Naples is an eminently walkable city, once you get your bearings, and are quick-witted enough to dodge the vespas and the Clios as they barrel along the narrow streets, driven by those who believe that horsepower rules and pedestrians are disposable.
The buses seemed a little complicated and although usually my transport mode of choice, I was a little intimidated. So I walked. Everywhere. English is not as widely spoken as I had thought and the few times I stopped to ask directions, it was like looking at a deer caught in the headlights, such was the terror that speaking English evoked. I’m well used to miming though, but admittedly found miming ‘dead’ to find the cemetery was a little challenging. No matter. I eventually got to where I was going and the detours were delightful.
The metro looked handy enough (the trains don’t run nearly as often as they do in Budapest). And like Budapest’s Metro 4, they’re built to impress. Lines 1 and 6 have stops on them referred to as Art Stations. And, by all accounts, the L1 Toledo stop was voted the most beautiful in Europe back in 2012. I got to see Mater Dei – which came in at No. 13 on that same Daily Telegraph list. And it was impressive.
At the Dante station, a coat and hat with many many pairs of shoes trapped behind some random railway tracks caught my eye. I spent quite some time looking at it and finally decided that for me, it represented a never-ending journey, one of constant movement trapped within a rigid framework so that although we have the illusion of progress, we’re making little headway. But hey – art is subjective. Apparently, Grecian artist Jannis Kounellis had ‘travel as an existentialist condition’ in mind when he created this piece. And I should admit that I’m not altogether sure what that means.
But if I had to take one thing from Naples and bring it to Budapest, it wouldn’t the pizza or the orgasmic canoli or the mozzarella; it would be its eagerness to teach its tourists how to speak Italian … while waiting for their train. What a brilliant idea! How quickly my Hungarian would improve if my waiting time was spent actively engaged in learning the language.
When I first started travelling, I had this insatiable need to see everything. The older I get, the more I realised that cities aren’t going anywhere, meno male. If I don’t get to see it all, I can go back, and go back again. So when I next visit Naples, I plan to spend an entire day underground, looking at the art and learning Italian.