I arrived in The Naples train station and per the recommendation of the hostel, I took the metro line. Which was running 35 minutes late. I guess I really was in Italy. After getting a little lost walking up and down the same street trying not to pull out my iPad for directions for fear of it getting stolen. After 20 minutes, I finally found my way to Giovanni’s Hostel. He buzzed me in and I made my way up the very high and steep staircase carrying my backpack. I felt like a turtle that was about to topple over,but panting and slightly sweaty, I made it up. Giovanni welcomed me in like an old friend, telling me to take off my backpack and he handed me a cup of water and a huge plate of delicious pasta that I ate all of despite eating lunch only a few hours earlier. I will never say ‘no’ to free carbs. After dinner, we all settled in and Giovanni gave a very detailed history of Naples as well as advice on where to go along with costs. It was the best and most informative lesson I have ever received.
Since I was in Italy, I was going to take every opportunity to eat as much gelato as possible, so I, along with this nice Canadian couple, went for some at the best place in Napoli. We got back and I formulated a plan to make the most of my 4 days there.
Giovanni had recommended a great route of things to see and do in Naples, so I decided to make that my first adventure. I woke up a bit later than I hoped, but set out walking around and getting lost opinion the city of narrow streets and even narrower alleys. There are no such things as sidewalks. Everyone drives, walks and bikes wherever they feel like. It is a bit chaotic, especially to someone used to order (my mother would faint), but I found it quite exhilarating. I saw the various churches, the port, a large glass shopping area and Museo Capella Sansevero, a museum where they had this incredible statue of Jesus that was carved all from one piece and had a thin veil over the body. Really quite beautiful. But the thing that struck me was downstairs. There were the bodies of a couple that had most of their bones, but the strange and unique aspect of these bodies was the fact that they had their veins and arteries injected with a metallic substance, so they were still intact. I bought a postcard of it since no photos were allowed. Best €.80 I’ve spent. I love the strange a bizarre.
After my amusing day and with rumbling tummy, I went to Gino Sorbillo’s, a favorite among locals for their pizzas. I took it back to Giovanni’s and devoured the whole thing. I was convinced that I had unhinged my jaw like a snake because one second I had a full pizza and within minutes, it was gone. My rationale was that it was both breakfast and lunch. 🙂 I relaxed in the common room, watching movies, hanging out with fellow travelers and made plans to go to Amalfi the following day.
Well, there went Amalfi. I overslept, so the only decision I really had was to stay in town. I wanted to check out some of the museums, but they were all closed because it was a Tuesday. Rats! Instead, through his careful guidance, Giovanni told me about the patisserie that had the Neapolitan specialty, Sfogliatelli, which has a ricotta filling. It was delicious. I then set out and ended up taking a very long, tiring 14km walk all along the water, soaking up the sun. On my way back, I stopped for some very rich dark chocolate gelato. I wound up back at the hostel in a chocolate haze. I wound up very hungry around 4pm, so i traveled out to Da Michele, very touristy, but beyond delicious. After I returned very full to the hostel, Giovanni made a delicious pasta dinner for everyone that night. Pumpkin with chili pepper and sage. Had a bit of a kick, but it was so good. I couldn’t finish since I was full, but I made my best effort. We played games, chatted in French and finished the night with gelato. (I swear this was the only day I did 2!)
I had made up my mind to stay another night to relax and make sure that I was able to see the Amalfi Coast, which is what I came to southern Italy to see. And see it I would! Giovanni had also told me about Pæstum, a well preserved Greek settlement about an hour and a half from Naples by train. I would do that then head up to Salerno to catch the bus around the Amalfi Coast. I set my alarm for 6:30am and I bolted up to start my day. I had to catch the 8:30am train to Pæstum, since it was the only one (although, when I arrived, I learned that there plenty of others.) I slept a bit on the train and arrived to the smallest, rural train station around 10am. I exited the station and right there in front of me were these grand Roman city walls. It was incredible. I walked down pretty much the only road in town to get to the site, marveling in its beauty. I mean, there were standing temples and an arena, and the ruins of where homes would have been. I had to purchase my ticket at the official museum, where you could see a lot of the artifacts found at the site, which was €10 for the museum + site entrance. I really just wanted to see the ruins, but the ticket lady said that they could not be purchased separately when clearly their price list said they could. I didn’t argue,and was about to fork over the money when she asked if I was under 26. I replied that I was and showed her my ID. Since I wasn’t and EU citizen, I was not entitled to any discounts, but she gave it to me for only €5. Yay! Definitely made my day a whole lot better. I wandered through the museum for a while and finally made my way outside to the site where I walked around and took some incredible photos, which are currently still on my camera as my iPad is full of memory. After a bit of oogling the ruins, I went and asked for a recommendation for lunch. They pointed me to a small cafe down the street where I had a bresaola sandwich and a caprese sandwich washed down with a Coke. It was fantastic and worth the full belly.
