Sunday, April 1, 2012

Naples via the Ferry

03/30 Friday
It's 6:30, our scheduled arrival time, but the ferry is about 1-1/2 hours late. The delay must have been due to the tremendous storm and waves last night, or maybe it was the pirate ship that raided us! I can't remember which it was, since we both slept great. Mom even had a shower before bedtime. Really a comfortable cabin. Anyway we've arrived safe and dry. Even had strong coffee at the bar and a very good croissant.

It's a pretty day as the sun rises over Mt Vesuvius and the city of Naples. We see far more sunsets than sunrises, but this one was grand and we are glad to be up enjoying it. The sun was bright red at first and rose quickly and changed to "sunny" color. The colors of Naples and the sun reflecting off the hillside is beautiful, as well as seeing Mt. Vesuvius and the Amalfi coast from the water. Another new place to explore. The ferry ride was great.

Last night it was interesting watching them load the ferry. There seems to be four levels for parking, but all go through one entrance. Huge trucks and buses back in with such ease and all seem to have an appointed time. Think they have done this before ! This is a big ferry, but still dwarfed by several nearby cruise ships. Doubt if it is full, but plenty of people. Lots of school kids, but it was quiet on level 11. Spent some time on the top deck last night. It was clear with bright stars and almost a half moon. We seemed to be zipping along and it was peaceful, although I still have the urge to jump overboard.

A city street car delivers us to the train station, where we stow our bags for the day and buy train tickets for the short trip to Caserta later today. Now, off to explore Naples for a few hours.

Naples is a beautiful city and we have a beautiful day to enjoy it. Got a map from the tourist information. By comparison to Palermo it is clean and seems a lot more sophisticated. We take a bus to the historical center and walk to the first castle, Castrum Novum, built in the 1200's. It is now used for cultural events and houses the Civic Museum. During restoration work they found Roman ruins from the 1st centuryBC. They put in glass flooring so the ruins can be viewed including baths, residences and burial tombs. Rather surreal.

Outside they have two major digs going on: one, for the site of a new metro line stop, and right beside it, a huge Roman archaeological area. You see large bulldozers next to people carefully dusting off an object. All these cities have such history. Took a little tour of the towers and it was a great viewing point of the city. Inside we could look down into the main hall, called the Baron's Hall, which is very imposing with a dome ceiling.

Very hungry so we stop for an infamous Neapolitan pizza that did not disappoint us. It is like an art form here. They use wonderful tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil and the best mozzarella cheese. The crust is really great. The best pizzerias have a plaque announcing "Vera Neapolitan".

We walk through the Piazza del Plebiscito, the largest piazza in the city. It has been closed to traffic since 1994 so you can really appreciate it's vastness. It is surrounded by a church with ornate columns and a museum. They hold major concerts here and have grand New Year celebrations annually. Sure competes with Times Square!

The tourist info center told us that the Americas Cup sail boats are gathering in Naples and are docked at a marina. We start walking there, but are enticed into another castle, the oldest in the city, along the way.

Castle d'Ovo, the egg castle, is on a small island and connected to land by a bridge. The myth is as long as an ostrich egg is kept safely in a locked cage the fortress will be safe. There is a marvelous view of the gulf from the cannon terrace. It is speculated that this was actually a small town when it was not connected to the mainland, and because of it's size. We could easily have spent more time in Naples.

The train to Caserta takes about 40 minutes. The walk to the B&B another 20. We are pretty worn out and foot weary. Mom's knitting while I shower and read. Dinner at a nondescript restaurant was disappointing, but we actually had trouble finding a place to eat. The food was quite good, but lacking in atmosphere. Plus a crying child didn't help.

Lots of cafes which serve sweets, sandwiches, coffee, beer, and beverages, so we finished up with baba' and cannoli and thought of Sergio, since he told us about the pastries to eat. We are hooked on their desserts.

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