Naples - glory, and misery.
Our Italian friend couldn't understand, why exactly we decided to visit Naples. "It's a chaotic and huge mess! I don't think you should go there!" he said. Only when we mentioned Pompeii, he became a little more positive about our plan. But let's start from the beginning.
First of all, I wanted to go to Naples because it was the closest big city to Rome. Second of all I had heard about Pompeii which is a historical, ancient Roman town near Naples. And I was curious about it, because of it's tragic history. So I booked a hotel in Naples and after two days in Rome, we took a train there.
It was quite easy to buy train tickets, but we weren't very confident about ourselves. There are employees who can help to buy tickets at the ticket machines but look for the ones wearing uniforms or other signs that they are working in the station. Sometimes there are random people trying to help you and ask money after. After you buy the ticket you need to validate it near the boarding platform.
The drive was nice because of the views behind the window. Nice green hills and even seaside.
We arrived quite late, so first, we wanted to check in the hotel. Our hotel was close to Gianturco Station, which is one stop before the Grand Station. When we got out of the train I felt confounded. Streets looked strange. There were many Asian stores around. In some junctions, traffic lights didn't work, so the cars moved at a crazy speed and all at once. But somehow with all the beeping and craziness, no one got hurt. My heart was racing when we had to cross one of those roads. Cars did not stop, they just drove around us. When we finally reached the place I gagged. The smell from the trash bins was very strong. Also, the whole street was wet with something stinky. At that moment I regret that I booked a hotel in this part of the city.
But when we walked in I was relieved. Hotel was okay. And all the chaos and the stink on the street seemed like a completely different world.
So after check-in, we decided to check out the heart of the city - old town. We took a metro to the center and when we came to the upper ground - we were shocked. Streets were narrow, dark, dirty and uninviting. There were old ladies in poor clothes yelling at each other between the buildings. The older man dumped stinky liquid on the street from his bucket. Walls of the buildings were dirty or covered with graffiti. And the stink... We didn't understand. Usually the most luxurious part of the city - the old town - looked so poor and let down.
We walked fast, I didn't want to pull out my camera to take pictures. I really didn't feel safe. After a while, we saw more souvenir shops, bakeries and coffee shops. There were more tourists and locals. But everything still looked sad. All these small businesses with their colorful signboards and decorations couldn't hide the grey dirty buildings and streets.
We ended up buying some local confectionery and coming back to the hotel. We just wanted sleep on it and hoped for the better tomorrow.
After a peaceful night, we woke up and decided to go to Ercolano which is a city near Mount Vesuvius which was our next stop. Although it looks close to Naples on the map, it really isn't so we had to find a train. It seemed like the train stop is close to our hotel, but we couldn't find it. We ended up getting lost.
Locals were very helpful. Although they didn't speak any English and our Italian was even poorer, they still came to us and tried to explain where we need to go. One older man heard our conversation with another local and even came to us with a piece of paper where he had drawn how to get to the correct train stop. We were so grateful. That was the moment we felt southern hospitality.
When we got to Ercolano we found a local transfer from city to the (almost) top of the volcano Vesuvius. There are many ways to get up. If you like to walk, you can go up yourself, but I warn you - it will be a long and steep climb. You can use a company like we did and pay some money for the shuttle bus which will take you up and then wait a certain time, to take you back down. The fee also includes a ticket to enter the volcano. And then there also you can find many private taxies or private cars who can also take you up.
From the entrance to the actual volcano crater, there still is at least 20-minute walk (so take it into consideration if you have a shuttle waiting for you, otherwise you will have to pay extra if your bus is already gone and you want to take another).
The weather was gorgeous. We saw the whole Naples from the top. It looked so wonderful and if we wouldn't be in old town the day before, we couldn't even imagine that this city has its own dirty little secrets.
On the way up to the crater, there are some souvenir stands and a small cafe.
The crater itself is just a huge sand-lava hole. There was some sulfur smoke, but nothing serious. We really enjoyed the views from the volcano, but it was hard to imagine this giant in his active days.
My boyfriend bought me some lava earrings (so i could get a piece of this mountain) and we headed back to the Ercolano city. After that, we took a train to Pompeii. You can also use a shuttle for that, but the train is much cheaper and the stop is right next to the entrance.
Pompeii has a very sad history. It was buried, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, and mostly destroyed under 4 to 6 m of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Vesuvius. The same volcano what we just admired. So we wanted to see the ruins from a once glorious city. Although Pompeii is approximately 8 km from Vesuvius, it was right on the way of the heat, lava, and ashes.
I really liked the ruins. Streets were straight and paved with flat stones. There were many buildings with stone walls, columns, door and window frames. Some even had inner gardens. The city even had two amphitheaters, main square, and other important buildings.
A lot of things were preserved because of the lack of oxygen under the lava. There was tableware, vases, paintings on the walls and of course citizens - buried alive.
And almost from every point of the city, it was possible to see the one responsible for all of this - Vesuvio. It looked so proud of the devastation it's done.
After the long day, we went back to Naples. We decided that we had to do a very important thing - try a thick Neapolitan pizza. As you probably know Romans are very proud of their paper-thin pizzas, but you don't have to go far for something thicker. We found pizzeria which working time started at 7 pm. We already knew that this is a good sign. We still were the first guests, but we didn't mind. Pizzas were really different from the ones in Rome. They were fluffy, thick and with a lot of ingredients on them. We really enjoyed them, but for me, Roman pizza won my heart (or stomach)!
The next day we had to leave, but before that, we still had a little time for a walk along the promenade. Somehow we started to fall in love with this place. Yes, it is different, maybe unpleasant at some points, but in the end, people were nice, nature was gorgeous and souvenirs much cheaper than in Rome. So definitely don't hesitate to visit this place.
Just before you go make sure there is not the worst situation of the waste crisis. Because then there is a chance that you will not be able to walk in some streets without walking on huge piles of trash.