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Despite buying a guide book, we really hadn’t actually come up with a reasonable full itinerary for our three full days staying in Naples. Sunday’s plans were not well formulated until, well, Sunday morning really. After a slightly worse breakfast than Saturday we headed out, the opposite direction to the past two days, aiming to walk to our first piece of transport for the day – Helen had incorporated into our itinerary an indulgence for me: to the funicular!

Brimming with confidence that I knew which way to go, we skirt round the edge of the Teatro San Carlos and emerge into the giant Piazza del Plebiscito, which is (I think) Naples’s biggest square. There’s not much going on except a bunch of tourists being excited by a big square, and it starts to rain. I lead us away and within a few moments the road becomes a steep uphill. Perfectly reasonably, Helen asks “why are we walking UPHILL to a funicular railway?”.

The answer is because I’d led us the wrong way. Damn it. Fixing it involves walking perilously close back to our hotel, such had been my mistake (essentially I’d led us out the wrong exit, but followed an otherwise correct set of turns). The rain isn’t pouring, it’s just spitting, but seemingly the whole of Naples has gone into HOLY SHIT IT’S PISSING DOWN mode. Almost all of the stalls on the streets have covered their normal wares and placed a selection of umbrellas on them. As we dodge our way through the crowds we discover that a lack of spatial awareness while wielding an umbrella is universal.

At the funicular terminus we buy day tickets for transport around most of Naples, and discover the station is actually shut. Oh. Huh. But just as we’re about to try and figure out an alternative, the doors open and we go through the barriers. Turns out they close the whole entrance and waiting area a minute or so before departure, and we’d just missed one. They run every 10 minutes and the by the time the next one turns up there’s, like, 12 or so people here.

It is a fairly disappointing funicular ride, being not very steep and in a tunnel for the majority of the route. But it’s a short ride and at the top we must make our way to Montesanto in order to get the metro. Contrary to Helen’s interpretation of the map, our best route to Montesanto is, in fact ... another funicular! Hurrah!

Naples, being pretty hilly, has four funicular railways. This one is a bit steeper and more brightly coloured, and the station has a plaque with funicular statistics.

It is a little steeper and somewhat more outdoors, but still not a spectacular ride like, say, Innsbruck. But we’re using it as transport to get to where we need to be rather than riding it for fun, and down at Montesanto it says go straight on for the metro, or right for the mainline trains.

We go straight on. There is no metro, and are no further signs for the metro. It’s a somewhat more gritty part of town in which we’re loathe to look like the lost tourists we are, but the modern world affords us the luxury of checking directions by staring at our phones – like everyone else is doing – rather than unfolding an awkward paper map. We learn that following that “go straight on” sign had indeed been a lie. In fact, Montesanto metro station is behind the funicular station and to the right, along a dingy residential street and beneath a grim square.

Montesanto metro station is also closed. Fuck it. Well, now what? Mainline train it is. As with the trip to Sorrento on Friday, the trains here are run by a private company rather than the municipality and so we need to buy another ticket. Our timing is impeccable though: with one train at a platform, I lean my head into the first carriage and say scusi, Pozzuoli? and get a gruff si in response.

It’s a clean train with plastic seats and far from crowded, and it’s going where we want to go. Taking a mostly straight line through suburbs of western Naples we stop at numerous intermediate stations all with different personalities - not in any kind of deliberately designed way, it just feels like a haphazardly built line.

Our book says most people only go to Pozzuoli for just about long enough to have something to eat before getting a boat or Procida or Ischia. Well, not us. We’re here to cross a bridge over the railway line and walk inland, up steep streets and steeper steps until we reach the Anfiteatro Flavio.

It’s an old Roman amphitheatre, the third(?) biggest in Italy. €4 gets us into the mostly deserted site, which has considerably more nesting seagulls than human visitors.

Scruffbag seagull chick is cute

There’s a couple of cats wandering around too. The site is, basically, a big open amphitheatre with a bunch of holes in the ground covered in metal, and some wooden seating at one end from an abandoned attempt at restoring the site for usage from the 70s until 2000 or so. Near the entrance there’s basically a junkyard of bits of pillars and statues and things, and dotted around are a few information points in both Italian and English.