I made my way back to the train station to head to Salerno to catch the bus to Amalfi and ultimately to Sorrento, taking you around the entirety of the coast. I arrived around 3pm and tried for 45 minutes to find where the new location of the tourist office was located. No such luck and I just walked around the boardwalk before heading back to the train station. Upon my return, I discovered where I could buy the bus ticket around Amalfi. Damnit. The bus had just left and the next one wouldn’t be arriving for another hour. By that time, it would be dark and not worth it. Defeated, I got on the next train to Naples; a train heading to Rome, but was running 30 minutes late. I should have known at that point to get off. We wound up stopping and sitting at various stations and on the tracks for almost 2 hours for a trip that should have taken 35 minutes. Fuming, I get off the trains and make my way down to the metro station and oh, just my luck, the metro is closed (I later found out that a man had died that afternoon at the station I needed to get off at). I then made my way back up to the ticket station to book my nit train for the following night up to Milan and tried to not show my frustration. Still a bit angry from the inexplicably long journey and walking around a town, I started off back to the hostel walking at a pace only Olympic sprinters can muster. Since I was in such a foul mood, Giovanni made me a veggie sandwich with eggplant, peppers and tomatoes and French fries. It was so sweet and definitely out me in a better mood. I spent the rest of the night hanging with some new people that had arrived.
I woke up early the next day as well so I could do this Amalfi Coast tour that I had been dying to see. I got on a train to Salerno and since I already had my ticket, I was able to hop off the train and get on the next bus that was coming; which was at 10am. Plenty of time to get to Amalfi and Sorrento before it got dark (since daylight savings, it was and has been getting dark around 5-5:30pm) and still make it back to Giovanni’s to grab a pizza and my bag. I got on the bus and off we went, climbing through the hills. I was taking pictures and enjoying myself, but the way this bus driver was taking corners, I believe he thought he was a part of Le Mans. I had read that it would be crowded and motion sickness could be likely, but I never expected it to happen to me. All of the locals seem to be used to it and just sit there happily while I was turning different shades of green. We finally made it to Amalfi, where I was going to hop on the next bus right away, but I thought better of it and grabbed some water and food and walked around for a bit trying to get my stomach to stop doing cartwheels. After an hour, I felt better and got on the next bus. The journey from Amalfi to Sorrento is almost double the length of Salerno to Amalfi and more twisted roads. Greeaaat. Arriving in Sorrento, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to get off a bus. I walked around the city a bit, stopping in cool cloisters, checking out the old ramparts and walls and of course, buying a bottle of Limoncello for my very gracious host.
After all that fun, I knew it was time to head back, so I got to the train station and there was supposed to be a direct train that left around 3:30pm, but the conductor for the train didn’t show up until the 4pm train, which stopped at every rock, tree and bridge. I am convinced that the trains of Italy hate me. I arrived back in Naples and using the metro this time, got back to Giovanni’s to chill out. I got my €3 pizza, ate the whole thing and started to pack up my stuff. Giovanni then said to me that he would take me to the train station. I thought that was so sweet, so I agreed. Little did I know that taking me to the train station would mean ON THE BACK OF HIS MOTORCYCLE. It was so crazy, but absolutely incredible. I got to the station with plenty of time to spare. I wound up being I the train with these 2 adorable Italian girls who spoke almost no English and I, no Italian. We wound up using Google translate to speak to each other until we fell asleep.