Travel

Dennis and Kimberly’s Excellent and Epic European Adventure, Day 12

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Jan. 23, 2016: Rome to Naples/ Torre del Greco

This morning at about 9:00 as we’re getting our things together at a leisurely pace, “Helena” knocks on our door and asks if we’re about ready to leave, as she has another guest arriving in 45 minutes and needs to get the room ready. This lady has a rapidly revolving door.

Although we’d been under the understanding that checkout time was 11:00, we apologize for the delay and hustle to get out in 10 minutes – still without ever having caught a glimpse of her illusory male counterpart.

Our first order of business is to stop at a slightly upscale clothing store that has a couple of racks of sale items that are well within our budget. We’ve been thinking that we might need another layer, especially since we’ll soon be heading into the northlands.

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I pick up a snazzy shirt, royal blue flecked with gray; and amazingly, despite my impossible-to-fit physique, it hugs my body like a superhero’s costume – it’s Oddly Proportioned Man to the rescue! It also perfectly complements my Parisian scarf, and costs only half as much: 5 euros. Score!

We have a bit more exposure to the color of Rome.

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One thing I’ve noticed here is that the sirens have an absolutely musical quality to them, so different from the discordant sirens back home. Well, what do you expect from the country that gave us opera?

Then on to the train station, where we have an hour or so to wait for our train to Naples. Taking advantage of the wi-fi, we sit in a cafe where I have another excellent cup of decaf – I really have to hand it to these Italian baristas.

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I am rather amused to see that, as Kimberly is absorbed in reading the screen of her phone, there is a man seated at the table behind her absorbed in a horse racing newspaper, apparently the Italian equivalent of the Racing Form. A man after my own heart.

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Our train this time is a high-speed affair that rockets us to Naples at speeds of up to about 90 mph.

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And we have truly first-class seats that come with complimentary beverage and even a copy of the New York Times.

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Naples, as we’ve read, is a rather seedy looking city, but we’re here only long enough to transfer to another train. As we stand by the ticket counter trying to make sense of the schedules, a gentlemen who speaks good English approaches us and asks if he can help. He is evidently a high-level employee rather than a ticket agent – I spot him later behind a desk in an office downstairs. When we tell him we’re trying to get to Torre del Greco, he directs us to the proper platform.

It’s a different rail line this time, and the trains really look shopworn, with lots of graffiti. And the platforms are extremely packed – it appears to be pretty much an afternoon rush hour crowd; many of the trains are jammed too. Squeezing our way onto one of the trains, we see a gypsy woman playing a tambourine to accompany recorded music on her boom box – a new gypsy tradition, perhaps – while her son (we presume) who is about 10 and dressed in a smart suit – makes the rounds with a plastic cup soliciting funds. We don’t see anyone donate money, but we do see someone donate some pieces of candy, which makes him happy, though we’re not sure how his mother will take it.

Torre del Greco is an even seedier town than Naples, with the area around the station looking especially impoverished. But it’s halfway between Naples and tomorrow’s destination of Pompeii.

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Having arranged to meet our host at the station, we step out and survey the panhandlers amid the graffiti-riddled streets, and suddenly we hear our names called out. There he is, our host Carlo.

He walks us the 3 or 4 blocks to the ground floor flat where we’ll be spending 3 nights. It’s spacious and clean and well equipped. But it does not match the photos online. Carlo tells us that we’ll be sharing the place with a full-time tenant. As the temperature is rather nippy, I ask him about controls for the heat. He initially seems puzzled by the question, and then just answers “it’s automatic”. And then he adds, “this is as cold as it ever gets here.” Which won’t be much of a consolation if our teeth start playing castanets.

After he leaves, I inspect the premises further and find absolutely no vents through which the “automatic” heat might automatically enter. The dude flat-out fibbed to us. Furthermore, we’re unable to get our devices online with the place’s wi-fi signal.

Later, the full-time resident comes home and greets us, a rather tall man of about 35. And I can’t help noticing that he has a firearm strapped to his hip.

Polizia?” I ask. “Si”, he answers. And then I ask “Parla inglese?” To which he replies “no”.

And that’s about the extent of my Italian conversation skills at the moment, as I don’t think it’s really appropriate under the circumstances to try to talk to him about opera. But he whips out his phone and pulls up a translator app. And we learn that the wi-fi is out of order, and won’t be repaired until Monday – two days away. That sort of won’t do, as we need to do some online reconnaissance right away.

So we decide to take a stroll about town with a threefold mission: to find Internet-ness, to find groceries, and just to see what lies in the vicinity.

The place where we finally do find wi-fi is the last place we’d expect to: the wharf, where there really isn’t much around except boats.

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And a view of the city with Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

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I find myself humming my second-favorite Italian song, Funiculi Funicula. (My favorite, since you asked, is Mattinata.) Composed in 1880 to commemorate the opening of a funicular railway (i.e., a tram) to the top of Vesuvius, it promptly became a big hit, and has remained a staple of crooners and vocal ensembles ever since. The funicular railway ceased operating in 1944 but the song is still trundling along strong.

To cap off the view, there’s a special sunset made to order just for us.

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Making our way back to the flat, we’re unable to locate a supermarket within striking distance. But we do find a little mama mia and papa store, and obtain what we need for dinner and breakfast even though the proprietor parlas no inglese.

Back at home, we rustle up grub, and in the process of seeking kitchen implements, I open one particular drawer and discover that signor sidearm is really, thoroughly Italian.

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The temperature drops even more, and Carlo’s automatic heat still doesn’t automatically kick in. The only source of warmth is a small electric heater in the bathroom; so after we’ve had our showers (at least the water is hot), we appropriate it for our own quarters, presuming our roommate will have his own means of staying warm at night – extra blankets or a girlfriend, or whatever.

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Even with this purloined appliance, we barely manage to stay warm. And the bed, an older model convertible sofa, is distinctly uncomfortable. And every time someone closes the front door of the building (invariably with a slam), our wall and window rattle as if in an earthquake. It’s going to be a long night.

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