Watch out! Sheeeeeeeet, the motorini is aiming for us. I clutch the armrest. My heart races. Jack scowls and bellows, “stop screeching.”
Ahhhhh, thank you for listening. I have discharged my angst. I inhale deeply, and count to ten. H,mmmmmmm. I visualize white light surrounding the car. WATCH OUT!!!!!! I immediately stop all this relaxation, funky granola, bull poop and bellow, “DON’T EVER TAKE A FREAKIN’ CAR INTO THE CENTER OF NAPLES!”
Here’s the story. It was a beautiful day and we thought we could explore Naples. Our fabulous landlord had taken us a few weeks earlier. He drove us directly into the glorious historic center. He was incredibly familiar with the city and assured us the historic center was clean, safe and wonderful. It was! The architecture and history are worth a visit. With Nichola we strolled down to the waterfront, had a caffè in a small bar and people watched.
We thought we could do it on our own. (Notice the “we thought”.) We were accompanied by Giusy who attends Università DI Napoli “Federico II”. The plan was to take the train from Benevento. The down side of idyllic, very small village life is that there is really no public transportation. At 7:00 or 7:40 AM students and those lucky enough to have jobs can take the bus to Benevento. At 8:30 AM there is a bus to Campobasso. We didn’t know until a few days later you can take it all the way to Naples but it is a really long – stop everywhere – ride. Where was I? Oh yeah, the plan was to take the train from Benevento. Great plan – 20 minute ride to the station – 30 minutes trying to figure out where to park – and then finding a parking lot only to discover that the prepay machine only took coins! Sounds like New Jersey transit – we’ve got the trains just nowhere to leave your car. Shouting and cursing ensued – that was me. Jack did the scowl sigh thing. Giusy said, “maybe we should just drive.” Well she lives there how bad could it be?
I need to point out that the last time Jack drove to Naples – about 5 years ago – we were going to the Capodimonte Museum and National Galleries and got stuck in a horn blowing, knives flashing, traffic jam at a 1/2 mile wide round-about (circle). We were forced to crawl around the circle for about 45 minutes. We had only gone about half-way around the huge thing when Jack was able to ease off into a wide avenue. In less than one block, the wide two way street had bottlenecked into a goat path. People had double parked or abandoned their cars on both sides of the street. It was an impassable, drivers screaming and horns blaring NIGHTMARE. Jack Mr. Calm in a crisis pulled the car onto the sidewalk and told us to get out. When in Rome or Naples do as …. We abandoned the car, took a cab to the museum and worried abut driving later. So, here we are driving in Naples again. Are we insane? Don’t answer that.
This time we had our handy iPhones and could use the GPS. We knew we wanted to explore a neighborhood and picked the bayside “Posillipo”. Getting in was a dream. We took the autostrada to the city and then followed the water all the way to Posillipo. Parking in a lot was easy – though again you could only use change. Since we figured we only needed three hours to stroll, eat lunch and stare at the sea, we scrounged enough coins. The view from Posillipo is amazing. We all agreed this was the neighborhood to live in.
Gated private streets led to magnificent houses and apartment buildings. Sigh, anybody want to give me a scant million?
Strolling through the neighborhood we discovered a restaurant with an incredible view. Reginella Restaurant was the type that brochures touting the charms of a seaside community are sure to mention. It was perched on the side of the cliff leading down to the Bay of Naples.
We sat on a terrace overlooking the sea. Initially, the charming host sat us right next to the railing – ah a glorious view! Giusy and I looked at each other – we were both turning green. All I saw was my life passing before my eyes as I fell off the side of the cliff and lay broken on the rocks below. With chattering teeth we asked for another table.
Once we were happily seated a bit further back, we concentrated on the incredible seafood. I’ll let you see the food and judge for your selves. (Pssst – My “risotto alla pescatore” was chock full of clams, mussels, scallops and pieces of calamari.)
Delicious! Seafood by the sea . Those of you waiting for the other DON’T DRIVE shoe to drop. Hang on – here it comes.
