The Glue That Binds Us

20th May 2015

Daily ablutions are very little mentioned but, for most of us, an important routine. When travelling, diverting from your usual diet can have a significant effect (being on an aircraft for 11 or so hours doesn’t help either) so one hopes the tantalising local foods have the usual effect on your system enabling you to poop routinely at a convenient time (and place). Well, let’s take a look at regular, staple Italian food: bread (albeit some of the best in the world); pasta (the same); pizza, rice and pastries. All superb but which can knot your bowels in a glutinous bind. I won’t say any more, but good luck with that on your hols chaps and chap-esses.

Pan de la casa - Naples

I guess we like it here in Napoli. Ten days says so.

Napoli - Pasta

Vesuvius did not blow. We walked one of the longest walks we have ever done up a continual incline from the highest local bus stop to reach the actual volcano where we paid 10 Euros each to have the pleasure of walking for another hour in the heat up a steep, dusty and slippery scoria track with 10 thousand other tourists who had taken the easy tour bus trip to the pay spot. We didn’t even take photos. An extinct volcano is an extinct volcano and every damned one looks the same if not similar and because of the elevation they all have views. It is, however, an impressively large one with a deep crater. Still, the walk was great exercise for us and there wouldn’t be many who could have (or would be foolish enough to have 🙂 done it. It was quite an achievement. You should see our leg muscles now. Corrrr . . .

Central, old Napoli exists on two levels, as we found when we had lunch at La Veccia Cantina: there is a linked subterranean world which dates back to antiquity. Under its old streets is a series of lower-level rooms/cellars which have linking passageways to each other. Here is a link to an excellent article on this interesting subject:

and very well written too.

Napoli Central Station - public piano

This piano is open for all to play – and it is, frequently, and fortunately by a wealth of talented amateurs. Its rinkling tinkling tones ring throughout Napoli Central Station.

Napoli - church art

Another sinner depicted in the throes of penitential agony but beautifully depicted in a cathedral! Geez, what is it with these fanatics?

Napoli - damaged glass shopfront

I wonder . . . This shop with its corner glass show-front has been hit. I mean every one of its 5 huge (3m x 2.5m?) windows has been broken, struck, shattered (hard to see in my quick snap-shot). In some places it looks like a bullet or two: others like they’ve been driven in by some serious weight (they’d be at least 10mm toughened and laminated glass). Somebody has got to this shop and now knowing something about Italy, I’d say they either had some serious competition who have paid money for this upset (it is not an attractive look on a main street), or they refused to pay some protection money. It is more likely to be the latter in this southern Italian town – yes the Mafia still exists. Fascinating.

Napoli - tomb

At an old cathedral I found an inspirational idea for my eventual disposal . . .err, I mean internment. As per this photo, I thought I would look rather grand and memorable with the same set-up in my living room. You may note upon closer inspection that the upper reclining marble statue of the interned (oh yes, I think I would look good in marble, please) has his two faithful hounds at his feet. You must admit I’d look impressive in that embellished sarcophagus. The smell? Oh dear. It’ll pass – with time.

The old flag-stone roads are in dire need of repair in a lot of places; you have to lift your feet when walking. They’re strong and durable of course, but in many places they need to be lifted and the sub-surface refilled. This would, however, be a major work over all of Naples, especially on the slopes – so nothing is being done. There is another endemic problem here (but not exclusive to Napoli); the concrete on the underneath of multi-storied buildings’ balconies is rotting and dropping away as in ‘plague proportions’ – not only underneath balconies but off the sides of buildings. The solution: seems to be stapling netting (green) over the rotting area to prevent pedestrians being maimed or concrete falling into the neighbour’s balcony beneath. But in some severe cases they have erected permanent scaffolding with a metal catch-tray – especially over the piazzas. We were told by our very well educated student working in a bar that those struck by falling debris do get a payment from the government – if they survive. The cause: clearly inferior concrete, but it seems there is a form of corruption in the building industry which permits cheaper contracts to be allotted (cheaper, inferior concrete mix), even if the long-term results are disastrous. It is, however, not necessarily allied to ‘The Mafia’, but operates along the same lines.

Still, there are some stunning and very old buildings – including places of worship. I love the big old doors.

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And now, as we leave the fair city of . . .

17th May 2015

On a train to Messina from Napoli – 48 Euros each, 6 hour journey, comfortable 6 seater cabin.

Naples - home of the pizza

Naples – home of the pizza: Pizza Margarita Vesuvio with buffalo mozzarella which beautifully resembled a volcano’s fiery cauldron

Naples was a random choice for us, but what a fabulous city it turned out to be: Fabulous, that is, both historically and visually. The subterranean world of the old city, quite a few parts of which are open for tourists, is fascinating. A Neolithic village expanded by Visigoths then Romans then Spanish and built over and on top of as the city suffered floods, earthquakes and volcanic inundation, it is a far more significant city than we at first thought.

These subterranean ruined towns may go some way to explain the parlous state of the flag-stoned narrow roads too – the slabs often move and rock as we walk upon them and I would feel that at any moment the surface may give way under me, dropping me literally into some ill-lit and dank version of ‘the dark ages’.

We struck a gem of an ‘antique shop’ yesterday, absolutely filled to the gills with tantalising, unusual pieces – but it was closed. Walking around the corner down an alley we could see through mesh grills to lighted underground caverns which I figured (correctly as it turned out) belonged to the antiquities dealer as the rooms were lined and littered with . . . well, old junk, but I mean really old. Anyway, lucky we hung around as he opened at 6pm. I asked Agostino, the owner, if he had any Roman coins for sale and he brought out old tins in which he had gathered hundreds of mixed denominations – the Roman ones dug from under and around his caverns. While I went through them Rachel disappeared into the bowels of the shop. For my initial selection of about 18 assorted coins he wanted far too much and was not to be the ‘soft touch’ I had naively hoped he may be, so I eventually whittled it down to five coins – one of which was a small gold Roman one. I reckon I concluded a good deal but I’ll check it out with Jesus (family, and an expert collector) when we get to Seville later.

Antique Shop - Napoli Italy
A strange thing – late at night, fireworks (big bangers) would go off near our hotel. On the first night, given all those warnings about the good citizenry of Napoli, we thought it was gunfire. Upon asking our intelligent and fluent English-speaking young student bartender, even he was at a loss as to explain it. Some, apparently, think it is a signal to say the drugs have safely landed (it is a big port city, after all), but apart from that there is no apparent reason festive or otherwise. There is a large Chinese community of shop owners in Naples, especially around where we were staying, but they are not known to have late-night celebrations that I know of. The making of fireworks, especially the big-banger sort, is quite a prosperous back-yard industry here, but the reasons for their setting them off in the middle of the night will remain just another mystery for now.

To be quite honest, much of Naples is pretty untidy: sprawling and often grubby, littered and grotty and you have to walk with care to avoid dog shit, but we are both reluctant to leave this very interesting city.

Bay of Napoli Italia