Day Two – Naples
We were advised that Naples was the least tourist-friendly port we will visit. We had been told that previously and even the shipboard orientation cautioned against going too far off the main road and avoid “difficult” areas. Most folks leaving the ship were headed to tours of either Capri or Pompeii. Since we had visited both before, we decided to just walk into this sketchy town just to see what Naples was like.
Long story short, we loved it. We walked along the dock at the Stazione Marittima and immediately headed for the medieval-looking fortress of Castel Nuovo looming over the harbor next to the pier. Admission is free on Sundays, so we got to see some statues and historic stuff.
The city of Naples flows down a steep hillside to the miles of docks on the Mediterranean Sea. We saw from the tourist map that there were three funiculars, a “charming” old town and the enormous fortress of Castel St. Elmo on the hilltop.
We headed into town and directly to the Funicolare Centrale to ride to the hilltop for €1. If you are unfamiliar with the funicular concept, picture a subway car riding up the side of a mountain with the car interiors designed to be level for the passengers while the electric propulsion gear and tracks follow the 30+ degree incline of the hill. Lisbon has them. Even Pittsburgh has one or two and they are fun to ride. The Centrale is set up as mostly single track with the two cars, one ascending and one descending, timed to pass each other in the one spot where the track doubles. Just so cool to see and ride.We got off the Centrale at Piazza Fuga and walked about twenty minutes to Castel St. Elmo. The Castel is an enormous fort overlooking the entire city and the harbor. Being still Sunday, the admission was free. We climbed up and up along awkward steps paved with super hard, odd shaped flat stones. The fortifications were imposing and the views from the ramparts were spectacular. Feeling adventurous, we decided to descend into the old part of town by a different route. It was a long winding path of hundreds of poorly maintained steps, with the bright sunlight glinting green off the remarkable abundance of broken beer bottles strewn down the path. After a couple hundred yards, we evidently outpaced the maximum range of an Amstel bottle hurled from the ramparts and the footing became less sparkly. We trudged on until the stairs ended after about a quarter mile and we walked into the old town of Naples, full of small piazzas, narrow alleys and throngs of Sunday strollers eating gelato, laughing and enjoying the gorgeous weather.As we strolled back through “Old Town” we passed several open air food markets with fish displayed out in the sunshine.I have no idea what this might be, but I bet it’s delicious by the time it reaches the table.The natives seemed friendly enough.As embarkation time approached, we caught the funicular back to the Royal Princess. Because it was formal dinner night, I had to wear a tie and sport coat. But it was less unbearable than I feared and was even a bit of fun. The food was great, as always.After dinner we went to see a 45 minute comedy show and then up to the Lido deck to catch “Bridge of Spies” on the poolside Jumbotron. I can get used to this.
In sum, we loved our day in Naples. It was funky and messy and fascinating. The historic spots just seemed a very small part of the life of this vibrant city, no more relevant than all those stop signs and one-way signs that the natives routinely ignored. The traffic was a madhouse with tiny autos and motor bikes recklessly bombing up and down impossibly narrow alleys. It was one of the few times I was happy not to have to drive. I have no doubt that I would be devoured by the locals.
We saw more than one case of a twelve year old piloting a moto at full speed down a narrow alley filled with pedestrians while a friend or two clung to his back, yelling and laughing at everyone to get out of the way. It was exhilarating just walking through the old town, like being an extra in a crazy foreign movie.