Dec 012004

Wednesday, 1 December. Naples to DC. Security at Naples was about what the U.S. was pre-9/11.  The Air Dolomiti RJ may have had one empty seat…Interesting mix of vacationers, business types, and American military/contractors.

The drill at Munich, with only about an hour for connection, was interesting.  Checked back through the German immigration.  Then a TSA-style security check.  And then wait in line for a mini-interview:  “When did you pack your bags?  Where did you pack your bags? etc.”  And then another wait in line to have boarding passes re-issued and baggage numbers matched against the manifest.  And finally into the plane.

Halfway through the flight, the guy next to me folds up his blanket and sits on it.  These are the infamous United 777 coach seats that sag under your butt and dig into the backs of your thighs.  The solution is to sit on the little pillow the airline gives you, and bring your own inflatable pillow.

Conclusions and Observations:

  • Naples takes a little getting used to.  There are some pretty shady types out and about, as well as lots of people just going about their daily business.
  • Visitors are cautioned not to drive in the city.  I’m not sure it’s really that dangerous, unless you’re not positive exactly where you are going.  That’s the rub.
  • Next time I’ll probably stay down near Sorrento and take day trips to Naples and the islands.
  • Pedestrians. There is a bit of an art to getting across streets in Naples.  If you think about what you’re attempting to do, you’ll probably freeze.  And you’ll be left standing on the curb until the next time they close the street for repaving (which will be right before Vesuvius blows again).  But if you kinda sense your way across the traffic, you’ll probably make it.  Even the buses will stop for you; once they’re sure you’re going to continue across.  Watch the experts.  I made one crossing that had intimidated me the first time (I took a one-block detour) by following in the wake of three men.  If you’ve got three guys, fairly well dressed, well past middle age, having a conversation in Italian, you’ve probably found survivors.  Cross with them.
  • Guys Hanging Around. At some point in your career, you get to a position where you just hang around the shop, or cafe, or whatever.
  • Heavy Coats. Temps were in the 70s.  I was wearing a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt and a GoreTex shell — unzipped unless it was really raining.  Neopolitans were wearing heavy coats and parkas.  It’s just warmer down there.  (For you citrus growers, lemon trees are seen growing in backyards — that should tell you about the normal range of minimum temperatures.)

As I mentioned earlier, I think that the bottom line is that everything you’ve heard about Naples, good and bad, is probably true — or almost true.

Nov 262004

Friday, 26th November. Naples via Munich. A flawless landing at Munich in VERY thick fog.  Aircraft only 200 yards away were just dim shadows.  Munich’s Terminal 2 is a long, airy, modern building.  All the Star Alliance carriers are here and plenty of shops.  Even the downstairs waiting area, where you wait for buses to take you out to the regional jets, doesn’t have that basement/cheap seats/afterthought feeling common to most airports.

Passport stamped and that’s the only time for the EU.

Air Dolomiti was pleasant (Canadair Regional Jet) with nice pastries served.  Munich was clear by the time we took off.  The Alps were spectacular, but there was cloud cover once we were in Italy.

At first glance, Naples appears to be everything anyone has ever said, good or bad.  The cab ride is — well — interesting.  This appears to be one of those cases where you hope every one is reading the same playbook.

Once I get to the hotel and start settling in, BBC World is running a story on TV about the rise in Camorra (mob) murders in Naples…eight in the last six days.  About 325 extra Carabinieri are in town, giving Naples the highest per capita police presence in Europe.  Quite something to see eight or ten cars heading, in high speed convoy, off to the scene of — something.  The special touch is the guy in the passenger seat waving the little red paddle to stop oncoming traffic.

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