Some of the descriptions make it totally sound like pro wrestling. Mock battles, groups of gladiators, etc etc. It’s a pretty interesting place to wander around the inside of, though I’m a bit sad we can’t ascend any staircases for an audience-eye view.

After spending a bunch of time staring at seating and seagulls, we wander out an exit to check out the exterior. It’s much as you’d expect, really.

These baby seagulls are all SCREAMING for food and attention.

About half way round, things are entirely cordoned off. Oh. At this point Helen expresses some disappointment that all the underground bits are inaccessible. I explain that she missed out the tunnel which goes underneath everything, back near the start, and maybe we should go check that out.

It’s fucking awesome. Kinda mind-blowingly so. I actually find it kinda hard to explain why, since it’s “just” a bunch of tunnels under a gladiatorial amphitheatre – but being there is wonderful. It’s a tiny bit spoilt by the really loud local who is on FaceTime to a screaming child on speakerphone throughout, but we walk slowly enough to keep our distance and anyway, we do a second circuit just because it’s so incredible.

Occasional plastic crates ruin the scene.

The lighting is hard enough to cope with for us amateur photographers, when we’re taking not much care, that I’m forced to try and write a long enough paragraph to cover the blinding sunshine. And maybe another photo too.

Well, that was bloody spectacular. Amazing, and well worth our visit. Having it to ourselves was truly wonderful.

Bit hungry now though. We knew there was a nice park and garden between here and the coast so wandered that way, around the roadworks and the closed park entrance. Damn. Never mind, we carried on down the hairpin bends on the street until reaching a few restaurants on a street one block back from the sea. On the other side some wedding photography is going on, and we choose to sit outside a cafe with sea views.

They have no menu. Not “no English menu”, but no menu at all. Furthermore they speak literally zero English. Nonetheless they are friendly enough, and armed with a tiny amount of Italian we successfully order qualcosa a mangiare. Something to eat, that is. It’s done courtesy of our new friend Francisco walking Helen up to a counter where she can point at some bread with ham and egg embedded in it. We also get due birra, Azzurro. That’s beer, y’see.

It’s a pretty enjoyable interaction and the food is basic, stodgy, and decent. The wedding photography continues next to us, using a drone. Fancy.

When time comes to pay I know how to ask for the bill, and understand dici as ten euros, but then he tries to talk to us a bit more and it gets embarrassingly lost. In the end I think we manage to convey that we’re from London, England, and on vacation and that we have jobs... but that’s about it. I leave a €2,00 tip and we bugger off.

Around the corner there’s another historic thing we want to visit, some underground terraced streets. It’s easy to find, and closed. Bugger. Oh well. Continuing on we reach a few more restaurants and the seafront again, and then ... a shitload more restaurants, where English is well spoken and the food looks delicious, and also the port.

Turns out this bit of Pozzuoli is quite nice. But the stodgy eggy hammy bread filled us up enough that we’re not really in the mood to sit down for more anywhere. A slow walk around the passenger ferry bit yields no useful information – we had hoped for a boat to Procida perhaps, but nothing was doing. Realising we were quite close to the train station having now down a circuit we opted instead to buy a ticket back to Montesanto and go explore central Naples.

Ticket purchased, we grab a water in the supremely smoky gambling cafe next door and then run up the stairs to the platform because a train is pulling in right at that moment. Hurrah!

Another clean, non-crowded and nondescript journey back to the city is spent by Helen reading the guide book avidly, only for what she reads leading her to ask me to make a decision about getting off a stop early. Argh! Don’t do that to me! You’re the one who read the book, not me! So no, let’s stay on to the terminus.

A few weeks ago I’d made a tentative plan for one of this weekend’s days, and it had indeed involved getting funicular one to funicular two here at Montesanto, then walking through the Centro historico of the city. Despite not being that fussed by Naples itself, Helen had by now agreed that it would be worthwhile if just as a box-ticking exercise, so away we go. What was earlier the wrong way is this time the right way, a walk to Via Toledo and Piazza Dante.

Behind here is that historic centre. I have been banging on about getting a picture of a narrow street in which the residents are all hanging out their washing. Surely we can find a street like that around here somewhere...

