|Italy has been an amazing experience in so many ways, we have now visited over 5 cities in 25 or so days ! These include Venezia, Firenze, Napoli, Sicilia and finally Roma. We have been on the constant move and as you can imagine writing these journals are a time consuming business, unfortunately as our trip draws to an end, this will be our last entry. We hope you have enjoyed our journal - Looking forward to seeing you all soon.
Napoli - Italia
There is something a little unnearving about coming to a city that is run by both the military and police. At least this is what we could see from Walter's ( a cousin) little Fiat after he had kindly came to collect us from the central Garibaldi Train Station. From the moment we boarded off the train you could feel the tension.
For the better part of the last century Napoli is a city which has justifiably gained an ominous reputaton as being dirty, dangerous, corrupt and over-run by camorra gangsters.
Fortunately and aside from the two bullet holes in the middle of a shop front down the road from us, we did not encounter nor experience anything least bit dangerous, however, we could not help feel a wee bit nervous, maybe it was just a case of us preparing for all that we had been warned prior to our visit ? ...I dont know ? In any case their is no denying that from the moment you arrive Naples you know you're in no ordinary city ! A cachophany of lights, sounds and smells, and the biggest traffic chaos you will ever see.
Getting to our apartment by car was practically impossible as the narrow streets or (vicci) are about 3 metres wide at best. About a block or so from our destination, Walter stopped the car in the middle of a busy tiny intersection and helped us with our bags. He discreetly points to the opposite side of where we were heading and warns us not to travel 'down there' !
This afterall this was Furcielle, a condemed part of town where nobody in their right mind goes, mainly due to daily muggings, shootings, and other general underworld activities. We had arrived at 'Shpacca' (slang for crack or the middle of ) Napoli.
The only difference between our lodging and getting mugged was about 100 meters or so ...I began to feel my stomach churn.
After a 5 minute walk 'up' via San Gregorio as opposed to 'down' and an arduous 5 flights of stairs 'Luggauge in tow' we eventually found a surpringly beautiful 2 storey apartment. This marvellous little find, featured a spectacular view in almost every room, smack in the middle of Napoli.
I could have chosen a number of other 'safer' area's but this is where it's all at. Down bellow is where all the famous Nativity Presepe figurines are made, its where resturants, clubs/bars, artisans, crafts people, and the best God-damn pizza's, baba, sffogliatelli and coffee on the planet. It is also the home to the relatively unknown 'Veiled Christ' sculpture by Giuseppe Sanmartino (1753) - in my mind, one of the most beautiful sculptures I have ever seen.
It is also where my beloved father, Antonio Esposito, came from before setting off for Australia with his family in 1961.
Within five minutes of settling in to bed, Clare and I heard what appeared to be gunfire. Relief washed over us when we realised it was fireworks which we could see from our window.
The next day we set off for Pompei. The city of Pompei is about a 30 min train ride south of Naples. As we journed our way down the coast we passed little towns and villages, its only then that you realise how poverty stricken outer Naples is. From our train you begin to see blocks and blocks of concrete dwellings and not a building that hasn't been vandalised. Some areas worse than others, with certain areas dilapidated if not abandoned. But as you look out passed and beyond suburbia you are suddenly confronted by a stark contrast. On one side you have the legendary and enormous Mount Vesuvius and to the right the spectacular bay of Naples. Our journey snakes its way between these two amazing view points and it's only then you realise why so many people live here.
Our carriage is choc full of teenage school kids on their way home from school and it was strange to see the open display of affection as the guys here air kiss each other when they meet and greet .
When we finally reach Pompei Scavi (Scavi meaning 'digs') the entrance of Pompei is right out front of the station.There are other tourists within our midst and from the moment you alight the station, you are immediately confronted by remnants of this amazing township where an entire population perished 2000 or so years ago.
