NAPLES & CAMPANIA REGION - December 2018
Updated: 10 hours ago
The trek to the airport involved no drama, as has become the norm. There were nine empty rows of middle seats in the rear of the plane the night before departure, where I had hoped to stretch out, but this scenario didn't play. A couple next to me meant they would be climbing over each other for their bathroom runs.
Arriving in Paris at Charles de Gaulle airport at 6:00 am was a real treat considering the length of the flight and the ease involved in changing terminals for the transfer three hours later. The signage was easy to follow and complete compared to the disappearing signs in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Paris wins hands down over Amsterdam if changing planes in Europe for an ongoing trip.
The flight from Paris to Naples was operated by Air France's low cost subsidiary Joon Airlines. Joon is very much like Southwest and Spirit. The organized clown show of passengers trying to fit over-sized bags in bins and claiming seats not matching their boarding passes was truly entertaining. A real clown would have been embarrassed by the behavior. The flight left Paris late as it had 25% of the time in tracking over a 2-month period. You get what you pay for.
Naples is a low key airport where some planes park on the tarmac, having passengers walk to the terminal. One thing that might surprise US citizens is that soldiers walk around with automatic weapons if a response to unexpected events becomes necessary. Very little is onsite in the airport, which requires a walk or shuttle of some kind to reach needed services. A 5€ ticket on the airport bus will get one into town to Garibaldi Station or the cruise ship terminal. Traffic is treacherous with the scooters and wild drivers that would give Atlanta the appearance of order and courtesy.
Low-keyed Christmas decorations in Capodichino International Airport at 4:00 am with armed guards
Naples doesn't hype its security rituals in the same way as Atlanta. As mentioned above at the airport, soldiers with weapons are very visible in high volume pedestrian areas. While no problems were encountered photographing the metro, the port area was strictly off limits.
Christmas shopping seemed to be rather low-keyed. The hustle and bustle just wasn't obvious. Looks as if Madison Avenue missed the mark here. Galleria Umberto I, built in the 1890s, is a large shopping complex bound under a fabricated roof. Italy's larger cities all have similar developments. The night lighting provides atmosphere that's missing during the day. It was necessary to photograph in both daylight and the night lights to capture its charm.
Galleria Umberto I shopping center under night lights
Naples, like most old European cities does not sport an impressive skyline of tall buildings. The only skyscrapers around are located in a development named Centro Direzionale east of Garibaldi, the main train station. The area is home to the Justice Center of regional and municipal government buildings along with commercial office space. The first evening was used to explore and photograph this complex wonderland bathed in remnants of rain from earlier in the day. The daytime experience, several days later, was far from disappointing once the vastness of the campus was recognized.
Marble sculpture in the Justice Complex at Centro Direzionale
Day two began with the customary ride on the rails. The metro (subway) is a sight to behold with beautiful art adorning station mezzanines. Get to the platforms far below and one might as well be in a dark, dank dungeon. Many stations are located quite far below the ground surface due to poor soil conditions. It's not uncommon to ride three or four banks of escalators to reach platforms. Unlimited use of the metro is available for just over $ 5.00 (4.50 €) per day. Public transportation is heavily subsidized in most countries, just not in the US.
Garibaldi metro station, Linea M-1 escalator banks
The metro system, opened in 1993, is a work in progress, much like others on the planet. Line 1 is a true metro with 15 underground stations and three elevated stations. Plans are to add an additional seven stations forming a ring that includes an airport station. Line 6 currently has suspended service of the light metro through four finished underground stations until construction of the remaining four stations is completed. Line 2 is a converted suburban railway with 8 stations and shares tracks with regional trains. Two lines of the Circumvesuviana suburban network provide service from the Mount Vesuvius area to the east. Two additional suburban lines provide service to western communities and a third provides service to northern communities.
My aim in photographing subway station architecture is be Professor Henry Higgins from Pygmalion and present sometimes less than appealing stations as his Eliza passed off as a lady of substance. That wasn't completely possible with this metro. Free spirited graffiti has ruined some stations and also has destroyed the exterior of rail cars. The metro art stations along Line 1 just don't resemble the beautiful pictures taken when facilities opened. Long headways between trains results in overcrowding and a haven for pickpockets. The usual excitement from a new city's subway system just wasn't there. With long waits between trains, an abundance of poorly drawn graffiti, and a general neglect toward station upkeep, I could have been anywhere of no interest on the planet.
