Impressions from a holiday in Naples

This is my Naples travelogue. Contents:

Naples travelogue. Thursday May 14th, 2009

The taxi driver

We land in Naples 16:20. The first taxi outside the airport has no dents, so it must be new. The driver knows neither the hotel nor the address, but sets course towards the city.

Traffic in Naples
Click to enlarge

As we zigzag happily along the highway I find a piece of paper and draw Via Duomo and the central station and mark the approximate location of the hotel. My halting Italian seems to charm the driver, and he asks questions, talks and offers advice. He is a very kind man.

In a roundabout Vespas squeeze through temporary openings disregarding the danger. Our driver shakes his head, claps his crown and says: "Il sole!"

The taxi sneaks into the maze of Spaccanapoli, the old town. The driver asks some kids for directions, and soon we're at hotel Palazzo Decumani in Piazzetta Giustino Fortunato in Via Grande Archivio.

I am pleased with my homework: the hotel is really nice and a bargain for 130 euro per night. A piccolo snatches our suitcases and takes us to our room. I have seen in American movies how the stars tip servants, and fortunately I have a coin so I can play the part.

The first stroll in Naples' old town

From Via dei Tribunali

Airing Granny


Naples' old town, Spaccanapoli, forms a square framed by Via Duomo, Corso Umberto, Via Toledo and Piazza Cavour (see Google Maps) Our hotel lies near the square's edge, and we venture into the maze armed with a map from the reception.

This is the old Naples, and romantically you can describe it as a colourful and vibrant web of narrow streets. With less romance it is a collection of dilapidated slum unfit for human habitation in the 21st century.

But it is certainly colourful! People bustle, there are many small shops, laundry hanging from windows and cars and Vespas twisting their way through the crowd. Your senses are bombarded.

And it isn't just people. The street seems like an extension to the homes - like a huge living room. Young and old are standing in groups or sitting on chairs against the walls. I want to take some pictures, but don't - in a way it is too private.

There aren't many open spaces in the maze, and when we finally get to a piazza, we sit down outside a café. We exchange polite buona seras with the waiter, and I order coffee and water. The waiter asks: "Espressi?"

When you say "caffè" in Italy, espresso is implicit, but you never know with tourists even though this one said: "Due caffè e mezzo litro d'aqua gassata!"

A Brazilian troupe dances and plays the drums in the square. Unaffected two boys play with a soccer ball. We walk up a street from the square. The street is so narrow that you have to suck in your stomach when a car needs to pass.

By the end of the road Via dei Tribunali crosses. The street life seems even more intense here, and there are more churches than bars.

We select one of the few restaurants, but it is still too early, so we continue our exploration of the neighbourhood. Across the street from the cathedral African men are sitting on the pavement selling genuine copies of known brands - purses, sunglasses and belts.

Antica Trattoria da Carmine

We return to the selected trattoria (Trattoria da Carmine, Via dei Tribunali 330). The waitress doesn't speak English, but we manage nicely.

For starters we have a simple bruschetta with tomato - heavenly! I have grilled lamb and Helle bracciolo (or something like that) - a roll of filled beef in a wonderful tomato sauce. With this we share one contorni misti, which in this case is grilled vegetables like pepper, zucchini, aubergine and more.

This is accompanied by fresh bread, the house red and water. My lamb seems to be pretty random cuttings, but it is very tender, juicy and delicious.

Helle has a cake-bomb for dessert, and while I eat my low fat melon, I suggest that she can confess in one of the many churches and get absolution. We finish off with coffee and grappa, and then it is home to bed. The bill was a modest 34 euro.