giovedì 30 dicembre 2010

Our adventure did not go as planned...

Sooo...Maegon and I set off this morning for Pompeii.  We had finally convinced our host and hostess to let us go off on our own for the first time.  First we went to a house with our hostess so that her friend, Sandy, could tell us how to get to Pompeii.  She told us to take the train from Villa Literna to Naples Centrale and then hop on the Circumvesuviana to Pompeii.  Easy peasy.  Right?

So we get to Villa Literna with only minutes to spare before our train takes off.  Sandy had told us to go to the tobacco store next to the train station to get our tickets.  This made total sense because train tickets in Italy are sold at tobacco shops and magazine stands.  We ran into the tobacco shop and said "Quarto biglettas por Napoli por favore!" (You have to have 2 tickets for a roundtrip) The girl at the counter shook her head and pointed next door.  We sprinted through the shop and onto the platform just in time to watch the train pull away from the station.  We went into the train station and bought our tickets and waited for the train.  It was supposed to arrive at 11:12am.

We asked the man standing on the platform near us "A Napoli?"  "Si, si!" He said and pointed towards platform 3.  A little boy started rambling on in excited Italian about the trains, but we couldn't understand a word he said.  So, we went down the stairs to go under the tracks and get to platform 3.  We got halfway up to the platform and decided to ask someone if this was the right train for Napoli.  She said no.  So we ran back over to platform 1.  There, a station guy tried to help us, but he didn't speak english very well.  He sent us back over to platform 3.  The train at platform 3 arrived at exactly 11:12.  We decided that was a good sign and got on.  Although, Maegon had serious misgivings.

We ride the train for about an hour, there the train stopped in a place called Firma and EVERYONE departed.  Except us, we stayed on.  After a few minutes, the conductor came up to us and said that this was the end of the line.  We told him we were trying to get to Naples, he kept saying something about 1 hour and the 12:50 train and pointing down the rail lines.  His english was none so good, so we asked more people for help.  Eventually, we found a little boy who spoke some english and he told us which train to get on.  So, we get back on the train and head for Naples.  A very cute Italian boy sat across from us.  He spoke a little english, and he definitely had the smoldering eye thing down.  He helped us make our stop.

At Naples Centrale, we had to find the Circumvesuviana line.  We had to ask information where it was because it was downstairs.  The train map was still very confusing to us, so Maegon asked a barrista which platform went to Pompeii.  ...Turns out there are two Pompeiis.  Pompeii Mistri and regular ol' Pompeii.  We start riding one train and realize this line doesn't even go by Pompeii (The train maps aren't in every train...real helpful guys...)  Then the train just stops even though it isn't the end of the line.  So we get off and we get on a different train going the opposite direction.  We tried to ask a guy how to get to Pompeii Mistri, but his directions don't make any sense since they are in Italian and all (turns out we were supposed to ride this train for 3 stops and then switch to YET ANOTHER train).

Anyways, we didn't know this.  But the train stopped at the wrong Pompeii.  We were sitting there talking at the stop and we both had our feet up on the seat when suddenly out of nowhere, this poliza shows up and starts yelling at us in Italian.  He starts counting things off on his fingers.  We told him we didn't know any Italian, but that just made him yell louder.  Everyone on the train is looking at us.  He asks for our papers and we hand him our tickets.  He starts waving them around and shouting more.  Then he ushers us off the train.  I thought we were being kicked off, but he took us into the train station and punched our tickets on the time machine.  Turns out we hadn't been validating our tickets every time we switched trains.  But he let us back on, so everything turned out ok.