A pickpocket's hand found its way to my rear end in an unplanned encounter. Maybe he heard the legend of how quarters were bounced back there during my swimming days and he wanted to see if it were still true. Knowing that the buns have become old and a bit droopy, he wasn't a gay boy trying to cop a feel on something looking good. An instinctive action landed a fist in this throat that started him screaming. The Hoodrat awoke going Samuel L Jackson in threatening to break both hands if he didn't STFU. The Hoodrat is like American Express - Don't leave home without him. I doubt that the pickpocket understood the exact words, but the show ended abruptly.
The funny part of the experience was that there was nothing accessible with passport, minimal cash and a credit card zippered into a belt loop pouch resting inside the pants. Protecting property was one of the first lessons learned before these adventures ever began.
The weather was extremely cooperative with temperatures ranging from about 43°F in the mornings to 62°F in the afternoons. The fairly mild days allowed leaving the Winter gear at home. The sun was present throughout most of the trip with few overcast skies. Sunny skies that second day helped deliver some golden shots of the skyline, port area, and inner city areas from Castel Sant'Elmo on Vomero Hill. This more than redeemed the lack of enthusiasm for the metro.
Port of Naples, Castel Nuovo and Galleria Umberto viewed from Castel Sant'Elmo on Vomero Hill, 1¼ miles away
The third day in town had tours planned for the city's opera house and a palace built by the Spanish Bourbons, who once ruled the city in the 1600s. Palazzo Reale had an abundance of intricately decorated rooms with gold trimmings. The opera house, which is the oldest in Europe, was one of the trip highlights because a tripod was permitted and netted some great photos. This location, too, was overdone with gold trimming and red velvet. Another castle, Castel dell'Ovo, offered some great rooftop views of an adjacent marina and nearby waterfront areas.
Teatro di San Carlo, the oldest opera house in Europe
Day four began with a trip south to the Herculaneum archaeological park ruins in Ercolano. Travel was accomplished using a 33€ ($ 37.50 at the prevailing exchange rate) Arte Card that allowed unlimited use of all regional transportation, free entry to three museums/cultural attractions and half price to any subsequent locations over a three day period.
Herculaneum is located about seven miles south of Naples, but getting there consumed an hour when a mechanical problem caused the train to be put out of service. The rickety Circumvesuviana suburban train provides service to Sorrento, about 35 miles from Naples.
Herculaneum is a massive excavation of rather well preserved buildings that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Volcanic ash managed to protect quite a bit of original artwork. Skeletons of many bodies buried in the ash have been preserved at the city boathouse. This is a great place to see Roman life of a moderately prosperous city.
Public cooking area in Roman ruins at the Herculaneum archaeological park
Herculaneum was later left for a visit to the more famous ruins in Pompeii's archaeological park. Pompeii is located an additional 12 miles south. Being far more famous meant that there were hordes of tourists infesting like maggots on rancid meat. (Please forgive my portrayal of tourists, with whom I do not like sharing space). A visit to Pompeii at the opening hour is highly recommended for photographers and those who do not like crowds.
Pompeii also was destroyed in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This was a massive city which was extremely prosperous. Much of it was quite beautiful. Temples, residences, amphitheaters and majestic arches & columns abound throughout the park. A visit to Pompeii is so highly recommended. About four hours were spent walking through the park and very little was actually seen. Several full day visits would be needed to see the entire park. Pompeii was left for a night's rest in Sorrento, 16 more miles south, on the Bay of Naples of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Roman ruins at Pompeii, destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD
Sorrento is a small city where I would love to spend two days in warmer weather. The city seemed to be quite vibrant with shoppers and a wide variety of restaurants. The food in the restaurant chosen was tastefully beyond belief.
Sorrento was the beginning of a 35 mile journey over a rugged mountain road to a cliff side journey past spectacular seascapes to Salerno. The trip took 3 hours with a change of busses in the city of Amalfi. This is normally a trip where I would prefer driving, but steep hairpin turns on narrow roads aren't made for the faint of heart. The Amalfi Coast scenery is so beautiful that an entire day could be spent capturing photographs. The bus to Amalfi had tinted windows that permitted relatively good shots, while windows of the second bus to Salerno were hidden behind an advertising grille. Most photos from that leg have a waffle effect with very few making the final cut. This trip was done on Christmas Eve morning which meant that the bus was practically empty. Since the bus operator isn't part of the regional transportation consortium, an additional $ 4.50 (4€) was needed for the fare.
