Naples is one of the longest constantly inhabited places in the world with a recorded presence over 3,000 years. It's sort of the same now as it's always been, not in the sense that it hasn't changed but in the sense that the city has been living this way forever. Nothing has changed in the sense that the mechanism of the city is unencombered by the cataclysms of time. This is a feeling about Naples that takes a little while to dawn on you.
At the very least it requires taking in some of the sights of Naples and the surrounding coast which includes Pompeii. I'd already seen some of these places when I wrote to my manger on May 9, 2016.
There were some pictures included that embodied the fondness I developed for Naples--my time there is an experience close to my heart. But not everything about this place can be captured as images. There is some of being in Naples has to do with feelings of patience and weariness for me.
With some things seeming slightly out of place in Rome, I felt that to travel by the Italian mantra of vai tranquille or "go calmly," I had to do some kind of engineering in the background, make sure that every essential plan was accounted for. At a bar in Rome I got out my ruler and notebook and started outlining the days.
Looking at these pages is so reductive. That was the point, there was just too much information to keep in mind, interacting with that information like this makes it easier to be precise in your action during travel. Thereby you can better enjoy the journey. Truly.
But looking at the signs of my travels reduced here really opens up a whole narrative of the experience in depth. Frankly these pages are revealing the way the look of a smile is sometimes meaning laden in reviewing dated photos.
Subtly captured in ticked boxes and scratched out plans, in doodles and directions jotted down from the last time internet was available are some ditched luggage, or the footsteps in a distant town, fatigued flops on an unfamiliar bed, and the occasional argument. The reality of the moment is signed on these pages.
Ultimately the time spent in Naples was, like the spirit of the city, extended beyond expectations. Perhaps even extending in time and in emotion into incomprehensible zones however well documented or measured that time might have been.
Half way between Naples and Sorrento is the small, one track train station where the Circumvesuviana stops at Scafati. These are really great neighborhoods to stay in where the people embody the Latin sense of hospes, a sort of generosity extended to travelers. It's close to Pompeii, and has terrific views of Mt. Vesuvius isn't as visible from the ground of the larger cities.
The streets are new as are, frankly, the buildings around here--the renovation is constant and probably has been since the last destruction of Pompeii. This sort of renovation reminds me of the constant march of armies up and down the peninsula razing the ground around them, quartering troops, and then leaving the residents to repave the streets beneath the natural force under the mountain.
As fascinating as the city is, as vibrant a place as Naples is with it's shipping and warehouses and hookers, some of these ancient features and perpetual motion make it a bit of an inherently depressive place. There's a certain degree of world weariness that must ware on a place somewhere around the 2,000 year mark or so.
You can see this look on the faces of the Roman sculptures in the National Archeological Museum. Here the copies by unknown artists are the equals of the average Michelangelo in Florence. But on the faces of these sculptures, the certain brand of depressiveness that exists here is in the stoic demure which might have been typical but which is still worn by those in Naples.
For this very reason an extra day was required in Naples to slough off the lethargy that comes with staying under a corner of sky still held up by Atlas rather than human engineering. There is no quick way through Naples, seeing it takes days and it's an exciting toil you might say. I suppose the long life and vibrance of Naples is somehow metaphorical of our own lives, there's just too much here to be taken in at once and yet a dearth of obvious draws other than to be experienced under the light of the sun with wonder.
The train ride on May 10, 2016 toward Switzerland was typically Italian. The train was stopped for hours between Naples and Rome. The train from Rome to Milan screeched in, you might say, in time. The very instant the train from Milan toward Switzerland was reached, it pulled out of the station.