It was rainy and chilly in Spoleto, yesteday. There were few people out in the strictly pedestrian corso near my apartment as I walked to a restaurant for my last dinner in this charming city. A gentleman in his mid-70s, impeccably dressed and strikingly handsome was walking the same direction as me. He acknowledged me with a nod and a smile and offered me his arm. (Who does that, anymore?) We walked and talked. He spoke a little English. I speak a little Italian. I told him I was leaving for Napoli the next morning and he lit up. He told me Napoli is wonderful! When we arrived at the restaurant, he bid me ‘buona sera’ and reminded me that, “Love is eternal.” An odd comment, don’t you think?
At the restaurant, constantly eavesdropping, I heard a woman at the next table tell a friend that Napoli is exquisite. Looks like the odds are forever in my favor!
Why Napoli? I’m not sure! Honestly, I’ve heard horrible things about Napoli – it’s big, noisy, dirty, unsafe… But, a few trusted sources, namely Marcus, Margie and Cody, have very different opinions. I thought I should find out for myself.
As I prepared to head south, I remembered a Rick Steve quote: “If you like Italy as far south as Rome, go further south. It gets better. If Italy is getting on your nerves by the time you get to Rome, think twice about going further. Italy intensifies as you plunge deeper.” It was a dare to me – and, I accepted the challenge. Game on!
This morning I loaded one pack onto my back, the other onto my shoulder – and, left the apartment with hat in hand and umbrella in trashcan! Transportation from Spoleto to Napoli was a cinch. My train ticket from Spoleto to Roma Termini was 8,70 euros – and, the Frecciarossa (speeds up to 300 km/hr) ticket from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale was 43,00 euros. (*I am writing this post on November 14, 2015. This 51,70 euros ticket is now 30,00 euros – for the same day of the week.)
Ok, here we go! Pickpocket central. And, holy hell, I wasn’t outside of the station (Piazza Garibaldi) more than 15 minutes before I felt someone against my back. I turned around and stared into the eyes of the thief. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize he had been successful at stealing my iPhone until I was on a bus in the direction of the hotel. I was so mad at myself. I had used my phone to take a photo and put it into the outside pocket of my daypack. I had the zipper closures connected with a small carabiner. This dude had opened the zipper the width of the carabiner and snagged my phone. A $600 lesson.
When I exited the train station, it was hard to see where the buses were congregating because of construction netting. (Just follow the crowd. They’re all heading to the buses or the metro!) Little did I know that the metro would have taken me almost directly to my hotel! I found the bus I needed, the R2. You can buy a ticket on many buses, but, not this one. I had to go buy a ticket from a stand – more opportunity for thieves!
I got off at the correct stop and walked in the right direction. Ha! At one point, I asked two bored police officers if I was close to the hotel. They pulled out their smart phones (rub it in!) and starting searching. I told them my phone had been stolen – and, they seemed genuinely concerned. They wanted to know if it happened in or out of the station. And, they apologized for the tough initiation to Napoli.
I was walking along the very busy Via Toledo and spied the vicolo leading to my hotel – Hotel Toledo! ($329.38 for five nights – plus, a $9.88 foreign transaction fee)
I thought this was a larger hotel. Obviously, it’s not! You have to buzz to be let in. The reception area could hold two people and their bags at best. The man behind the desk looked at me and said, “Jennifer?” He told me I had changed my reservations so many times they didn’t know up from down. He was right – I had. He told me at last count they had a single room for me and one for my friend, Amy. Thank goodness they got it right. At about that time, Amy arrived. I couldn’t believe we arrived within minutes of each other! She had left Colorado the morning before. The man behind the desk, Pino, fast became of source of fun and information. This hotel is lucky to have him!
My room ‘key’. Electricity is expensive in Italy. When you enter your room, you use another key to turn on the electricity in the room. When you leave, all electricity is off – no charging electronics when you’re gone. You turn your key into the desk every time you leave the hotel. It’s not as cumbersome as it sounds.
It didn’t take Amy and I long to strike out and start exploring the city.
It’s hard to explain the vicoli of Napoli. You have to experience them. They are hectic, loud, chaotic – they are sensory overload. And, they energized me. They say you either hate Napoli or you love it.
We had a nice dinner outdoors and I ate parts of shrimp that I really think shouldn’t be ingested. I could give Jim Gaffigan some comedic material about seafood. Luckily, there’s plenty of wine to wash away – well, almost anything!