Sam Bowker: The Grand Tour Diary (2005 - 2006)

This is the archived journal of a 2005-2006 'Grand Tour' around the Eastern Mediterranean and along East Africa, written by Sam Bowker, whilst in search of his PhD topic.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Italy - Bari, arrival in Naples

Dedicated to my superb hosts in Naples, Giovanni (the hostel owner) and Giorgio (the concierge) (CONCIERGE!!!)

After 46 hours of travel, I have finally made it to my real destination in Italy - Napoli.

It has not been entirely boring, as I constantly have something that needs to be done (learning Italian, when in doubt). But I am very pleased to have located a bed I know I shall be in for the next three nights.

Italy greeted me with a superb sunrise - I haven't seen many of those on the GT! - and I greeted it with vague paranoia and a dozen pleasantries. Bari, the port town, and Naples are said to be two of the most dangerous cities for tourists, due to moped-bandits and pickpockets. I haven,t actually bought out my camera yet, due to concerns for it,s safety, but I'll pull it out tomorrow.

Bari was a lot like Antakya in Turkey. It was a fairly uninteresting place ideally suited to finding one,s feet in a new country. I caught a bus, wandered streets to a known destination, booked tickets to Naples, bought new jeans (farewell my beloved white pants, but thou hast been stained by the cursed leaking pen, and thou art consigned to the back of my pack until I needth a rag...), and visited a supermarket. All very day-to-day stuff, but in a new language and culture, it,s a series of little triumphs!

My first Italian food was a doughnut. It was covered in sugar, and chewy, and had a hint of rosewater. It was one of the best doughnuts I have ever eaten. The apple that followed it was exceptionally crisp and juicy. I bought some packet chocolate biscuits for the bus, and imagine my rapture as each one was a dark and flavoursome as my favourite dessert, chocolate fudge pudding. Italians do food seriously well!

Now, I am in my hostel in Naples, with a lively bunch of mostly Aussie (Melb) backpackers. Thereàs also a Catalonian guy, two French girls, an American, two Israelis and a Dutch bloke. The owner is cooking us a pumpkin pasta as it is too heavily raining outside to pop down the street to the best pizzaria in Napoli (the pizza and calzone were invented here, and the margharita is said to be manna from heaven).

It was very hard to find this place. My first choice recommended it to me by phone, and I called for directions upon arrival in Naples. I got lost twice, and eventiually found it hidden down an interestign alley of frame-makers. It has no sign outside - I asked if it was for building heritage reasons. They told me it's actually becuase with an active mafia situation, you don't want to advertise small businesses of this sort too heavily! Lovely spot though, with great security.

Tomorrow - either a daytrip through Herculaneum and Pompeii, or a day exploring the city if it is raining. Great cathedrals, castle and archaeological museum here, helped by the local excavations around Vesuvius. (The storm clouds over it on my arrival were spectacular)


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