There are, in fact, tons of those streets because of course there are. The thunderstorms which had been forecast for the middle of the day are plainly not happening, apart from the brief spitting earlier we’ve had nothing but glorious sunshine and so it continues around here.

People are out in their droves, locals and tourists alike. Many of the streets are lined with restaurants all selling super-hyper-authentic UNESCO-approved pizza, since pizza was invented around here ‘n that. Every 10 yards is a church, there are a few museums, entrances to subterranean Naples, and a street comprising nothing but shops selling utter, utter, handcrafted religious iconography (and FC Napoli player) tat. Anyone want a giant nativity scene for €800,00? No, didn’t think so.

There is graffiti everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. We’ve seen it at every train station, on every building, in every suburb, on every street in the centre, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Some of it bears a message in English.

It’s hot, and we’re hot. It’s been a while since that beer back in Pozzuoli. First we stop for some cheap biscuity-bready things that look nicer than they taste. Perhaps that’s a little unfair, the taste is fine I guess, but they are unforgivingly dry. But we can counteract that with some absolutely delicious gelato a few steps away.

Oh god it’s so nice. Helen has a cup with two different toppings, one of which is made of 70% chocolate. So, so dirty.

Weaving into a churchyard for some respite from the crowds, we’re talking about the food we’re eating and have eaten so far. It’s been lovely, no doubt, but nothing has blown us away. Think we’re hugely spoilt by having such good authentic food from all over the world available to us in London tbh.

Anyway, that’s the lot for the Centro historico. The bit that had made Helen ask whether we should get off the train one stop early is still beckoning us, since it’s light and early and warm.

It’s not far from where we’ve ended up to Municipio and the Castel Nuovo, near our hotel. Beyond there is a small park next to a smaller funfair, after which the street turns into a seafront promenade. It’s closed to traffic except 4/6/8-person bike things, and half the roads are covered in outdoor seating for loads of restaurants and bars. We didn’t really know this was a thing, but it’s totally a thing.

Well this is all rather excellent. The atmosphere is great, there’s nothing actually happening, like an event or anything - it’s just, apparently, what happens in Naples on a sunny Sunday afternoon. People come to this bit and eat and drink. Well, we’ve already eaten so let’s have a drink, shall we? After admiring the coast first.

A cat was wandering about on these rocks. Helen was very concerned for its safety.
That Vesuvius really does like to show off.

Eventually we pick a spot on a 2-person sofa outside a bar at the end of one strip. Almost instantly the no-nonsense barman basically tells us we’re having two beers, throws two beers on the table and demands €10,00 there and then. Well, fine. We’re not being picked on as tourists or foreigners – he’s doing the same to lots of Italian speaking folk too, all of whom are seemingly surprised at having to pay for each drink as it arrives.

We watch the crowds go past on foot, rollerblades, those bike-things, etc, while basking in the early evening sunshine. Cold lager is perfect for this. There are no free nuts handed out, which is disappointing to the pigeons which, as in Sorrento two evenings prior, terrorise all the customers by jumping all over the seats and tables.

Further around the coast is where we were actually aiming for, a large tree-lined park, so after one beer we get up and head there only to discover that, predictably enough, it’s shut. Never mind. Rather than retrace our steps along the coast we instead go inland through Chiaia to get back to our hotel. FC Napoli’s Sunday evening game, away at whichever team “SPA” is, has started not so long ago and when a bar is showing it, men are watching.

From this angle of approach, I gotta say, the shopping mall containing our hotel looks pretty impressive.

At this point it’s still early, like 7pm or so. We could do with some food and some booze, though probably not too much of the latter since Monday has an early start. In fact, we make sensible plans to do as much as we can this evening in order to preserve sleep. Calculating backwards from the 11am flight time, we arrive at the conclusion of requiring a 6.30am alarm. Eesh. That sucks. So we unpack our final day clothes, pack away all the dirty stuff and anything else we no longer need, and then wonder what to do right now.

I vote beer. Of course I vote beer. There’s a craft beer place called Nabeer, literally a 3 minute walk from the hotel and I’ve recovered from the Montesanto fail earlier enough to once again have confidence in my sense of direction. Begrudgingly Helen concedes to my idea, and away we go.

