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1:14pm on Sunday, 10th August, 2008:



We're docked in Naples today, home of pizzas and ice cream. Why is it, then, that I just ate a ghastly pizza and a so-so ice-cream for lunch?

Ah, well that's because we're on the ship, and that's how their pizza and ice cream come out. We went to the archaeological museum first thing, and then looked around to find a place to eat that was open. We had booked a "Naples Archaeological Museum and Pizza Tasting" excursion, but there weren't 25 people out of 2,500 passengers who wanted to go on it so it was cancelled. We had to make our own way to the museum, and therefore our own way to a pizza place.

This being a Sunday, though, we didn't see anywhere that looked open. Indeed, all we saw was a very seedy, grafitti-daubed, mean-looking neighbourhood frequented by young men who looked like they were each carrying at least four knives.

The thing is, this is what all of Naples is like. No matter where you go, it's like that: vibrant, but claustrophobic and unsettling. We visited it once before about 5 years ago when we went to Sorrento and took a day trip to Herculaneum (which is in a suburb of Naples). The coach had to take a detour through tight, easily-blocked streets where its roof brushed washing hanging between buildings, all because the slip road we should have taken from the main road was closed off by the police after a gangland shooting. Our tour guide, who was Dutch, informed us that Naples was actually quite safe: "I've lived here twenty years, and in all that time only once have been held up at gunpoint".

Naples felt scary then, and it feels just as scary now. When we took a taxi back from the museum, the driver decided to go to the wrong dock (the ferry one, rather than the cruise ship one). It was quite a ride. There were some amazing views up narrow streets that stretched off in straight lines as if they were major thoroughfares, rising up the hills and used by drivers who seem to have a different idea of traffic regulations to the rest of the world. It was very dramatic, but not at all welcoming to outsiders, and decidedly edgy. I guess if you're born and bred here it's different, but add the ever-present, looming summit of Vesuvius, and I certainly wouldn't want to live here.

So it was that we failed to find a pizzeria or gelateria in the home of pizzas and ice cream, and were relieved to return to the relative safety of our ship.

The museum was first class, though.

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Copyright © 2008 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).