Thursday 30th August 2012
Our first full day in the Naples region. We decided to catch the train back into Naples and explore the city. Superficially we were in agreement but while I had images of cityscapes and places of historic and cultural interest in mind, to Louise Naples conjured up pictures of shops and Italian fashion. We could compromise on street markets, so after first buying a map we were straight out of the station and into the nearest street market.
We browsed for twenty minutes or so and then I pressed her to move on. Little in the street stall was of real interest, even as souvenirs. Anything purchased would have become almost instant junk and never see light of day until years later. You know, that moment sometime in the future when you are trying to clear out and make space and all the junk you rashly purchased while on holiday has taken on a vague sentimental value and you wonder whether, rather than trash it, you can rehabilitate it.
We didn't really have a plan. Looking at the map the cathedral seemed reasonably close so we decided to head towards it. The cathedral of the Assumption of Mary or Saint Januarius (patron saint of Naples) was completed in early 14th century - with later additions - and houses some renowned frescoes, mosaics and art. It is listed in all the travel guides as one of the "don't miss" destinations in Naples but that cut no ice with Louise. How was it different from any other cathedral she'd seen? They were all "don't miss" but they couldn't all be that good, was her reasonable argument. But this one has the head of a dead saint in its reliquary and two vial of his blood which liquify twice a year (otherwise bad things happen to Naples). A glimmer of interest before the response "Urgh, that's horrible. Why do people go to see that?"
When we arrived the cathedral was closed for lunch. Closed for lunch! We hadn't got the hang of Italy yet. We decided we would get lunch and come back later. Relieved the cathdral was closed Louise reconnected her gaze with her phone and walked away while I attempted to caputure at least the outside grandeour of the building.
Lunch was not so easy for me. There were numerous places selling pizza slices or portions of pasta, but I was reluctant to ask if there was any gluten free in case of misunderstandings. I'd got a card explaining my requirements in Italian I could show to the waiter or shop assistant but in the past I hadn't had much luck, anywhere; people just didn't seem to understand and here everyone looked very busy, rushing around apparently without a second to spare. I didn't want to bother them. I'd look for fruit. Louise bought a take away pizza slice and she ate it as we continued up the hill and away from the cathedral.
We didn't go back. Getting her there once had been impressive. Doing it twice would have been a miracle.
We wandered through the narrow streets and small piazzas without any real plan. We were just absorbing the atmosphere and enjoying the sunshine. At least I was. Occassionally an interesting shop distracted Louise from her phone, but whether it was Piazza del Gesù Nuovo (below immediate/left) or the Piazza del Plebiscito (below 2nd/right), the Castel Nuovo or the marina whatever it was on the phone screen was, at least to her, of more interest. Maybe she was reading the history of Naples or maybe she was playing Angry Birds.
So we walked for miles up and down the streets, resting in piazzas, occassionally taking photographs. I saw the grand buildings of Naples from the outside but opted for the peaceful life and didn't try more than once or twice to persuade the phone gazer to go inside to look at paintings or scuptures or other works of art. I made a note to return another time.