After 6 days of quiet solitude, I packed up my things and left Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast. The nearby gods would send me out in style as I was treated to thunder and lightening of operatic proportions as the waves crashed all night just 50 feet below the open doors to my terrace. The next morning I turned my attention northward.
Before leaving Postiano I determined that I could take a boat trip to Naples for far cheaper than by car. As a frugal traveler and boat person, I rolled my suitcases aboard the Metreo Del Mare and settled in for the 90-minute boat ride. I thought I had seen some of the best views of the ancient rocky coast but I was wrong. We passed within a few miles of the Island of Capri and then turned the corner into the Bay of Napoli where the towering Mt. Vesuvius dominates the skyline. Each view fought to upstage the next.
I would spend all of about 45 minutes in Naples. Between my friends who had vacationed there in the past and my scary guidebook’s stories about the Cosa Nostra, I felt sure that within minutes of my arrival I would become involved in some sort of Godfather-esque gangland activity. I imagined dark-suited men with hip-holstered revolvers and clusters of black-scarved, weeping women. Mind you, I wasn’t against becoming involved in an incident, it probably would have been exciting. I simply didn’t have the time to spend. I was hoping to catch the mid-morning, express train to Florence and I was already cutting the departure time too close. On exiting the ferry at the Beverello Marina, I flagged down a cab to take me to the central train station. When I was within earshot of the prospective cab I let out “La statzione il treni!” I had been practicing on the boat and I wanted to get it out before I’d forgotten it.
The driver smiled at me nervously, the way one would smile at someone who owes them money but doesn’t plan to pay it back. I asked him how much, “Quanto costa?” He replied with an inappropriately long sentence, which I didn’t understand. It sounded to me like 25 Euro. I did some Euro calculation in my head and came up with something close to $30 US. I figured I was about to be taken advantage of. So, I cocked my head and squinted at the cabbie incredulously. With my prejudices of Naples firmly entrenched, I began to ask again. Too late, we were already driving. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t really get out of paying him since we were on our way and I had no idea where I was. I wrote it off to experience. I figured $30 U.S. was not enough to get too upset until we arrived at the station – 3 minutes later. I just got screwed out of 25 Euros. The Damn Mobsters! Reluctantly, I handed my driver Venti Euro and while I searched for a fiver, then he handed me my change. My face brightened immediately. The ride had only cost me 15 Euros. I love Napoli! I smiled, took the change, and made a mental note to work on my Italian numbers.
With my Neapolitan prejudices melting faster than a gallon of gelato in the Tuscan sun, I entered the central train station not knowing what to expect. The interior of the terminal was vast and opened to the outside sky where the trains actually met the station. I took a few minutes to soak it all in before I went off in the direction, I imagined, a ticket could be purchased. I knew when I saw a sign with a form of the word “biglietto” that I was on the right track (pun intended).
I rolled across the glossy, yellow marble floor to the ticketing area. There I found scores of people in a half a dozen lines of varying lengths with varying signs above each line. I thought the lines delimited travelers for immediate travel or future departures, and local versus inter-country travel. However, the quality and quantity of my Italian kept me from knowing for sure. I started to panic until I turned and saw a very friendly looking electronic kiosk with a large Union Jack icon next to an Italian flag. I walked up to the kiosk and touched the oversized, English-flag with my right index finger. “Hello, where would you like to travel today?” I was in love with the Italian train system already.
Italian Train System
Trenitalia Call Center 89 20 21
Written and photographed by Chris Martin
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