The entire site is in the open and has been gated off. It cost us about 10 euro each to get in and as we entered, we walked along a cobbled pathway. Everywhere you look there are crumbled homes and buildings. Some old Roman columns divide an ancient cobbled pathway. Along the pathway there are seemingly endless other paths that dart off in every direction and perfectly stacked grey brick homes with walls and rooms much like your average home today. You immedietely notice an eerie quiet atmosphere as the scale of this ancient tragedy becomes apparent. All of the homes have been numbered, this makes it a little easier to know where you are. Its a bit like walking into an ancient and derilict housing estate, What's amazing is that it's almost a blue-print of of the type of housing estates you see today ! - Bit like Caroline Springs but ancient...hmmm? I wonder where that will be in 2000 thousand years ??
No offense to the good people of Caroline Springs and the master craftsmen behind it !
It was very overcast and it began raining and as you would have it, we had decided to give away our trusty umbrella only a couple of nights previous. Yes we got wet ! However it eventuallly eased and continued on our journey We saw a small ampitheatre. We weaved through tiny streets and walked into a roman bath house with the most beautifully intact ceramic tiles, even entered a crypt with amazingly carved sarcophagus. I took a heeeeap of photos !
It was getting dark and we hadn't seen the famous petrified dog, Clare particuarly wanted to see this, so after asking directions we eventually found it. Poor thing, there it lay, (along with some humans) frozen in time, white, coiled and encased in a glass box. Strangley, the exhibit was sitting in a half opened shed along with other bits of pots and pieces, the only thing separating us was an iron gate. We were amazed at how exposed it all was ? After 3 hours we decided to go. Pompei is defenitely worth a trip, however you really need a full day as their is much to see.
I was 22 years old when I first visited Napoli. While there, I stayed with my father's cousins, both of which are brothers, and who at the time where living at home with their mother. All a fair bit older than myself, these guys lived quite comfortably in this little apartment just out of town.
I had a great time with Rosario and Silvano both of which took turns between their work shedule taking young me to various places in Naples. Unfortunately, after the trip none of us bothered to keep in touch and thus lost contact.
Last night and after a 24 year absence, we caught up with Rosario and Silvano. Without getting all gushy, it was quite a moving experience for me because on the one hand, the passage of time were clearly and instantly visible. But on the other hand and at that very moment upon meeting them, and as if we were on the same frequency. Rosario said something like "it's like nothing has changed at all ?" ..."we are still the same !"
I knew exactly where he was coming from. It was like being 'fast forwarded' into the future. There we stood, all four of us, in the middle of via d' uomo for about half an hour in the freezing cold, firing questions at each other like blithering idiots. We then decided to go and get a coffee followed by pizza and then back to our apartment, where we talked about old times and family stuff. It's a surreal experience catching up with long lost family because no matter how far or distant the relationship is, once you meet there are uncanny similarities that seem to strike a chord with other family or indeed oneself. We had a few wines and laughed a lot, it was a memorable night.
Earlier that day one of my yet 'other' cousins (sorry about all the cousins ) took us for a drive. If you don't already know, The driving here is hair-raising to say the least. Drivers here seem to make up their own rules, or rather No rules !, As we drove through the centre of town and we approached what seemed like an enormous roundabout and some serious road works. I asked Walter what was going on and he repiled they were building a new underground rail station. Seemed perfectly logical as this was some serious diversion and scaffolding covering an area of approx Fed square. He then tells us they had to stop contruction because while escavating they had stumbled across an Ancient roman ruin. Before we could utter a another word, Walter had pulled the car up the kerb and we all hopped out to take a peak through the corrigated fencing, there it was, down the hole, half of an immaculatly sectioned stone brick wall in amongst dirt pipes and escavators. We were transfixed. I cannot imagine the sheer disbelief of engineers, city planners or archealogists when this was unearthed. They also found some petrified Roman boats !
According to Walter contruction has now stopped and no more subway, at least for now ?
Naples is a very special place for me. It has a character all of its own that seems to differ dramatically with the rest of Italy. It runs to it's own tune, it has an atmosphere and a profound history that seeps throught every crack, mortar and brick.
It is a city in decay, yet a city who's people give openly and loudly without pretense or hesitatiion. There is danger everywhere you turn, yet you never really feel afraid, just alive. It's not a city one comes to relax but where you sharpen your wits and stiffen the sinews, there is no dozing off at the wheel. It is a city you either love or hate ... We love it !!!