We make it back to Napoli Centrale and we decided to go get some coffee.  However, it was now 4:00 in the afternoon and all the shops were closed for the afternoon reposo.  The only place we could find open was an Arabic place where we had pretty disgusting kabob sandwiches.   We decided that everything we had gone through that day, we should get a glass of wine and relax.  So we got one at a coffee bar (you stand up and drink coffee just like a real bar).  Then we headed back out for some exploring.  We went to another sit-down coffee shop and had some coffee and pastries and then we found a book stall and got engrossed there for a while.  Finally, we went back to Naples Centrale and tried to figure out which platform the train home would be on.  The train stop listings are massively confusing.  And they use periods instead of colons in their times, but we didn't find that out till later.  We eventually found a train client assistance office and they told us what platform to get on.

We were so skittish from our last train debacle, that we decided not to board until we had asked SEVERAL people.  When we finally saw the sign for Villa Literna station, we started giggling out of giddy relief.  Whew.  We found our hosts and made it home safely.

Tomorrow we are going hiking up Mt. Vesuvius and then we are going on a whirlwind tour of Pisa, Florence, and Rome.  Hopefully, without any hitches.

BONUS:  On the train I got to watch a guy dig in his nose for half an hour.  His finger was seriously up to his second knuckle deep.  On top of that, his little girl was sitting next to him.  Grossness transcends nationalities.

mercoledì 29 dicembre 2010

Greater Naples

Well, today is the fourth day of our trip and the second day we have been in Italy. We drove into Lucino near Pouzzouli then took the train to Monte Santo, then to Vamaro; from there we went into greater Naples to go shopping. On our train ride we saw several street performers: one band performed a ragtime version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on accordion and guitar.  Another group played Red Hot Chili Italian, with an accordion. It was awesome.  We saw row upon row of pastries, entire streets dedicated to shoes, two little boys getting into a fist fight that was broken up by an ancient grandmother on a walker, penis shaped pastries, thousands of varieties of noodles, fresh olives, tripe, swordfish, eels, and squid!

Yes, this is a city with an APPETITE thongs ...short boots ... lacy bras...tall boots...cowboy boots ...suede boots...cannoli...huge fish...knock off Prada walking bars....street urchins...ancient buildings covered in graffiti...pasta...pasta...pasta...hanging sausage...polizia squeezing down an extremely narrow alley way...6th story mail being delivered in baskets tied to a lift string....a beggar asking for money because he's gotten a duck and a dog to be friends. whew--mi scuzzi! mi scuzzi! mi scuzzi!
prego! grazie! quanto costa? cinque. per favore!

This country is strangely enamored with the 7 dwarves.  We have seen them in quite a few yards.  They also listen to American pop music, but they don't speak english so they have no idea what they are saying.  At one coffee shop we went to yesterday, Jewel was playing; today we heard Lady Ga Ga.

We FINALLY got our first glorious cone full of gelato.  It was Nutella flavored.  We also went to a small pizzaria called Da Attilio where we each had our own pizza and coca cola.  Maegon had a margherita pizza and I had pizza with white sauce and SALAMI!  It was amazing!  I am completely in love with Italian food.  I could live here forever. When the Neapolitans do pastries they go BIG. We saw a savory pastry stuffed with hot dogs and french fries!! We did so much walking...on cobble, and it's hilly. They walk everywhere; we've decided that this saves them from obesity because these folks eat and eat well.

I am strangely obsessed with the laundry hanging from almost every balcony.  I took about 400 pictures of just that today.  My camera died halfway through our trip so I didn't get to capture all the amazing things we saw.  A lot of people here get their mail by lowering a basket from their balcony by rope and then pulling it back up.  It was almost like being in medieval times.

On the way home we stopped by the beach.  We could see the lights from Naples on the hills, and an island. The city lights and horizon were beautiful, but the beach was beyond littered--so sad. We were assured that they clean it up in the summer, however. Also, all throughout Naples, there are piles of trash that obviously haven't been picked up in weeks, but we were expecting much worse. The media may have sensationalized the trash problem. All of the visual charm is enhanced by the smell of POOP...with occasional gusts of fish, strong perfume, trash, sweet pastries, Euro body odors, and caffe'.  

Tomorrow, we are going to see Pompeii!