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Clare
Clare

Day 1: Home to Naples

When I was booking off my holidays from work this year, it turned out that it was going to be quite convenient to take a week off in October. We don't often go on holiday in October though, so we spent some time deliberating what would be a good destination. The one time we have been away this late in the autumn before was in 2014 when we went to Sardinia; the weather there was still beautiful in early October, so that got us thinking about southern Italy. Although we've had quite a few holidays to Italy in the past, the furthest south we've been was a slightly unsuccessful trip to Campobasso in 2013. That still left us quite a lot of Italy to explore and so when Tim found some reasonably priced flights to Naples it seemed like a perfect solution for an October break :)

The reason that the flight out was so reasonably priced may have been related to the fact that it was departing Stansted at the rather early hour of 7am. At some point after booking, I then received one of those rather scary emails from Ryanair telling me that the flight times had changed and I either had the option to accept the revised time or kiss goodbye to my money and my holiday. The change turned out to be making an early flight even earlier, bringing the departure time forward to 06.35. I wasn't exactly thrilled about that at the time, but given the way Ryanair has been cancelling flights left right and centre over the past few weeks, when it got to this morning I was just glad to be flying at all!

A 06.35 flight meant we needed to be at the airport parking for 4am... which meant leaving home at 2am.... which meant getting up at 01.30. By the time Tim had finished everything he needed to do last night and was ready to go to bed, it was hardly worth bothering!

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Somehow we managed to drag ourselves out of bed when the alarm went off and made it to Stansted on plenty of time. The flight was delayed by half an hour or so but I have absolutely no idea why because I fell asleep while we were waiting to take off and only woke up as we were flying over the (very snowy) Alps :D

We touched down in a bright and sunny Naples around 10.15 and got our first taste of southern Italian chaos. Passport control was a bit of a rabble; essentially a large room full of people edging forward towards the passport gates without anything that could have been identified as a queue. When we emerged into the baggage reclaim area, I was a bit stressed to see that our flight was not one of the five or six listed on the information screen showing baggage carousel numbers. We stood around in confusion for a while, until I suddenly caught sight of my (fortunately quite distinctive!) blue suitcase travelling around a belt a few metres away. According to the information board, this was the carousel for an Iberia flight from Madrid :/

The airport is situated around 7km outside the main centre of Naples and there's a regular bus service which runs every 15 minutes or so. It took us a while to track down the bus stop; when we did we found there was a bus there waiting, but it seemed incredibly full so we decided to hang back and wait for the next one. There was actually a proper queue at the bus stop and a man whose job it seemed to be to police it. It wasn't long before a second bus arrived, which was good, but once we got on it we realised that - quite unusually for an airport bus - it didn't have anywhere to store luggage. That was a bit of a problem, as our suitcases are quite large! We found a seat towards the back of the bus but proceeded to have a very uncomfortable journey. I was trying to balance my suitcase on a step, hanging onto it for dear life to try and stop it falling on top of anybody else as we swung round corners. Tim was in an even worse position, sitting in a very contorted position while his suitcase occupied the space where his legs should have been.

The only saving grace was that it was a short journey and we were soon deposited outside Napoli Centrale. I had read in the guidebook that this was not the best area of Naples, and it definitely didn't give a very good first impression. In the first instance there didn't seem to be a proper pavement where the bus dropped us off, so we had to try and avoid getting run over by other buses and negotiate a busy road to get across to the station itself. We decided to try and walk in the vague direction of our apartment and - as it was nearly midday at this point - hopefully find somewhere to eat along the way. Unusually for Italy though, eating establishments seemed to be few and far between, with nothing more enticing than an occasional kebab shop. Pulling suitcases along the streets was a bit of a challenge, as the pavements were in a state of repair which wouldn't have looked out of place in Bratislava and we occasionally had to lift our suitcases across random piles of rubbish in the middle of the street.

I booked the accommodation in Naples a long time ago but I distinctly remember that I spent a lot of time researching the different neighbourhoods and booked an apartment in a part of town that was recommended in the guidebook. So although the part of the city that we were walking through didn't look particularly appealing, I was convinced that things would start looking up when we got closer to the apartment. After about half an hour we found the correct street and first impressions were that it looked rather run-down! It took a while to figure out which building we were looking for, as the houses seemed to be numbered in some original Italian kind of order that wasn't strictly numerical, but eventually we figured out that the doorway we needed was the open gap to the left of the graffitied shutter. Hmm. I logged into my booking.com app to check that I had definitely booked a 9.5!

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We were a bit too early to check in so we needed somewhere we could sit down and have a drink. Tim tried wandering up the road to see if there were any cafes (not really!) before realising that the building next door to the apartment building was a sort of wine bar. We went inside and found a friendly lady who was selling glasses of different wines on tap for €1.50. Tim asked whether we could get anything to eat and she mysteriously disappeared outside for a few minutes, before reappearing with a bag of crisps for us. When Tim tried to pay for the crisps at the end, she insisted that they were free :o  That was a quite a surprise, as was the fact that the wine was so cheap. We started to feel a bit more positive about the neighbourhood!

We'd arranged to check into the apartment 1pm and sure enough, at 1 on the dot I got a missed call on my mobile from the owner. My phone seems to be struggling a bit to get a proper signal in Naples, so Tim called him back and it transpired he was on one of the balconies above and could see us. He showed us into the apartment, which I was relieved to see looked really nice once we were inside. It's slightly unusual in that the bedroom is on a little mezzanine level above the living room, but it's actually quite spacious once you're up there.

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The owner was a really lovely man who must have had some bad experiences which renting out the apartment in the past, because first of all he showed us around the room and then asked us whether or not we liked it. If we didn't, he said he could refund us our deposit and help us find somewhere else to stay!  We were perfectly happy though, especially when he showed us that there were some free breakfast supplies, a bottle of wine in the fridge for us and some coffee (somewhat surprisingly, also kept in the fridge!). If we didn't like the breakfast, he said he could go and buy us something else(!) and he also offered to bring more wine tomorrow and take us on a guided drive around Naples. It began to make more sense why this was a 9.5/10 :)

He also provided us with a map of Naples and gave us some restaurant recommendations. We were starving by this point so when we'd finished checking in, we followed his advice and walked a few minutes up the road to one of the places he'd mentioned. We arrived and found there was a slight queue outside, so it seemed to be popular! We got a table quite quickly though and the food turned up with astonishing speed once we had ordered. I had an enormous pizza (probably the nicest diavola pizza I've ever had!) and Tim had a steak. We also had some wine, a large bottle of water and two coffees. When the bill came, the prices seemed too good to be true. I think the same meal could easily have cost twice as much further north in Italy!

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By the time we'd finished the meal and got back to the apartment it was nearly 4pm. We were both feeling pretty tired, so decided to have a nap for an hour and then get up at 5 to go out and explore a bit of Naples before it got dark. This was an excellent plan... but when my alarm went off at 5, I managed to snooze it a few times, then turn it off altogether and fall back to sleep! By the time I woke up it was nearly 7 and already totally dark outside. So there will be no scenic pictures of Naples on the blog until tomorrow :$




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