Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hopping in Napoli

Like a previous trip I have been extremely remiss in not staying current on these posts.  However I did use that wonder App called Track My Tour (please tell Chris that I sent you if you check it out) which did a much better job.  Here is the link to this part of the trip -- Click here.


Seeing as we only had one day in Naples we thought the best thing to do was the hop on/off bus tour that is in many cities these days.  It left from the big castle so was just perfect for us.

There are two routes -- one along the coast and one into the city.  We took the first that came along which was the seaside route.  I do like these buses as the format is the same wherever you are -- every 20 mintutes or so another one comes along with 8 choices of languages describing the scene.  With this tour in between the chatting was interspersed local crooners singing songs about old Campania and Naples and all the rest of it.  Just charming... to start with.

The Bay of Naples is huge and the city is sited on pretty much the only flattish land hereabouts.  This is one old city founded in the 7th century BC by Greeks looking to expand onto the mainland from their stronghold cities in Sicily.  They landed further north in a place called Baiae and further south on the bottom part of the massive bay that encompasses Vesuvius and reaches Sorrento.  Being Greeks they fought amongst themselves more than anything else according to the very limited writings around today so while you may have thought that the Greek settlements here may work together in reality it was just like home with competing city states looking at one another first.  This was never part of the Roman make up and one of the reasons why the Romans were so contemptuous of the Greeks, even though they did acknowledge that the Greeks did come first.  The Romans were all about solidarity, country not city, and global not country which is why their empire was so much more successful than the Greeks' attempts.  They had their chance when Alexander was around but as soon as his appendix flared up, his 'friends' and inner circle started divvying up the pie and of course quarreling.

Once the Roman Empire collapsed, the region obviously remained and the Amalfitana Empire rose up -- a strong maritime nation that did pretty much what Roman trade used to.  The city of Naples itself carried on for 500 or so years until the Normans arrived ... always the bloody Normans.  The Normans are the descendents of the Vikings (Norsemen) who gave us such a hard time.  

The Normans got first into Sicily by offering to help against the Moors who kept on calling.  They then turned around and massacred the encumbents and took over moving a couple of hundred years or so later over to Naples where they created the Kingdon of the Two Sicilies.  This endured through various invasions until the Risorgimento in 1860-61 about which more later in another post.  

Architecture therefore is massively mixed.  The big castle for example is Norman whilst are there are huge numbers of buildings from many different eras.  One constant though are the tiny roads and the constant congestion wrought by Neapolitan drivers who must be either the best or worst in the world.

A typical snarl up in the old town

These days the region is very poor.  Most industry of any sort is either struggling or has closed down. Employment is high in this area whilst all the problems of southern Europe are here in spades ... immigration to the fore, particular illegals arriving by boat.

This is a deserted tuna canning factory that has been abandoned for 20 years right on the Bay of Naples, so its a pretty good location.  The commentary on the bus was hopeful of development but didn't provide a time line.

But as everywhere there are always people who are well enough off as well the very rich.  The local tennis club for example is sited right on the King's favourite footpath on the sea front.

About 8 red clay courts.  They looked pretty darn  nice.
Security was curious.  There is heightened tension with worries of terrorist attacks so in various places small groups of armed soldiers are placed looking ominous.  But to me there seemed little rhyme or reason for their location or precisely what they were doing.  I hope someone knows better than I.

As we were stationary for 20+ minutes here on the bus, we could tell that this was in fact a chemist that these soldiers were protecting.  Customers kept coming and going all the time.  
However there are precious few bad views here.  Something we were to discover later on this holiday in other locations.  

And of course Vesuvius was everywhere.

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