Dear Roma, I will never call you crazy ever again. Dear Napoli, I know our visit was very short, like a brief love affair, but it was long enough for me to realise you are out of control crazy.
When I decided to go to Rome for two weeks, one of the first things I decided I wanted to do was to take the train to Naples. The ancient city is relatively close to Rome (‘only’ a two-hour plus something train ride), so on a Saturday morning we packed our things and headed out.
Our trip started with a bit of a nervous/mental break down. Having to wait for almost an hour at the ticket office to buy a ticket for Mace, we missed the 11.06 train and I was both annoyed as anxious. We could have taken the next regional train, but it wouldn’t depart until 12.30, meaning we wouldn’t get there until 3-ish. So we bought new tickets – for the intercity this time – and off we went.
Supposedly, there’s this really great gluten free place called Mama!Eat. They have several restaurants, two in Rome and one in Napoli, but since Napoli is famous for its thick-crusted pizza, I wanted to eat pizza in Napoli. I knew they’d close at three for the Italian ‘Aperativo’ so we made our way to Mama!Eat with a hurry, skipping most of the city by jumping on the metro right away. Once we arrived, they had already closed. That, or they hadn’t been open for quite some time because it did look rather empty and deserted. Now that the main plan suddenly fell through, I started to feel a little lost. I then located a park nearby and figured I’d head there and take Mace for a nice walk, give him a chance to stretch his legs and run around. However, it turned out to be some sort of gallery (in a park/forest) and dogs weren’t allowed in.
I felt like Superman who just encountered a cloud of kryptonite mid-air.
Stalking the streets at random, slightly angry, growing more and more upset that this day, this trip, the one trip I was looking forward the most, was all going to be crap. I wandered around a bit and my mood only continued to go downhill. Without any sense of direction and a foul mood, this day was slowly turning into a disaster. And then I stopped myself.
I stopped in the middle of the street and reminded myself that everything always happens for a reason. Therefore, there had to be a reason why my plans weren’t going accordingly. When plans fail, it’s usually because there is something else that needs to be done. This is always the case for me. There is always a reason why plans go out the window, especially when those plans have been made by a meticulous planner.
More often, it’s because there is something else waiting for you.
I realised that while I had my plans, Napoli had different plans for me. So I gathered some courage and took a bit of a leap of faith. “Okay Napoli. Show me what you’re made off” I told myself. I let Mayson and the slight decline in the pavement guide me and three streets later, I turned a corner. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by the most magical alleyways, footpaths and side roads J.K. Rowling couldn’t have dreamt of.
Hundreds of different pastel coloured homes, laundry hanging from every window, uneven steps going on for minutes turning the road into one gigantic staircase, a certain kind of quiet, a lack of static sounds of traffic with the occasional Italian erupting from behind wooden window shields. We turned a corner, gazed up at the windows, and then another corner, and another, and then – boom.
You. Yeah, you. With your plans. Welcome to Napoli.
Why sit in a restaurant eating gluten free pizza when you’ve got Napoli waiting for you? As I stared over countless of rows of houses, rooftops in different colours and roads running below me like a miniature ant-maze, I traced it all down until I saw the sea. And then mountain Vesuvius. What a hell of a view. No gluten free pizza, no matter how good, could match this. We wandered and took our time getting down, discovering a small piece of this treasure with every turn we took, one eye fixed on that view overlooking the city, the other keen to absorb all this beauty we stumbled across. We walked roads Google maps didn’t even know. We only encountered a few Neapolitans, most of them hanging over their balconies having a smoke, and the odd traveller that went off the beaten track like we did. The few people we did come across were unusually kind.
Enjoying lunch (pre-plan dinner) with a view on Mount Vesuvius, the salty ocean-air in our nose, we couldn’t find the time to really relax. There was still so much we wanted to see! Taking the main road back to the metro was probably one of the biggest mistakes I could have made. Side streets looked picturesque and I finally saw the Naples they show in movies. I was already fully enchanted by Napoli’s charm, but I fell in love with the city in that street. I feel like I’ve really done injustice to this city by only spending half a day here, but with so many other places calling me, I will just – and gladly – have to add ‘Napoli’ to the list of places I will definitely have to visit again.
I do not have a guide for you. I only have the lesson I learnt – when you visit Napoli, don’t plan.