It’s up another stereotypically narrow street, high sided, washing hanging out, etc etc. There’s a wine bar and a few restaurants and then, aha, Nabeer. There’s only 5 people in when we arrive which is handy, since it only seats about 14 or so tops. The one guy working there, who I assume is the owner, is super-friendly and tells us to sit down and he’ll come sort us out in a minute once he’s finished preparing finger food for an existing table.

Over he comes and drinks are ordered: I go for a bottle of local Napoltean-brewed stout called Urania, while Helen has a fauxsecco – that is, a fizzy white wine that’s not Prosecco because prosecco’s not a thing around these parts. My beer is decent, her fauxsecco is bloody fantastic.

Through speakers comes blues-jazzy rock, but not too loud to speak over. Two of the walls are bare stone, giving the impression of being sat in a cave. The drinks are great and staff lovely and basically this place is wonderful, except for the excruciatingly uncomfortable seats. You have to sit on very hard round stools that are a literal pain in the arse.

Not so bad as to stop us having a second drink, mind you. We too are given finger food - olives, nuts, beans, bready-things, y’know. Enough to not need real food for the evening.

My second beer is a 7% IPA, while Helen goes for another glass of the wine. Some people leave, others arrive, but it never really gets crowded despite the small size. What a cracking bar.

Another English couple come in, have one beer/wine combo, then get limoncello. That sounds like a good idea, so I go and ask for – on Helen’s instruction, since I am both ignorant and supine – recommendations for an aperitif. The man is confused, and with good reason: I of course mean digestif. Damn it. Look, we’re slightly drunk foreigners, please forgive us.

Anyway, we have digestifs - one limoncello, and one <mumble mumble something else>. The latter is darker, red maybe, and to me tastes a bit aniseedy. It’s lovely, whatever it is. We say our thank yous and goodbyes, wandering back down the hill to the hotel. Room service had not refilled the minibar so I pop to the bar and buy two Peroni.

After going through our photos for the day and doing a bit more preparatory packing, Helen falls asleep while I still have a bit of juice left in the tank - just enough, in fact, to think “that mini bottle of screwtop Prosecco we bought from the supermarket on Friday really shouldn’t go to waste”. Since there are no glasses I’m forced to drink straight from the bottle, like the winner I am.

Anyone who has read just one of my previous diary entries, for this trip or any other, would probably expect it to finish at the paragraph where I’m unwisely drinking whatever booze I can lay my hands on, in bed. But not this one! Because little enough of interest happened on Monday to warrant its own entry, so I’m shoving it in as a coda here.

For some unknown reason I woke up super-early on Monday, like, 2.30am or so. Played a bit of solitaire on the iPad then fell back to sleep with a wrestling podcast in my ear. Oddly, come 6.30am I was feeling pretty alert and raring to go. Up, shower, last bit of packing, our exit was timed perfectly. I left Helen on the third floor while going up to the fourth to settle up, during which the staff took 5 minutes to fail to print me a receipt. Never mind, I don’t really need it.

The lift wouldn’t come when we called it so I carried our cases down 3 floors of spiral staircase, which was fun. Retracing our steps from Thursday evening we headed to the Alibus stop near the port, arriving just a couple of minutes before the bus which left on time, didn’t fill up, and took only about 25 minutes to reach the airport in rush hour. Decent. Halfway there, the man sitting opposite us abruptly says WHERE YOU GUYS FROM? Helen says London, and there is no more interaction, he’s straight back down to looking at and messing with his two phones. Huh.

All day on Sunday I’d tried to check us in for the flight home and failed. The BA app and website gave no useful information beyond “we can’t check you in, try at the airport” and Flyertalk’s clinic thread about the most common causes was no help. There being no self-serve kiosks, we queued up, handed our passports over and a couple of minutes had boarding passes issued.

They were for our original seats. No free upgrade, and given the app’s failings I’d not had the opportunity to pay for one either. Oh well. At least being in the front row of economy would give us first dibs on the M&S pay menu.

