Published: January 20th 2013January 20th 2013
For anyone traveling by train from Rome let me tell you that in January the station is like being on the tundra. It is cold, windy, gray, and without a chair to sit in or a warm waiting room to wait in. There were a scant few chairs against one wall that all seemed to be taken up by, um, street people. None of the fast food places or bars had a place to sit. I did see some tables upstairs which seemed inviting. There was an escalator to get up there but only stairs coming down. Lugging baggage down a flight of stairs did not seem like a good option for me so I sat next to a street person when a chair became available....when in Rome........
Like most European train stations they seem to wait until the last minute to post the departing track necessitating a mad dash for the correct platform and then another hike to the correct rail car. NOW HEAR THIS: BE SURE AND VALIDATE
YOUR TICKET BEFORE
BOARDING THE TRAIN OR YOU WILL BE SUBJECT TO A HEFTY FINE. NO ONE TELLS YOU THIS but everyone seems to know it. Validation stampers can be located almost anywhere on a wall but seldom near the departing train track. I got caught by this scam years ago when I was on a train from Venice to Pisa. The fine was three times the cost of the ticket. You have been warned! A kindly young man helped me and showed me the way to put the ticket in- apparently it has to be stamped on a particular edge or it doesn't count.
I took a 'fast train' to Naples with a reserved seat in 2nd class, which is extremely comfortable, at a cost of 29 Euros. The only reason I wanted to tell you the price was because of what happened next. I exited the station carefully avoiding all the pseudo taxi driver touts and headed for the 'official' taxi line. One guy came toward me saying "taxi" and I nodded yes. It was only after I was in the cab and my bags packed away that I realized he was not an 'official' cab. It soon became evident that he had no idea where my hotel was as we went round and around on a "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" through the crowded streets of Naples. When I say narrow I mean little 'Smart car' size streets that often had traffic going both ways plus motor scooters zipping in and out. If you have ever seen an Italian car race then you can imagine the speed and frequent games of 'chicken' that were bring played every few feet. After about 10 minutes my driver admitted he was lost and then he stopped every 50 feet to ask directions- meanwhile the meter was running and running...you all know where this story is going, right? After he finally found the place the cost for a 2 mile ride was 22 Euros! It's not the first time I've been suckered by a cab driver and probably won't be the last. My philosophy is: at least I'll have a good story.
So now I'm standing at the door of my 'boutique' B&B that looks like something out of a 1850's horror novel. The door is 10 feet tall, metal, scruffy, and shows no signs of being anyplace I'd want to stay. However, my cab driver has hightailed it out of there so I'm left standing in the rain ringing a bell and hoping someone will answer.
Pause for a moment here and think back to John Cleese as Basil (I think that was his name) in the old English series 'Fawlty Towers'. Well, my 'Basil' is named Maxim and he is 6'2" tall and from the Netherlands. He grabbed my suitcases and laughed a belly laugh when I asked if there was an elevator. "No, no, it's only 58 steps!!" He talked the whole way up, stopping to let me catch my breath, pointing out the 17th century pain on the walls and the steps made of basalt from the volcanoes. Puff, puff. I assured him I would only be doing those steps once a day.
After a rest, I had to go back down the steps to get some dinner. Maxim took me, in the rain, to a trattoria. He introduced me to the owner and the waitress, and told me to have them call him when I was ready to come back so he could walk me back to the B&B. It was dark. It was cold. It was raining but I was sure I could retrace my steps. Maxim wouldn't hear of it. I was to wait for him and that was that.
The restaurant was almost empty when I got there about 6:45P.M. but then it became a hotbed of actvity. In one room, where the pizzas and pasta were being prepared, I could hear squeals of childish laughter. It turned out to be a birthday party for a young girl-maybe 10 or 11. She was surrounded by her friends and they sounded like any little girls' party anywhere - lots of running from one room to another, lots of chasing, lots of hugs. Then at a table right in front of me 5 beautiful young teen girls (I'd say 13 -14 since several had braces on their teeth) and one lucky fellow sat down. I don't know what the occasion was but I was laughing inside when they all pulled out their iphones and started to compare their 'playlists'. "Call me Baby" seemed to be the most popular. They were happy to be drinking Pepsi (what, no coke?) and eating french fries. They were continually switching seats but all seemed equally happy no matter who was sitting next to them. It was a delight to watch them.
While I was waiting for Maxim to come and pick me up, along with about 8 others waiting to pick up pizzas, I saw the waitress unwrap the birthday cake and place one candle in its center. It was a small- maybe an 8" round, plain chocolate cake - no frills, no decorations, no ice cream, no presents, yet the kids all seemed delighted. One little girl (maybe 5 or 6 years old) jumped out of her seat and ran to give the birthday girl a hug and kiss. Sweet doesn't begin to describe the entire event.
Before I forget, I want to give you the website for the B&B so you can see the palatial rooms, really I'm not kidding, inside the dingy exterior: www.lestanzedevicere.it My room is probably 20' x20' with 14' ceilings, an equally huge bath that is all marble and tile with a bidet! The breakfast / lounge room is at least 20' by 30' with an enormous glass table that could seat 16. It has balconies that overlook the garden (pretty barren right now) but I can imagine that in Springtime it must be lovely. All this for $45 a night!
Thank you so much to all you left comments. It makes me feel like we're all traveling together.
PS Maxim just went to pick up my 'take out' order from the same restaurant I went to last night. He thought it was too cold and damp for me to walk up there.