31 July 2023

Naples, bread and circuses

"See Naples and die."
That expression needs to be reinterpreted. The city – at least the parts I've seen – is manky!

Day 1
My first impressions of Naples were not good.
The taxi at head of the rank at the train station didn't want to take me to my B&B. His car was too big, he said, for the narrow streets in the neighbourhood – Quartieri Spagnoli – I wanted to go to. 
The second wanted to drop me "near" my digs, but I refused. 
The third said he'd take me, but for a fixed fare of €20. The owner of the B&B had estimated 20, so I accepted.
Upon arrival, the sight of bin bags strewn about the street in front of my door was not encouraging, and on my evening stroll around the hood I struggled to find the charm behind the squalor.
Scooters, some with whole families aboard (none wearing helmets, ovviamente), screeched through the narrow alleys, while pedestrians seemed to accept their lot as second-class road users and just got out of the way.
I'm beginning to regret following Lonely Planet's advice to "dive in [to Quartier Spagnoli] to uncover alternative street art and authentic trattoria eateries."
Here's hoping for tomorrow.

Day 2
Stepping outside the immediate surroundings of my B&B was a good plan. The shabbiness diminishes slightly as you go a couple of streets away.
However, the city as a whole is depressingly dirty. 
Even the historical centre – Centro Storico – is in a sad state of neglect and decay. The once-grand buildings now show tragic signs of wear and tear after what must be many decades of insufficient maintenance. The streets and pavements are cracked and uneven; crumbling facades are scarred with peeling paint; and abandoned properties and empty storefronts further highlight the area's derelict atmosphere.
Despite its potential for revival, the Centro Storico is stained by its dilapidated state, leaving visitors to face the stark reality of what was, no doubt, a majestic district now fallen into neglect.
The natives appear to be blind to the dirt and dereliction. Their dual obsession with Maradona and the Madonna seems to keep them happy.
Bread and circuses.

Day 3 – Sorrento
I decided to escape the ugliness of the city for the last day and took a day trip to Sorrento.
The contrast was worth the 80 minutes on a scruffy train, senza air-conditioning.
A seafood salad with a sea view is good for morale.

I leave Naples early on Tuesday morning bound for Bari, where I take the overnight ferry to Patras.
You can see my photos of Naples on my Instagram account: 

28 July 2023

Torino – city of Fiat, Lavazza, Martini... and a mediaeval forgery

Turin is an obviously prosperous city, an enchanting blend of history and modernity.

Its beautiful squares, like Piazza Castello and Piazza San Carlo, are a testament to the city's grandeur, and are surrounded by lively cafés.

The covered galleries, such as Galleria Subalpina and Galleria Umberto I, provide a very elegant shopping and strolling experience.

Turin was a prominent centre of Italy's industrial revolution, and its name became synonymous with Fiat, the iconic automotive giant founded here in 1899. The Lingotto building, once a Fiat factory, has been transformed into a multifunctional complex.

I didn't bother trying to see the infamous painted rag in its dedicated chapel next to the cathedral.

Two dinners and one lunch so far in Italy and I have eaten neither pizza nor pasta. I expect that will change at my next destination: Naples.

My train leaves Turin Porta Nuova on Saturday at 1pm and arrives at Napoli Centrale at 7pm.

You can see my photos of Turin on my Instagram account:


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23 July 2023

Plan B

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You may have heard southern Europe is burning; figuratively in some cases, literally in others.

Greece is suffering record high temperatures at the moment, so Skipper has concluded the Gulf of Corinth is not the best place to go for a pleasure cruise.

The plan is still to meet up in the Peloponnese on 2 August, but instead of sailing from Patras through the Gulf of Corinth we're going to start in Katakolo and sail south and around the peninsula.

Here's the updated map of that section:

(Tap/click to see the map in Google Maps)

10 July 2023

The plan

"When are you taking me sailing?" says I to Dave. 

"Are you free in August?" says he to me.

Dave and I went to secondary school together (1976-1981), then trained as computer programmers together and worked in the IT Department of Irish Life. Our paths diverged in about 1990, but we've been back in touch for the past few years.


This year, he's taking me sailing in Greece on his catamaran Planit-Earth, a 2021 Lagoon 46. 

You can read about his sailing adventures on his blog:  Planit-Earth.

Flights from Paris to Athens in August are a shocking price, so I decided to go by train and ferry. I padded out each leg of the outward journey to make it a holiday on the way to my real holiday:

  • 27/07 Train to Turin (2 nights)
  • 29/07 Train to Naples (3 nights)
  • 01/08 Train to Bari (not staying)
  • 01/08 Ferry to Patras
  • 02/08 Arrive in Patras at 13.00.

I'm hoping Dave will be there to pick me up. If he's not, I'll get a bus to wherever he is.

The return journey is not fully planned yet. The idea is to spend a couple of days in Athens and Thessaloniki after the sailing trip, then make my way (somehow) to Vienna, where I'll be spending the last few days of the holidays before taking the night train back to Paris on 24 August.

On the map, the red lines (train) are booked and confirmed, as is the dark blue (ferry). 

The green line is a rough idea of where the sailing trip takes place; the details will be decided by the skipper.

The yellow lines (as much train as possible) are not reserved and show just one possible route from Athens to Vienna.

(Tap/click to see the map in Google Maps)