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: 

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