Monday, April 5:  Napoli

Lots of places are closed on Monday, so we went to bar number 3 for breakfast. Isomorphic, though we had to stand at the bar to drink our juice and cappuccino and eat our croissants. Robert enjoyed the soccer highlights on the TV.

After breakfast, I checked the prices for excursions to Paestum. Far too expensive. It’ll be a much-needed rest day tomorrow. We headed off to catch the train to Napoli for the day. While debating whether or not the train in the station really went to the right station, it pulled out and left, making the debate moot. Oh well, the next train had cartoons painted on it, all missing their heads, and with their shoulders just at the bottom edge of the windows, so we had some photographic fun.

Train ride was the same line as our Pompeii trip, so I read my 1300 page history of Europe (I’m only on page 400, and in the Middle Ages, I’m dying to skip forward to more modern Italian politics). I was briefly tempted to start ripping out already-read pages to lighten the load, but came across several descriptions I need to save (like the location of the origin of Gothic architecture in Paris), so thought better of it.

Somehow, we messed up our stop in Napoli and back-tracked one stop on a different train. The train personnel in the station were very helpful, and people on the train motioned several times for us to get up and get off at the right stop. There we followed an Italian gentleman helping some Brits, and ended up at the TI office. Collected a city map, ferry schedule for the return trip and our next set of directions. At the Metroneopolitan, I asked an employee if our train tickets were good for the subway ride. He said yes, took them, and validated them for each us individually. We must have just missed the subway, as the platform was empty on our arrival and packed on the arrival of the train. We only had to go one stop to the National Archaeological Museum -- the train stopped and the door wouldn’t open. There were many exasperated sighs, and we all pushed and shoved through the next car to get off while it was still possible.

We followed our guidebook and it looked as if we were being directed out an an entrance to a train, the wrong way, so we hesitated. A couple of locals stopped us and told us to indeed follow them through the entrance the wrong way, “a shortcut.” They were very helpful and so I asked them about a pizzeria for lunch and they gave me very complete directions in very fractured English as we rode the very long escalator up out of the subway. At the exit from the subway, Pat went to use the W.C. and found it locked. I went to ask the gal at the newsstand about it and she pointed to two gentleman rushing over with a key in-hand. They stood guard the whole time Pat was in there, enlisting a third young man to eventually spell them. Rick had warned us about pickpockets on the train, banditos and scam artists in the city. We saw none of it, and so far Napoli ranks number 1 for unsolicited assistance.

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Photo 10  Pizzeria Sorbillo
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Photo 11  Journal Writing
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Photo 12  David at Davide Gelato
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Photo 13  Francesco’s

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Photo 14  Francesco and Daughter
Once above ground again, we consulted the map to get our bearings and a young woman volunteered to help. She suggested another pizzeria nearby, very “economico.” We went with that. It took a bit of route-finding as we went very deep into a neighborhood inside the old city walls with skinny streets that were canyons of laundry and bright displays of flags. Pizzeria Sorbillo on via Tribinali was indeed very good, very cheap and very authentic. (Photo 10) I learned later that President Clinton had once eaten nearby at a similar tiny joint.

Somewhat exasperated that it was now about 1 PM and we had not really done much, we hightailed it for the museum to see the two-thirds of Pompeii that had been packed up and moved there. The women at the cassa (cash-register) had to inquire if I was from an EU country (the bambinos would get a discount), so I’ve at least disguised my American-ness from one person. It was a good museum, but not enough to rival the Vatican Museum and Pompeii itself. The “Secret Room” was filled with Roman erotica that was lost on the boys. Robert and David commented on the centaur statue trying to kiss the goat statue, when in fact the centaur was undeniably accomplishing much, much more. There was a very interesting sundial in a grand hall. As near as I could tell, a small pinhole would be illuminated by the sun, and the location of its bright spot on a 25-meter long glass plate on the floor would tell you the month (in astrological divisions). Perhaps it had to be noon, since nothing was in evidence at 2 PM. Some exhibits closed, some were reopening, since we were there during the extended mid-day break.

We departed the museum at 3 PM or so, to do half of Rick’s Napoli city walk and end at the port. We pretty much followed a main road (via Toledo), but to our right we could consistently look up the very skinny, very laundry-filled streets of the Latin Quarter. The Umberto Gallery was a covered plaza, reminiscent of England or France, but with Roman arches of smaller and smaller sizes as you went up the facades. Robert correctly identified the motif from the Colosseum. Finally we ended at a grand piazza, Piazza Plebiscio, with the Royal Palace on one side. Around the corner was Castel Nuovo, an immense medieval fortress guarding the port.

With various degrees of uncertainty, we deciphered the multitude of ferries departing for Capri and other nearby points and got on the correct hydrofoil back to Sorrento (a gelato break was necessary here). It cost about twice what the train cost, but was well worth being able to do the right amount of the city walk, avoid more train missteps and enjoy a boat ride. The ride was smooth, and the view of Mt. Vesuvius and Sorrento atop the cliffs was spectacular.

For dinner we repeated Pizzeria Giardinello, since all of Rick’s other recommendations were closed on Monday. I think my Italian is improving to the point of being something slightly above atrocious and now people are giving me tips -- the ferry ticket-taker corrected my “due bambino” to “due bambini” and the maitre d’hotel at a restaurant trying to pull in customers corrected my response of “buon giorno” to “bueno serra.”

Rest day tomorrow!