Leaving check-in to go upstairs to departures, the airport felt chaotic and I feared bad things for security, but in actuality it was pretty painless and we were through quite quickly. I am moderately concerned at the effectiveness of security, since I forgot to remove my belt but didn’t set off any alarms.

Oddly, landside had been chock full of shops. Airside had plenty too, but landside felt curiously busy in that regard. Anyway, we bought some duty free and then headed off for the VIP lounge opposite gate C17.

It’s not a huge place, and isn’t BA specific - you can pay at a vending machine for entrance, as well as use it if flying business class or holding a shiny card for about 8 different airlines and propably Priority Pass too. So it’s not too surprising that seats are at a premium. Originally we’re forced to sit in that weird circular thing in the photo above, but within two minutes a couple seated by a table nearby up and leave and we nab that space immediately.

Breakfast is a selection of cheese and meat and breads and sweet pastries and stuff, much like at the hotel except a little less extensive. I can’t see any beer, but there are loads of soft drinks plus tea and coffee. A young, fiercely tattooed man turns up and cracks open a bottle of fizzy white wine. Great idea that man.

Remnants

The couple sitting opposite us manage to find beer from somewhere. I go on another hunt and am unsuccessful. Where’s that beer come from? Ah fuck it, a second glass of fizz will do.

Outside, the English language announcements are audible and seem to be made either by Matt Berry, or the guy who voiced the Protect and Survive nuclear war public information films back in the 70s.

Boarding for our 1100 flight is announced at 1015, at gate B14. This seems to be the furthest gate possible from the lounge, and as we get close there is a vast scrum of people. I’d totally forgotten about the whole Schengen thing, and the badly organised lengthy queue gives me ample opportunity to explain to Helen just why we have to go through exit immigration.

After a couple of minutes a woman shouts BRITISH AIRWAYS? We step forward, and she directs us to join a slightly different queue that’s going at about the same speed as the one we left. Anyway, through immigration we get immediately onto a bus, for our plane is parked at a remote stand.

With only the tiniest bit of Tetris required to put our bags in the overhead lockers, we’re in the curtain-envy seats and ready to go. Naples and surrounds look alright from above, though I think all the good stuff is from the other side. Vesuvius and that. We get this.

And this.

We’re told flying time will be 2.5 hours or so. When service starts, I’m delighted to finally get my turn at tasting Brewdog Speedbird 100 IPA... except it’s sold out. I’m THE FIRST PERSON TO BE SERVED and they have none. They didn’t keep even one can behind for the return journey, and sold everything on the 7am flight from London. DAMN YOU.

So, Curious Session IPA instead please thanks. Helen wants the (also new to this summer’s menu) pink gin, and they’re sold out of that too so has to settle for a Tanqueray.

The middle bit of the journey is totally nondescript. Helen plays some game on her phone, I play Bricks ‘n Balls on mine while listening to a podcast. I nod off a bit, she nods off a lot, to the point where during a rubbish run I hand over what I perceived to be an empty glass (with just a bit of melted ice in it). When she wakes up, she bemoans the fact I’ve given away the gin she’d been saving for the descent. Bah.

A coastline appears, so we must be going over the channel.

Another coastline appears, so this must be Kent.

We get lower, as you do on these plane things when coming into land. England looks alright.

And then, there we are, at Gatwick south terminal. We’ve landed at about 1230, a full 25 minutes ahead of schedule. Desperate as anything for some nicotine, Helen zooms ahead, wisely so as we reach immigration just ahead of another much larger plane that’s also just opened its doors. Better yet, as we join the queues they suddenly turn on 8 more of the oyster-esque gates and we’re through in no time.

Out to the smoking bit, I nip to the loo and then WH Smith’s, hindered a bit by a man buying a packet of fags, some Gaviscon, and chewing gum. The diet of champions.

Inside, down to the station platform, a Clapham Junction-bound train pulls in just as we arrive. The scheduling gods smile on us again as we change, and somehow we are through the door of our flat in Surbiton less than an hour after the timetable would have had us land. Our cat is pleased to see us, and decides he wants to spend the next hour sitting on my lap watching Forged In Fire. I’m hardly going to argue with that, am I?

Created By
Darren Foreman
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