From Bari, we got a bus to Napoli. I’ve never been motion sick in my life, but I spent the entire three-hour journey feeling like I was going to be sick. I stared straight ahead, concentrating on making it to Napoli without having to run to the tiny, foul-smelling cubicle at the back of the bus. I was vaguely aware that there were gorgeous green rolling hills outside my window, but I couldn’t enjoy them at all.
We arrived and, walking shakily along a very busy road, searched for a taxi to take us to our accommodation. A man in an unmarked white car saw an opportunity to exploit a couple of clueless tourists.
“You need a taxi?” he shouted, as we shook our heads and walked on, searching for something more official. This didn’t deter him; he drove after us, pulling up right in front of where we were walking. Getting out of his car and chasing us down the street, he explained, “you need a taxi, I am a taxi,” as if we were a bit simple and hadn’t understood him.
Since I was still feeling wobbly and we couldn’t find any proper taxis, we relented and let him put our bags in the car. As soon as we had started driving we passed the official taxi rank, full of legit taxis waiting for passengers.
He got us to our accommodation and tried to charge €20 for the 10 minute ride. Luckily our AirBnb host had told us that a taxi should cost €8, so Richard stood firm and bargained him down to €10 while I waited weakly.
As we walked down a dirty, graffitied street, I began to question what I knew about Napoli and why we had decided to come here. So far it seemed busy, dirty and dodgy.
After turning a few more corners however, the narrow street opened into a wide square, with a statue in the centre that stretched high into the sky. This was more like it! After a bit of rest in our Airbnb apartment I was feeling better and ready to explore. We wandered through the UNESCO-listed old town, and discovered gorgeously old buildings and a different enthralling basilica or cathedral (I don’t know the difference, to be honest) on every corner.
We spent the next day in Napoli rushing from site to site. First was the Catacombes of San Gennaro, where our enthusiastic and knowledgeable young guide led us through the eerie, glowing passageways, pointing out hundreds of spaces cut into the rock where people had been laid to rest; the richer bodies with colourful frescoes painted above them and the poorer bodies stacked up, one on top of the other.
Of course, the bodies had been removed from the Catacombs long ago, so, not wanting to miss out on anything, we marched off to the Cimitero delle Fontanelle to see the bodies themselves. Sounds strange? Yes, it was.
The walls of the underground cemetery were lined with rows and rows of skulls staring vacantly at the tourists who snapped their photos. Thousands of long and short bones were piled high, gathering dust. I thought how strange it was that these bones had once belonged to living, breathing people – people who could never have known that they would one day be part of a macabre tourist attraction.
More marble sculptures
From there, we journeyed on foot to the Museo di Nazionale, getting caught in an epic downpour on the way, so that we arrived with dripping hair and squelching shoes. The museum was full of marble sculptures, mosaics and more marble sculptures, and did nothing to improve my opinion of museums. I’m impressed by marble sculptures as much as anyone, but there are only so many you can look at before you start wishing you could go and watch cat videos on YouTube for a while instead. The most interesting part of the museum was the phallus room, which showed (quite clearly) the ancient man’s obsession with sex and the penis. Some things don’t change, I guess.
After stopping for a lunchtime pizza (when in Napoli…) our next visit was to the Castel Sant’Elmo, a castle on top of a hill where we were treated to glorious views of the city. With an expanse of warmly colourful buildings – ochre, terracotta and scarlet – it looked like a storybook city, too perfect to be real.
By the time we made it to the waterfront promenade we were spent. My trusty Fitbit showed that we had walked 26,000+ steps and 20+ kilometres. We figured the best way to reward ourselves for our big day and to replenish our energy for the next day was to eat a large bowl of pasta for dinner, and follow it up with a decadent chocolate and strawberry cannolo each for dessert. Perfetto!