My new friend and Chateau Chaparral neighbor, Kimberly, decided to do an 8-week backpacking tour of Europe. Via email we came up with a plan to meet for three days before I left Italy. Kimberly would fly from Denver to London on Tuesday, then into Naples the next morning and I would meet her at the Naples airport. Together we would take a taxi to the AirBnB I found which was affordable and within walking distance to the Museo Archeologico Nationale di Napoli and Museo Capodimonte. I can be a bit of a worrier so I arranged and prepaid for a taxi service so we would not have to deal with the notoriously shady Napoli taxi drivers. Clementina helped me navigate the local bus website (Air Mobilita, and it is atrocious) and I had my bus ticket from Grottaminarda and would arrive on Wednesday at the Napoli airport with time to spare.
It was a perfect plan! Except the day before her arrival Kimberly realized she had not accounted for losing a day flying to London; she was scheduled to arrive in London six hours after the Naples plane left, but luckily it wasn't too pricey to change her Naples flight to Thursday. I still had to meet that prepaid taxi, and things still would have worked out fine if I had not somehow gotten off the bus at the central train station instead of the airport. I still don't know it I got off too soon or too late, and it is really pathetic because I had been to the airport before. In my defense the bus goes to a different terminal than where I was. That is my excuse and I am sticking with it.
Anyway, now I had a dilemma. I tried talking to a different bus driver who recruited a friendly woman who spoke English. She said my best bet was a taxi to the airport.....nope! I was determined to find another way. I walked around a bit and decided to go to the train station's information desk. I was hoping to use their phone to see if my taxi could come get me there, but the nice man spoke English and said, “If you need to get to the airport there's an airport shuttle bus for 6 euro that runs every fifteen minutes right out front.” Score! Thirty minutes later it showed up and although it was sardine-style standing room only, I got to the airport with time to grab a panini and a much-needed glass of wine before meeting my taxi driver. It was an 11-passenger van just for little old me. When he double parked on a very busy street and started gesturing for me to get out, and then did a little walking motion with two fingers, I looked shocked and try to gesture, “Hey, dude, I have no idea where I am or where I am going. You can't just leave me here!” With patience and good humor we finally figured out he wanted me out of the van so he could push the door button, and he was going to walk to me to the address, pulling my suitcase behind him. It turns out he could not drive that big van down the narrow street, and because it was one way and had stairs. That would never stop other Italian drivers, lol.
The AirBnB hosts could not have been nicer or more helpful. Even though Annarita did not speak English, we were able to communicate with Google Translate on her phone until her fluent son, Pasquale, got home. The next morning Annarita drove me to the airport to fetch Kimberly. She is a much better driver than the taxi dudes and much more affordable. Kimberly was right on time, but thanks to the language barrier it took us 30 minutes to find Annarita again, lol. She offered to drop us off at the museum and take Kimberly's backpack to the apartment, which was great. We spent a couple of hours there, then walked a few blocks for some lunch, then back to the museum before heading home.
That evening after a great shower in our kitchen (I sat at our desk facing the wall, lol. We had another in our bathroom but it was not nearly as nice as obviously for multi-taskers as it was over the potty.) Kimberly was on Skype with her bank in the US (the ATM in London sucked her money back inside before she could take it!) Our doorbell tinkled (it is so soft and sweet I cannot say it rang) and it was Annarita and Pasquale wanting to know if we needed anything. I jokingly asked them about the Emergency Phone Numbers they had posted near the door which included phone numbers for the police, ambulance, fire, hospital, and three pizza restaurants. It turns out pizza can be delivered in Italy! Pasquale ordered us a Margarita and a Fried Pizza with Ricotta and it was there in less than ten minutes, piping hot, and only 10 euro ($11.00). It went well with our 2 euro homemade vino rosso, sealed with a pop bottle cap, from a local fruit and veggie shop.
The next morning I grabbed our little map and off we went to the Orto Botanico. We were both craving some nature and were not disappointed. Even though it is right in the city, it is a quiet and beautiful respite from the craziness that is Naples. For a while we escaped loud, loud sirens.....motorbikes zipping between cars and around corners, sometimes on the sidewalk.......horns honking and just general chaos. We really enjoyed our time there, but were hungry. We found a place that served the best pasta I had on my trip, and I had a lot of wonderful pasta. It was Pacchieri, a locally popular shape, served in a simple tomato sauce with eggplant. I wake up drooling just thinking about it.
Now we needed to burn some calories. Consulting the map we decided to avoid the main busy street and take side streets to Capodimonte. We were nearly to the top of a long, steep street when a man told us we could not get to the museum that way, at least we think that is what he said. Then a lovely woman who spoke a little English confirmed that it was not a through street. She said we should take the bus because there were so many stairs and hills before your get there, but Kimberly's a rock climber and I am paranoid about pick-pockets (I dreamed about them every night while there, crazy!) There's even a tourist bus that takes you to all the main attractions, but we scoffed at that too. We were determined to walk, and yeah, it was a climb.
We made it and thoroughly enjoyed the walking the paths in the large bosco (forest) around the museum. It was another quiet and beautiful place and had a nice view of the city and the bay. Unfortunately it was getting late and I really wanted to get back to our place before dark so we did not have time to go into the museum. Out came the map and we formulated another route back. Now, while the neighborhood we stayed in could not be considered upscale, it was safe and not too trashy. But the roads we were now walking (really one-way alleys with two-way traffic and fearless/oblivious pedestrians) made us uncomfortable. We were obviously tourists and garnered a few looks; I told Kimberly she should have lost that fanny pack, lol. Broken furniture, so much trash on the ground, overflowing trash cans, unkempt kids running around, lots of questionably loud conversations, etc. It was just what people either hate or love about Naples. While I did not get to see some of the amazing things there are to see in Naples, it is outside of my comfort zone as are most big, noisy “rough” cities. I am glad I saw it for myself but unlike other parts of Italy, I don't feel a need to go back.
Pasquale took me to the airport on Saturday morning and two hours was almost not enough time to find my way, especially since they decided to board early. But it was a great flight to Newark and then on to Denver, landing in a balmy 65 degrees. Sunday it started snowing and continued for three days. I am now over my jet lag, will drive up the hill tomorrow and start loading Wanda for our next adventure. Ciao a tutti!