“We’re going to Naples!” Is, in my experience, a statement most often followed by a severe warning about thievery, mugging, or violent crime. (Except in one instance; “hehe, Naples sounds like nipples…”)
Following repeated warnings of this type given to me by all and sundry, including a number of my most reputable sources, I was half expecting to be greeted, upon my arrival, by a group of armed thugs, or at the very least a small detachment of the Italian mafia. Our arrival was pleasantly ordinary, if a little soggy, and although our hostel isn’t exactly located in the nicest part of town, nobody got knifed between the station and the hostel, which was a bit of a relief…
After Sicily, we were pretty unimpressed with the weather here, however, our hostel, despite being in the ghetto, is warm and clean and has a well equipped kitchen, complete with a 5kg jar of Nutella which is brought out reverently at breakfast time to much cheering and clapping of hands. The only downside is that I am on the top bunk of a bunk bed and the ladder has inexplicably disappeared. Short of asking someone to actually lift me up there, I am left to flail ungracefully while I try to haul myself into bed, which is apparently both humiliating for me and hilarious for the seven other inhabitants of the dorm.
We were up early to catch the train to Vesuvius. A short shuttle bus ride later, we were let out to wander the volcanic paths, heading up to the main crater. The whole area is black with ash and knarly volcanic rock. The weather was cold so we trekked over the pyroclastic debris completely shrouded in cloud, occasionally catching a glimpse of a rocky outcrop, or leaning over the safety rail to see the bottom of a crater. It was amazing to see, if a little chilly, and visiting Vesuvius and Pompeii together is definitely something that I would recommend.
Pompeii itself, just a short train ride away, is absolutely insane. It’s a completely dead city, like a huge museum. A museum of hundreds and hundreds of abruptly shortened lives.
We were exploring that day with José and Patience, a Brazilian guy and an American girl we had met along the way, and the four of us wandered all over the city. I found the whole thing so incredibly macabre, I loved it. Besides its tragic end, Pompeii has some amazing architecture. (…and architecture that is still amazing even after it’s been buried in metres of ash and then dug up again must have been pretty swanky to start off with…)
For a dead city, Pompeii teems with life. Plants grow in a colourful abundance on every available surface and although the old streets and buildings are kept clear of weeds, outside of the city walls, nature has done much to cover the wounds that the volcano inflicted.
Turning left into a grand courtyard where many families must once have gathered, I was suddenly faced with the twisted legs of a petrified corpse. They are kept in glass cases for visitors to see, and two were displayed end to end in this courtyard. The bodies are mummified in cooled lava, and although the finger bones and the back of the skull have become exposed, you can still see that their faces are twisted in agony. It’s horrible, the whole city feels like a graveyard to me. I’m afraid to say, I find it morbidly fascinating and it’s probably one of my favourite places in Italy so far.
Naples itself, on the other hand, is not that good. You may have noticed that I normally rave about everywhere I visit, (I would make a terrible restaurant critic), but Naples? Nah… The gorgeous view of the bay almost made up for the unfriendly atmosphere and the much too friendly men, but not quite.
We hid in our hostel and watched Notting Hill – I am excited to move on to Rome today!
MTG, PV x
Photos in this post used with kind permission of Emily Wang, sorry about lack of photos, SD cards are currently the bane of my life.