Naples: A City of Contrasts

Ask any well-cruised persons if they’ve ever been to Naples, and the chances are they’ll say that the ship docked in Naples, while they went on to visit Pompeii or Capri or the Herculaneum.  Few will say that they explored Naples itself.  For that reason, when we found ourselves docked in Napoli (to give it its proper name) early this morning, we decided to do our exploring on foot, particularly since we’d already been to the lost city of Pompeii, on the Carousel way back in 1998.

After breakfast, Trevor and I therefore went up onto the pool deck to have a look around and take in our immediate surroundings.  On one side our view was almost wholly taken up with a monster of a cruise ship, the Symphony of the Seas which only went into service last month and which is officially the largest cruise ship in the world, over 228,000 tons and nearly 6,700 passengers.  It looked absolutely horrendous; a towering block of flats with a point at the front, with water slides and other gimmicks (including an open stern, showing the inside balcony cabins).  The Queen Victoria is fairly large at 90,000 tons and with 2000 passengers, but she looked like a little pup next to this behemoth.

We met up with Billy and Carole and disembarked the QV, looking disdainfully up at the Symphony.  Then we set off through the thronging streets to have a look round the town centre.

There were a lot of building works going on in the immediate vicinity, and some of the footpaths were closed, which meant we had to walk at the side of the road where there wasn’t even a barrier separating us from the traffic.  A lot of people seemed to be on scooters or motorbikes, and these roared past seemingly every few seconds, winding their way in and out of the traffic and pedestrians.

What were our first impressions? Chaotic and stressful, beautiful and lively, polluted and gritty all describe Naples. Naples is a city, there is nothing quaint about it. Look one way and you are looking out over the beautiful Bay of Naples, turn around and you are looking at urban sprawl.

Eventually we arrived in the main streets, full of shops, bars, restaurants and commercial buildings, as well as a market square containing rows of stalls.  I enjoyed looking at the produce stalls the most; the colours, textures and smells.  There were olives, onions and juicy plum tomatoes on the vine, as well as herbs; I could smell the evocative scent of basil.  Of course, there were also vendors selling different types of pasta; some coloured green with spinach or even black, where octopus ink is used for the colour.

There was also a large fish stall, with boxes of crushed ice on which many different types of fish, calamari, octopus and shellfish were displayed, gleaming freshly.  I always think the fish stalls abroad have much more variety than ours at home; for some unknown reason the British don’t seem to be as big fish eaters as other Europeans.

We walked along the bustling streets and alleyways, keeping an eye and ear out for the many scooters which could suddenly appear from around the corner.  There were lots of little boutiques and shops with a difference; one of them had an interesting window display full of boho, ‘hippy’ style clothing – floral, floaty dresses, crinkle-cotton skirts, off-the-shoulder peasant tops and espadrille shoes, in an amazing array of bright colours and textures.  I spent some time browsing in there, but didn’t find anything suitable.

It was certainly an experience walking through the streets, and our senses were assaulted from all directions, the sights, the noise, the smells – there was a certain shabby-chic about the place.  Of course, being in Italy, every two or three shops seemed to be selling pizzas, with appetising smells emanating from the wood-burning ovens in which the pizzas were baked.

After a while B & C decided they’d seen as much as they wanted to, so we therefore parted company while they returned to the Queen Victoria.  They asked us to join them in their cabin for a G&T later on.  🙂

Trevor and I continued on our way, however, and after we’d explored a large square which we discovered was called Piazza del Plebiscito, we decided to go back down the street on the opposite side, and look for a bar on the way, as we were ready for our usual cold beer.  🙂

We soon spotted a likely place up a little side street, with some tables and chairs outside under a canopy, so we decided to go there.  The owner greeted us effusively and showed us to a table outside; we were the only customers there.  We ordered two large beers and he brought us out some 660ml bottles of Peroni, which were twice as large as the usual bottles we see at home.  We obtained the bar’s WiFi code which enabled us to check our emails while we enjoyed our drinks.

Trevor enjoying his Peroni

In fact, we enjoyed the beers so much we ordered another one each, and the owner brought us out a complementary plate of fried squid, which was quite enjoyable although I’d imagine it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste.  As we lingered over our beers, we thought it must be workers’ lunchtime, because all of a sudden the bar seemed to fill up, and most of the customers seemed to be well-known to the owner, judging by the handshakes and double-kisses on the cheeks that we noticed.

Once we’d finished, we decided we’d take a slow stroll back to the Queen Victoria, as we’d seen all we wanted to see.  Once again it was the case of dodging around the scooters and people and stalls, and we arrived back at the ship about 1.30pm.  We weren’t really hungry, so we thought we’d make a start with some packing (boo!) so we dragged one of the cases out from under the bed and put some stuff in that we knew we wouldn’t use again before we got home.

Around 3.30pm we decided to take up Billy and Carole’s offer of a G&T, so after calling 5123 to see if they were ‘at home’, we went along to their stateroom armed with some highball glasses, into which Carole dispensed a generous measure of Tanqueray, ice, tonic water and some sliced lemon she’d procured from the Lido buffet.  We then spent the next half hour enjoying our drinks and trying to put to the back of our minds that tonight was the last night of our cruise, and we’d be back in our own beds tomorrow night.  😦

Afterwards we returned to our own stateroom and did some more packing, then I got showered and shampooed and ready for dinner at 6.00pm.  I just put on a green, navy and white dress with a green crocheted shawl, knowing that later on we’d have to change into whatever we were travelling home in, as our cases had to be outside our stateroom doors by 11.00pm.

It was a delicious dinner as usual, and we finished off the bottle of wine we’d ordered yesterday.  At some point the Queen Victoria put to sea once more, and we looked out from table #501 at the darkening sky and the calm sea passing by our window.  As we left the Britannia Restaurant we thanked our waiters and sommelier for their excellent service, then we made our way to the Golden Lion to get a drink to take into the show.

Once again Trevor and I had front-row seats, and we thoroughly enjoyed the second performance by ‘Troubadour’.  Then the cruise director came onto the stage and advised that, at 10.30pm, it was the passengers’ turn to take the limelight, as once again it was karaoke night in the Golden Lion.  🙂

Off we went back to our stateroom, where I changed into jeans and a floral top, and put my flip-flops on.  No-one should complain about the dress code tonight, as all our gladrags were put into the cases and we checked to make sure that the only things that remained would be those items we needed in the morning, and would carry off the ship ourselves.

Once the cases were locked and labelled up, we placed them outside our cabin door then made our way back to the Golden Lion.  As it was the last night and everyone would be packing, I expected the place to be quite empty, but I was wrong – it was absolutely jumping and it took a while for us to be served with our drinks.  Meanwhile I got up and sang Back to Black again, then enjoyed a few more glasses of prosecco before getting up and singing It’s a Sin, by the Pet Shop Boys.

Similar to the other night, there was quite a variety of singing abilities, and one bloke who got up to sing noticed that the four lads who made up ‘Troubadour’ were in the pub, so he enlisted them to be his backing singers!  Once again it was a fun, entertaining night and it was after midnight when we returned to stateroom 5130.

No sitting out on the balcony tonight as it was quite late and we had to be up early, so we just got ready for bed and settled down for our last night on board, as the fabulous Queen Victoria sailed on towards Civitavecchia and the end of our cruise.  😦

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