After lunch we strolled a bit and took in the sites of the neighborhood. Most shops were closed. Even stores in the cities close for lunch and a break, opening again at about 4:30. Sated from lunch and the fabulous view we decided to head for the historic center and check out where Giusy attended university and lived.
Whaaaaaaa. Whaaaaaa. Nervous breakdown alert. If you do not have a strong stomach for street chaos stop reading.
We set the GPS for the address of the apartment, followed the bay and suddenly were told to turn left into Dante’s third level of HELL. Thousands of Evil Kenivals zoomed in and out of stop and go traffic on motorcycles, motorini and broom sticks. Cars double and tripped parked making streets impassable. The GPS didn’t quite get street closings due to well who knows – it was Tuesday. Where the hell was my Xanax? Clutching the purse on my lap like a life jacket, I tried not to cry out every time a freakin’ car or motorini cut us or or came careening toward us. My nails bit into my palms. Jack squared his waspy jaw and forged ahead. Forging ahead isn’t the right phrase. Begging for life – that’s a good phrase. Or crying for my mother – that’s a good phrase. It is like driving a car in a full washing machine set to the spin cycle. Bump, rrrrrrrrrrrrt, squeak, ugggggggg — HELL.
Giusy reminded us she always took the bus and walked and didn’t really know the direct route to her apartment. Gee, thanks for the relevant information! We saw the sign for a parking lot and whipped the car in. Relief. On foot, we enjoyed exploring the university.
Next, it was on to discover how college kids live. We checked out Giusy’s apartment – palace sized rooms stuffed with kids. Sound familiar? Well, in the U.S. we really don’t usually find apartments with 14 foot ceilings, beautiful ironwork elevators and five bedrooms, two baths for 350 euros per each of the five roommates. Granted, clothes were still tossed around and the furniture was all cast off – but still it felt like a palace.
Time to go – so we trudged to the parking lot – where being 8 minutes late – they charged us for an extra hour. Giusy argued like a trooper and oh yeah – she won! They didn’t charge us. We gritted our teeth for the drive home. I couldn’t watch as Jack tried to squeeze out of the garage to the street. We hadn’t a clue how to get out of town and the GPS in our iPhone was obviously under a lot of stress. We ended up by the docks – well that was fun. Not TOO many cars jockeying for position there. We sat inhaling exhaust for what felt like hours – Jack says it was only 30 minutes. The conversation in the car came to a dead halt. Since I was’t allowed to make caustic comments or scream, it was very quiet. Somehow Jack got us out of the city and on to the highway. We all exhaled and enjoyed the mountains, farms and lush green that is the Italian country side.
Naples is a glorious city. TAKE THE BUS!
PS: Jack says it wasn’t so bad. We got home didn’t we!!!
5 thoughts on “Napoli è una bella città – BUT DON’T DRIVE THERE!”
What an adventure. I can actually smell the exhaust!
Midge, you are HILARIOUS! We feel your pain…Have you ever seen cars, people, Vespas and bicycles driving on sidewalks, in the wrong direction, anywhere else? I never heard such cursing and screaming — at least not since Thanksgiving at my Aunt Tillie’s house in the 50s. Naples makes me feel alive…or was that just the adrenaline kicking in?
Walking is always the best way to explore a city (said she who doesn’t drive anywhere she doesn’t have to)
I suppose in remembrance of JGandolfini, our local Comcast is having a renew of the Soprano’s so since we never indulged the first go we are watching these old shows these days. I’m learning a bit of Italian that’s not fit for public in my circle but your stories of the home land from you – and Jack – are making me smile. Wait till they start closing the ramps onto/off 22 near Som’lle this week for 3 months – it might make Naples look tame insofar as local charm and frustrations. We might need the two of you to try it out just for the nostalgia and challenge of it all. regards, jod.
Think of it like an Opera Midge – it’s an ensemble experience! Everyone singing (driving) their own route in their own way and with some dissonance along the way everyone gets there in the end! Driving in Italy is ART! LOL.