As I type, i’m sitting in a piazza nearla casa miain Sorrento with a glass of Primitivo and some mini bruchetta with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil to nibble on (like I need anymore food after today’s indugence, but more on that later), pondering what to say about a day which I had been anticipating since I’d arrived – my day trip to Naples.
I’ve been to Naples several times before, particularly while working on the boats as it was the last major commercial port where you could refuel, carry out maintenance and provision before picking up guests to cruise around the Amalfi Coast. I’m sure Sandy and Pete you will agree – that port is pretty ugly with stray cats, scarey looking mutts and homeless and desperate people sleeping in houses made of cardboard boxes. And so, with this and Napoli Centrale, the main train station where professional thieves will throw baby dolls at you in an attempt to have you abandon your bags to catch it, thinking it was a human baby, only to have them pick up your belongings and run, being my only really experiences in Naples (and don’t worry the doll/baby story didn’t happen to me but does happen!) I was absolutely determined to find the well hidden beauty that many speak of in this city which is run by the Camorra (essentially criminal gangs).
And today, I found it. I think the thing about Naples is that it’s just not obvious like it is in many European cities, particularly those of Italy and France for example.You have to work hard to find it, and in some cases just be lucky enough to get lost in the Centro Storico, take a wrong turn and find an empty church with frescos that easily rival those in Rome which we queue up for hours to see. Seeing ‘the Veiled Christ’ in SanSevero was an experience I will remember forever and I still get goosebumps now visualising this masterpiece. The findings from Pompeii and Ercolano exhibited in the Archaeological Museum are truly facinating too, as the ‘best bits’ really have been removed from the excavation sites which i’ve already seen to be looked after in the Museum.
While at the museum, there was a very formal function being setup with dinner served on the top floor surrounded by paintings which previously decorated the ‘mansions’ of Pompeii 2000 years ago, while ‘welcome drinks’ were being set up to be served amongst rows and rows of marble statues excavated from ancient Roman baths. No-one would tell us what the function was for but I sure wish I had an invite!
After the museum we spent some time wandering through the Spanish Quarter and found a dodgey pizza joint to have our mandatory pizza for lunch – we’d been informed that the uglier the place looked, the better the pizza would taste. We found a terrific ‘dive’ and grabbed a seat with a view of the open tiny kitchen and watched the guys work their magic, and it was truly heavenly to taste. Almost indescribably good. Dad – you would argue the base was too soggy but somehow the soggy, mushy mess that ended up all over your face was better than even I had imagined.
Of course we left room for a gelato, also delicious, then headed back to the boat to get the 5:30pm back home.
Napoli is certainly a filthy, dirty place where poverty stares you straight in the face at every corner, but sometimes true beauty is less obvious on the outside and you need to look beyond the ugly exterior to find it. And when you do, it just might be the most beautiful thing you’ve seen in a long time.