No soft edges
If Rome was like a dream, Naples was the slap of effluent that woke us up. The train station had been described as a den of vice and thievery, but we'd been forged on the anvil of Rome. Surely, nothing could daunt us. Turned out that Naples station and its neighbourhood was as described: a chaotic pit where varying degrees of crap were flushed away, or left to stink in the sun.

It was not great.

Fortunately, our hotel was only five minutes walk from the station. Unfortunately, we couldn't check in yet, so left our bags while making the most of what Naples could offer at the National Archeological Museum.

To get there, we needed a ticket for the underground and that was where our whole plan came apart. There were plenty of booths selling train tickets and tours to everywhere, but do you think we could find a ticket for the Metro? We made it at last, after thirty minutes of being bounced between various disinterested staff. I've been to a bunch of subway interchanges and Naples now stands at the bottom of the heap. I reckon Hong Kong's the best, and maybe someone from Naples should go there. If they could only figure out how to leave.

The Museo stop let out onto a small park, with litter scattered in desperate, thin shade, reeking of old piss. The graffiti was of a slightly higher quality.

The museum was worth the trip. A & K both said Florence had more sculptures, and better, but I've not been to Florence so was happy. The main reason we went was to see the Pompeii collection.

I loved the mosaics, statues, bronze pots and the jewellery, especially knowing how long ago they had all been made, but the mosaics topped everything. The details and colours were incredible. Many had been recovered from Pompeii years ago. I wondered how the hell they'd been removed intact.

The museum had a secret room we were curious about, considering it was secret. It turned out to be a collection of ancient erotic art which had been censored and hidden for years. Statues and frescoes ranged from suggestive to explicit, and the winged penis with bells on was particularly curious. Not only was it a winged penis, but it had back legs and therefore place for another penis, and a tail that looked somewhat like a penis, too. I have a photo, that I don't think I'll share.

Dark thought
He seemed to reflect Pompei’s fate
The best thing about our short time in Naples was the museum. It gave our later visit to Pompeii much more context. I'm sure there are some lovely areas in Naples (surely to Christ there must be), we just weren't interested in wading through the urban grind to find them.

Quote of the Day
“Food is always more delicious when you don't have to make it yourself,
unless it's deep-fried pizza."
Naples is famous for pizza by all accounts, and a highly recommended restaurant was very close to our hotel. Navigation was easy and thankfully short, and the big crowd outside told us we were in the right spot. Impatient for food, we were disinclined to wait, so tried out another joint a few shops down. All pizza in Naples is created equal, right? Oh no, Mister. No it isn't.

Most pizza has a crisp, light base with fresh toppings, all quickly baked in a hot oven, just right. But this place made deep-fried pizza: a calorie-laden monstrosity guaranteed to give even the toughest fast-food veteran the night-sweats. Apparently it's a local tradition and, like the Naples metro, something to escape. But not us. Like slow-moving prey at the back of the herd we were singled out and brought down, frightened into eating probably the worst food I've ever had to pay for.

Another thing we noticed was the way people talked. There was no welcome, no finesse, no time for pleasantries, "What do you want? Pizza? Here it is." Slap.

Evening was settling over the sputtering traffic as we walked back, hardened arteries resisting every movement. I wanted to take some photos down the nearly pitch-black side streets to show what it was like. I could see hawkers with their cheap wares spread on the sidewalks, illuminated by dirty yellow street lamps and the occasional blue from a police car. But there was no way I would've carried our nice camera there, much less taken it out.
Room with a View
Naples didn't look so bad in the morning,
So long as you cropped out the street level
Penis Envy
More tea, vicar? Or maybe these were oil lamps...
Some people love them, and some just don't
A travel tip worth knowing: if you're taking the Circumvesuviana railway to Sorrento is to get on at Porta Nolana, the first station. That way you'll get a seat like we did. If you get on at the second, more obvious stop at Garibaldi, you'll be crammed six-deep in the vestibules with all the other sweaty unfortunates.

Fun fact: the Circumvesuviana is a 950mm narrow gauge railway that, as the name suggests, goes around Vesuvius. It's not connected with the rest of the Italian rail system, the graffiti on the trains is awesome, it's a good way to get around, and it's cheap. Just keep an eye on your stuff.

The memory of Naples faded as soon as we got to Sorrento. Flowers draped every wall with bright colour and warm fragrance.

Our lovely host Tina gave us a full download of local knowledge. Brains overflowing with bus times and places to go, we put our feet up for a bit, then walked down the road to Hotel Il Nido. The contrast with our gastronomic horror story from just twenty-four hours ago was complete. We had wonderful service, delicious food, fresh air, and a lovely view across the bay of Naples, lit softy by the setting sun.

Sorrento evening
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