Amalfi Coast road trip scenery along the Tyrrhenian Sea
Christmas Eve and Christmas day brought their own set of problems with unannounced train cancellations that resulted in longer trips while waiting for the next available service. The Italian railroads don't have the precise flair exercised by the Germans and Swiss where all services must be on time or within a forgivable margin of delay. The visit to the Paestum archaeological park was canned due to late arrival.
Paestum hosts an archaeological park of Greek ruins from about 500 BC. The Greeks were eventually defeated by local tribes and forced to abandon the settlement. Three temples, a small performance venue and an amphitheater were the only structures visible from outside the park. The park service indicated that the temples would be illuminated after dark, but that didn't happen with all three. Since this was Christmas Eve, business as usual wasn't in the plan. There was disappointment about not climbing around inside the temples and not getting a complete set of night photos. I do wish to thank David Spivey for enthusiastically recommending a visit to Paestum when the trip was initially mentioned. The town of Paestum is a very laid back and charming escape that offered lodging in a renovated villa and some incredible food in a restaurant playing 60s and 70s grooves.
Paestum, Italy: Greek Temple of Athena built about 500 BC
The Italian railroads are interesting with long distance service provided by both the government and a private company leasing use of the tracks from the government. Both provide high speed service, just shy of 200 mph, in basic to luxurious accommodation. Christmas day brought more unannounced cancellations of services posted on the boards.
Salerno, Italy: Tren Italia regional train and the private long distance high speed Italo train
It was noted earlier that Christmas seemed to be rather low keyed. It seems that celebration begins the night before with most everything suspended until 5:00 pm the next day. Arrival back in Naples after the 60 mile trip found no public transportation and no place to eat. What happens to families not driving who want to gather on Christmas Day? My guess is riding with the boastful relative who has the car and whom everyone openly hates.
Piazza Garibaldi canopy roof at the empty central station on Christmas day
The last day in the area was spent revisiting Centro Direzionale's high rises in the light of day. The office park is quite stunning. From there, a trip to the western burbs found more Roman ruins in Pozzouli. The third largest colosseum (Amfiteatro Neroniano Flavio) in the Roman world was full of relics from the era. While the portion above ground was moderately impressive, the underground caverns below the colosseum and the relics found were beyond this world.
Pozzuoli, Italy: Anfiteatro Neroniano Flavio, third largest in the Roman world, located at the crossroads which linked Naples, Capua and Cuma. Capable of holding up to 40,000 spectators
While it may seem that much about Naples and the area wasn't endearing, I did find the the Campania region to have fascinating locations to photograph. Some of the tastiest travel meals ever were eaten on this trip. I would highly recommend a visit since very few, if any, would be going to photograph the subway. Thank you Gerard Eder in Valencia, Spain for recommending a visit to Naples.
The return trip to Atlanta wasn't the easiest. A 6:00 am flight meant no sleep the night before, if the trip to the airport was going to happen. The hotel arranged for a 3:30 am taxi at a fare of 21€, while the cab driver tried to extort 29€. Since the plane had no initial gate assignment, passengers were directed to a waiting area. This is pretty much common airport practice around the world. The signage to the waiting area wasn't the easiest to follow and included two dead-end stops with plenty of head scratching.
Fatigue was so heavy that sleep fell and the planned view of descent into Rome went unnoticed on the 45 minute flight. Rome's Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino airport is rather phenomenal with good restaurants and interesting architecture. Delta's code share partner, Alitalia, has a big presence and great facilities.
Rome, Italy: Alitalia information in Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport
Delta upgraded the seat to their Comfort Plus section next to some clown in a middle seat trying to spread his legs into half the space of my seat. A short conversation set clear boundaries and the 11 hour flight was pleasant. Clearing immigration and customs in Atlanta was the easiest and fastest of many trials. Christmas must have been good to the rude Hartsfield-Jackson greeters who were pleasantly on best behavior (this time).