Naples (filthy), Pompeii (unique), Caserta (huge)

Trip Start May 04, 2011
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13
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Trip End Feb 20, 2014


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Where I stayed
sea europa
What I did
touring

Flag of Italy  , Campania,
Saturday, June 25, 2011

[Warning: long entry cause I've combined 3 days into 1 entry]

My journey from Bari to Naples was up there with the worst of all time. Nothing bad happened to me, just annoyingly long. Going from Bari to Caserta (where I had to change trains) was fine, but then the train in Caserta was more than 2 hrs delayed – sitting in an old carriage in 35C heat, opposite the stinking toilet, wondering if the train is ever going to leave the station. I later learned that it was delayed because of strike action. I really don’t understand the point of striking, but this and other things are really putting me off travelling Europe while it is in recession. After an hr sitting on the train, I gave up and went to find some food. Luckily there was a pizza bar (with beer!) across the street so I didn’t have to cart my luggage far. Eventually I got to Naples. Stepping out onto the station piazza was like bedlam. Cars zipping everywhere, no signs or direction for tourists and I couldn’t find the bus that the hotel had advised to catch. I was already in a bad mood from the train delay, and I guess this first impression of Naples characterised my entire experience there. I didn’t like it. Taxi’d to the hotel, which is in a back alley covered in graffiti. I had known all this before booking, but it was only 38 euro/night and I’m saving $ after my splurge in Monaco. Not a bad hotel actually and a good location. In Italy, the hotels all ask for your passport when checking in. They hold onto it while u go up to the room and settle. When I first travelled in 2009, this was confronting for me because I’d been told to never lose sight of my passport. Whereas now, I just freely give it up to the hotels – what’s the worst that could happen, I can’t return to work in Ghana and have to stay in Italy?!?!

So, anyway, Naples. Well, the streets are literally full of rubbish. It is utterly revolting. I first thought this was just how they live, but have since learned that it is another strike – this time it is the garbo’s not wanting to empty the rubbish bins. So, they simply fill up, overflow and spread across the side-walk. It smells, it’s dirty and it must spread disease and vermin. One morning, I even saw some piles that had been set on fire to get rid of the build up. Besides the rubbish, Naples is still a mess. I just wasn’t getting a nice vibe and it doesn’t really have much to offer a tourist beyond the cathedrals and piazza’s. It is a platform for visiting other areas of this coastline (but public transport is expensive. 2.40 euro one way!). Oh, but here they invented pizza – so there is some really good pizza to eat here. But u won’t find supremes or meat-lovers. It is all margahrita and marinara (very oily, very plain).

Pompeii

I had 2 nights in Naples and on my full day I trained out to Pompeii (30 mins). I was excited to see Pompeii and my expectations were pretty high from my school yrs when u learn about it. But then I discovered it is a 66 Ha site and loads of walking. Overall, it was a little disappointing. I guess I had gone in with the expectation that most of the site had been left as it would’ve been back in the day (79 AD when Mt Vesuvius erupted). The audio guide was useful, but a lot of rooms were locked and gated, so I couldn’t go in. All the houses, businesses and rooms had been cleaned out, with all contents taken to museums around the world (New York, London, Paris). So, it was simply a lot of Roman brick buildings with not much set-up the way it would’ve been. It was fascinating though and the more that I toured the more I realised the unique value of Pompeii as the only place in the world that really shows how the Romans lived back in the Empire days. Brothels, Laundromats, shops, mansions, a bakery, amphitheatre, and the temples, basilica’s and official buildings. I was also surprised at how imposing and big Mt Vesuvius is. It really would’ve been terrifying on 24th August 79 when she erupted and covered the town in 6m of burning ash. The other thing I expected was that the plaster-cast moulds of the victims would be scattered around the site. But, the plaster moulds are right up the back in a glass cabinet next to a grape-vine. It is as tho they are non-supportive of these plaster moulds, whereas I think they bring home the emotional message that this place is not just a town of old, but a tomb for thousands of innocent villagers.

Pompeii had the most amount of tourists (including school groups from the USA) I’ve ever encountered. And it was freakin hot – my Mykonos hat is coming in very handy, although I have turned over the part that says Mykonos!

Listening to the audio guide, a lot of the original mosaics and even entire wall paintings have been removed and relocated to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, so I decided to head there after I finished at Pompeii (4 hrs).

Caserta

The Lonely Planet guide had a "Worth the Visit" box under Naples that referred to a Royal Palace in Caserta (40 odd minutes away) that rivalled the Palace of Versailles outside Paris. This intrigued me because a) I’d never heard of the Caserta Palace and b) Versailles was a place I’d longed to visit when I went in 2009 and it did not disappoint. So, on Day 2 (my final day in Naples), I trained out to Caserta for the Palace – one of the largest in the world. It is beyond comprehension how big this Palace really is. Over 1200 rooms, a massive park/garden and the 1st palace I’ve visited that has 4 internal courtyards/quadrangles. Built in the late 1700’s for the King of Naples, it was a 'mine’s bigger than yours’ competition with the French. The staircase to get to the State rooms is phenomenally huge and all marble. The rooms are not as stunning as Versailles, but definitely show the extravagance of the period (see photos). I walked through constantly thinking how they could justify spending so much money on something so over-the-top and unnecessary. But, sections of the Palace are used as an Art Gallery nowadays and the gardens are used for picnics etc.

The gardens are definitely not as amazing as Versailles, but it is big - 3 km from the palace to the man-made waterfall at the end. Yes, I walked the entire length. In the heat. Jealous of those with bikes. But, getting to the end and looking back made the achievement feel that much sweeter. The fountains and waterfall really are spectacular, especially considering they were constructed 200+ yrs ago (I saw 3 wedding photo shoots happening; also a school group with a teacher screaming Italian orders down a mega-phone!). There was a free shuttle bus running the length of the gardens, so there was no way in hell that I was going to walk the 3 km’s back to the Palace. I’ve never felt so happy to be crammed into a bus like sardines during that short trip back.

I made it back to Naples in good time to collect my bags from the hotel and jump on the train to Sorrento for my hopefully relaxing 3 nights on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. I’m getting sick of trains, ferries and carting my luggage, so it will be good to have these few days before returning to Ghana.
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