19. Naples, Italy
(Actual Trip Date: September 24, 2010)
Before leaving Rome for Napoli (Naples), a friend of ours handed us a map outlining the city and where to go and where not to step foot. There were the extremely poor sections, the Mafia controlled sections, and those sections where it was relatively safe to walk through. Fortunately, our hostel was located in a good area, and unfortunately, our train station we were arriving in was located in a desolately poor area. Goal? Jet out of the train station by bus into the good section.
Looking back now at the previous group’s photos of Napoli, I am shocked by the contrast. Their pictures were beautiful and their memories full of excitement and some of the best pizza. My group’s experience was the complete opposite.
Remember the lesson of Category A?
I definitely fell into that category in this particular city.
Arriving in Napoli and immediately boarding a bus to our hostel, my nose wrinkled at the sight of the city. The streets were shades of gray, even more highlighted by the morose alabaster sky hanging low over the brooding personality of the city. People walked hunched over in small huddles, hugging their jackets to their chests and wrapping their scarves fully around their heads and sometimes, over their mouths. What was a bludger to my chest (yes, I just used a Harry Potter reference) was the amount of trash piled up high to the sky! Getting off and walking to our hostel, we all gaped at the proliferating mountains of trash in every single corner. Trash was the tourist attraction as wanderers passed by, pulling out their cameras in morbid curiosity. The air became stifling with little droplets of rain striking its way through.
So, all in all, I found it extremely hard to believe Napoli was beautiful despite what my other friends told me.
Another great tip to all backpackers: don’t try and sneak in two people into a hostel. Maybe one is feasible (as we demonstrated later on in London), but two is stretching it.
And from this lesson is where my Category A kicked in. So finding out that all the rooms in our Naples Hostel (actually ranked second best hostel in Europe) were booked, the receptionist out at front was kind enough to call around town and find other hotels for us. She ended up finding one and gave us a reduced price since she knew the owner. My guy cousin was traveling with us so he and I volunteered to back out of the hostel room and find the other hotel supposedly ten minutes walk away.
It was twenty minutes of getting lost and then finally hiking uphill to the hotel where we met the manager who gave us a creepy, mysterious smile. Things started to click. Two Asians. Female and male. He and the receptionist at our other hostel obviously thought we were a couple. NO. We’re related!
But anyways, our room became known to everyone as a joke: “the honeymoon suite”. Tis it was with red walls, red covers, cupids on the wall, and a see-through bathroom door.
After hiking around town we all decided we didn’t want to do anything except chill in our hostel, and eat pizza, and relax. It helped that the hostel offered free wi-fi! A plus anywhere! We figured out from there that we wanted to book hostels with free wi-fi from then on.
It was definitely a Category A for me. The process? Breath in and breath out. Look out from the balcony of the hostel room and try to find beauty in this desolate city. It was definitely a hard task in this city, but I spotted a sliver of ocean from my window and that was enough.
The pizza later may not have been the best I’ve had but it was pretty great with crispy thick crust, mushrooms, and oozing cheese.
And after a night of Facebook, dolls from China, skyping with cousins, and hearing an assortment of noises from “fireworks” to duck sounds, I settled for sleep dreaming of the beaches of Cinque Terre, our next lovely destination.
If you had to ask me if I would go back during that time, I would have flat out said no. But now, I would choose to go back once the trash strike is over. I want to see Pompeii and Capri. I realized how much I love traveling despite all the troubles and stresses it brings. The ends and the views are worth it.
So yes, I shall dream of a future trip to Pompeii and Capri.