Trash: A compelling reason to pay the Mafia

Trip Start Mar 31, 2011
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Trip End Jul 05, 2011


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Flag of Italy  , Campania,
Saturday, May 21, 2011

Upon arrival in Naples, we began our quest for pizza and gelato. Naples is the birthplace of thin crust pizza, and it is EVERYWHERE. We tried going to one place but the wait was ridiculous, so we got gelato instead and walked to a different popular restaurant. We split two giant pizzas between the three of us, and they were to die for. One of them was a traditional margarita pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. The other was basically the same thing but with fresh cream all over it and a different type of fresh cheese. They were both pretty juicy, so it was entirely impossible to eat them with your hands. Thankfully they gave us sharp enough knives...
 
We stuffed ourselves totally full then headed to the center of Naples to explore. Central Naples is full of street stalls, hanging laundry, and giant piles of trash. Apparently, the mafia controls the waste removal services, and they seem to be holding it hostage. Upon further research, we found out that there was a "trash emergency" declared in 1994, which was resolved in 2009. They think the problem has been resolved! We beg to differ. Getting rid of the trash would be a compelling reason to pay the mob. Despite all the trash, Naples has a good energy. And it smells like fish everywhere, which adds to the fun.
 
We found some cool stuff in the street stalls for really cheap. Jenna and I each bought a scarf for 1 Euro so we could cover our shoulders in the churches in Rome without having to put on a sweater. They're pretty ridiculous and shiny, but a good buy overall. We headed towards Piazza del Plebiscitto to see a big mall with really interesting architecture. The inside looked quite a bit like the inside of the mall in Red Square-- high arched ceilings and a glass roof. One difference was that there were zodiac mosaics all over the floor in this mall. No zodiacs in Red Square... We also checked out a pair of castles and a neat square before walking down to the water to Portp di Santa Lucia. Right on the edge of the port lies Castel dell' Ovo, which is an impressive orange structure. The light was really good and the boats in the port made for really good pictures. Plus, Mt. Vesuvius makes a nice background for every shot. We got hassled by a million people trying to sell us stuff on the port. About 70 % of the vendors were African and the other 30 % Italian. We discovered that the African vendors will run away if you try and take their picture, which is a very effective tool in getting rid of them. Unfortunately, this doesn't work on the Italians, who beg you to take their picture while cat-calling you from 100 feet away. 
 
The three of us climbed up a big hill to reach Castel Sant' Elmo to get some nice views of the city. The views were really beautiful in the setting sun, so we spent some time sitting on a bench near the top of the hill. There were stray cats everywhere, so I took some kitty pictures. After climbing down the hill, we ran buy a grocery store to pick up a few beers and went back to the hostel to figure out reservations for France and Switzerland. After our disastrous train reservation situation in Venice, we've decided to plan the rest of Jenna's trip now to make sure we don't screw up. So-- reservations made for accommodation in Rome, Florence, Basel, Paris, Strasbourg, and Zurich. And we have train reservations from Venice to Rome to Florence to Milan. Unfortunately, we can't make reservations for train in France and Switzerland until we get there, unless there is some magical way to do it online that we can't figure out. SO, the plan is to try and make reservations and if they are full, we are going to march on to the trains and sit on the floor. We will keep you all posted about how that works for us...
 
We woke up at 6 AM on Sunday morning (5-22) to catch the metro to the central train station. Metro number 1 took a little while to show up, which made us pretty nervous, but we made it to the connecting station with a little over an hour to catch the connecting metro and get on the train to Rome. The ambiance in the metro station was truly excellent-- there was a group of foul, loud Italian boys that were screaming and singing while running around on the train tracks. They were pretty much terrible in every way-- it was like Jersey Shore but REAL! I guess there is some truth to that show after all. They were funny/appalling to watch for about 20 seconds, but we had to wait for the second metro for almost an hour! If you do the math, you will realize that our train left at about exactly the time we got on the second metro to the train station. Good thing there was another train an hour later! We lost 6 Euros in reservation fees, but at least we made it on the train. Lucky we found a nice Italian man to help us make new reservations. The older Italian men (30 years and up) are perfect gentlemen-- they open doors and help us hoist our bags into over head compartments, and they always have something funny and charming to say. In contrast, the younger generation seem to be pretty greasy and vile. Hope it is just a phase and not a social movement...
 
The train to Rome was pretty interesting in and of itself-- there were two really really really smelly guys sharing our compartment. We decided that they must be homeless, but they were really polite! Helped us hoist our bags, smiled courteously, made plenty of room for us, and defended us against some crazy lady that tried to steal our seats. Actually, they bullied everyone who tried to come into the compartment, including those with seat reservations... but it worked out pretty well for us! Somewhere along the way, they were forced to allow some nice Italian gentlemen into the compartment with us. Immediately afterwards, the conductor came by to check tickets and they didn't have any!! It was a giant ordeal to kick them off the train because they would NOT comply, so eventually the other men in the compartment forcibly removed them from the train. Then the remaining men in the general vicinity all vacated their seats and stood in the hall, ranting and raving about the situation for at least 30 minutes. Shortly thereafter, we arrived in Rome and 4 of the nice men rushed into the compartment to help us with our bags and we went on our way! Horray! A pił tardi!
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Comments

Mom, Adrienne on

Nice blog, thank you. Naples is not as pretty as other Italian cities, that's for sure. The streets with the laundry and all the trash, it seems like the city is not really concerned about attracting tourists...whatever. Glad you worked on your reservations, and hopefully the Italian trains will improve the further north you go.

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