a sleeper bed) for the night but either they were all reserved or the train didn’t have any (I had no idea what the ticket guy was saying at the station). The train took six and a half hours to get to Roma; I hoped to sleep on the train so I would arrive in Naples early in the day to see as much as possible. My cabin was stuffed with six people in the most uncomfortable seats imaginable while the cabin shifted from a blistering, sweaty heat to a heart stopping, freezing cold. I may have gotten three hours of interrupted sleep and that guestimate might be too optimistic; I could have probably gotten more sleep in a subway station. After making a quick pit stop in Rome, I was bound for Napoli. After getting my bearings and booking my hostel for the night (talk about last minute planning), I walked the city to get rid of my bag at the hostel and begin seeing the city of Naples. I did not have a good first impression of the city; the streets were covered in shit and I literally mean shit was everywhere. Good news: I finally got that haircut. The challenge of communicating to the Italian barber was interesting but he probably gave me one of the better haircuts I’ve had in a long time. Then again, it would have been possible to make look bad; it would like to trying to make a bad Neapolitan pizza with all the fresh ingredients the pizzerias have in the area. At the hostel, the receptionist went through a complete breakdown of Naples, including restaurants, pizzerias, gelaterias, departures for Capri, Amalfi, and Pompeii, and the other sights worth seeing in the area. My goal was to eat and see as much as I could that day. I stopped first at a pizzeria to mangia (eat). I had a margherita pizza with eggplant on top, a fried ball of spaghetti (it was loaded with cheese, meat, peas, and obviously noodles – may sound disgusting but wow did it give my tastebuds a sucker punch), and a beer, all for 8 euros. Naples is both cheap and delicious. The pizza reminded me of all the good times I had in Italy during my last trip when I gorged on full size pizzas with freshly made sauce. The people of Naples may leave shit on the ground but they leave only the finest on the table. To get out of the beating sun I went on an underground tour of ancient Naples. Originally used as a quarry, the space was converted as a shelter during the world wars for safety. A church is built on top and the civilians believed this would save them from bombings but sadly that did not end up being the case. I had been craving fruity gelato so I had amarena, strawberry, and a triple berry fruit of the forest combo; it refreshingly hit the spot. I wandered up to Castle Elmo, which has a lookout point providing a perfect panorama of the whole city; I saw all the varying colored old homes and buildings spread out near the coastline and mountains, which resided far in the distance. Leaving the apex of the city, I walked down through the narrow streets dodging mopeds and tiny cars, which zipped by areas I thought were reserved for pedestrians. I will this right now: Italians are crazy. Crossing a street is an adventure in itself. Not many spots offer guaranteed passage on pedestrian walkways. Most of the time, I had to walk across with traffic zooming. All I could do was put my faith and life in the hands of the drivers and hope they would slow down. The last thing a pedestrian should do is slow down or attempt to play a game of Frogger with the traffic; it may very well be the last decision you make. After getting some more gelato suggested by the hostel receptionist (essentially death by chocolate; it was good but I prefer fresh fruit in my gelato), I needed to go to an ATM to reimburse my available funds. I had worried and heard stories about this and it finally happened; the ATM ate my card. I rapidly pressed cancel and every other button available but nothing worked. I asked an Italian for help; he did not know much English but tried his best to decipher the screen. He said the bank had already closed and would not open until Monday (today being a Friday). Since I planned on leaving by then, I felt totally screwed. He found a woman inside the bank and I figured she would help. The man communicated with her but she did not care at all. He had to get going so I thanked him for trying his best. After he left, I looked around in complete bewilderment. The ATM made some noises and I tried once more pressing cancel; sure enough, my card escaped its cell and returned to me. Before eating dinner, I walked the coastline, which was a breath of fresh air, literally, from the heat of the city and stumbled across a football match on a field specifically made for playing pick up games (something you would never find in any American city). I found Trattoria Nennella, which came with great reviews, so I had high expectations. The restaurant is tucked down some back alleys so, to say the least, it did not have the best ambience per say; since I was eating by myself I could have cared less where I ate, just make the food yummy. As soon as I sat down for my romantic meal for one, the waiter placed a basket of bread and opened up a bottle of sparkling water. While I tried to read through this menu in complete Italian, I scooped up some bread and gave it a go. I don’t know if the water is different in Naples or if they mixed in a lot of TLC but my meal was already off to a great start. I tried not to greedily eat the whole basket before I even touched my meal. The waiter asked what I wanted for primo (or at least that’s what I’m assuming he said). The meal is set up like an authentic Italian meal, including all the loud Italians trying to shout over each other. Dinner had a primo (first plate), secondo (I will let you figure that one out on your own), and a salate (not necessarily a salad but usually composed of vegetables or a caprese salad). I had no idea what I was reading and the communication with the waiter was going nowhere so I gestured for me to pick each dish for me. Primo was a plate of rigatoni with mussels and basil with the necessary tomato sauce. I don’t understand how they do it but the sauce can only be described as magical; Mama Mia, I was in heaven. The rigatoni came al dente and the mussels gave the dish that extra boost of amore. Next came a spinach/broccolini combination that was a little too salty still mmmh mmh. Literally as soon as I cleaned my plate, a large dish of small fried fish over a bed of salad arrived. With a touch of lemon, the fish soon disappeared from my sight. After completing my meal, I worried if I would have enough money to cover this extravagant spread since I only had 23 euros on me. When I went to pay, he said undeci and held up his two pointer fingers; I could not believe I are that well on 11 euros. That meal would have cost me 25 euros easily in Paris. Naples knows how to keep a belly happy. Since I somehow still craved some gelato, I went back to Gelateria Fantasia and ordered green apple, fruit of the forest, and coconut. After today, I can proudly say I had a full taste of Naples. Back at the hostel, I talked with my Asian roommates before taking one of the most uncomfortable showers ever. The first shower trickled out water and then the second was so cramped. Also those weird badays/bedays (apparently it is spelled bidets; just googling it and finding images of them made my skin crawl) freak me out; in my eyes, they are the definition of unsanitary. After feeling refreshed yet disgusted at the same time, I planned out tomorrow and the next several days. On tap for tomorrow is Pompeii before hopefully seeing Capri and the Amalfi coast during the subsequent days. Also, I’ve been working on trying to be in Siena for Il Palio (watch a video of it; this horse race is easily one of the oldest and most celebrated festivals in the world). For obvious reasons, rooms are ridiculously expensive. However, I should not let that stop me from being apart of something historic as well as an event that I had on my to do list since I started planning this trip. Today was one for the history books as a foodie.

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