They say that first impressions are important. Naples city council would do well to remember that, as your first impression of Centrale station at night is that of a lawless hellhole. I arrived after a long journey from Sicily on the train-that-goes-on-a-boat, and with an early start the next morning to catch the train to Pompeii, I decided a B&B next to the station would be the most practical solution.
Practical it may have been, but pleasant it was not. It was a three minute walk to the B&B, yet this short hop involved running the gauntlet of speeding taxi drivers, drug dealers, prostitutes, pimps and general ne’er-do-wells. I am not a fussy traveller – I’ve stayed in some less than salubrious areas and can rough it a bit, but here I was genuinely fearful of being mugged. Heading out for drinks and a bite to eat later I thought I’d be fine if I walked quickly away from the station in the direction of a street I’d been recommended with good bars and pizzerias, but it took ten minutes of walking down dimly-lit streets before I felt safe enough to stop looking over my shoulder.
Finally sitting down outside a wine bar with a reviving Spritz I saw a better side of the city – a buzzy nightlife with plentiful bars and amazing Neapolitan pizza (which was incredibly cheap too). A couple of hours of later and my frayed nerves had been totally restored. I got a taxi back to the B+B though… I’m not bonkers.
The next morning it was off to the underground station for the local train to Pompeii. The station, the train and every available wall on the 45 minute journey was covered in graffiti. This is a city that could do with a lot of TLC. Pompeii was spectacular though. I got there early enough to beat the tour groups, and due to the sheer size of the place (which was the biggest surprise for me) I had several ancient streets to myself.
It’s mind-blowing to see how much has been preserved, and the similarities that still exist between the modern world and the way things were centuries ago. The “beware of the dog” mural in one of the houses was a brilliant example of this. The only disappointment was the early morning haze which prevented a good view of Vesuvius, the destroyer of this remarkable place.
Back on the train to Centrale, which was marginally less terrifying in the middle of the day, and onto another underground train to the port for my boat to the island of Ischia…