Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Small Bit of Sightseeing

View from window of our classroom at Centro Italiano.
With class in downtown, it's the perfect opportunity to explore the museums, castles, and churches. I'm right there within walking distance of it all. But four hours of struggling to speak and understand a foreign language takes most of that day's brain power quota. Then add the thought of the commute home, and I've just not gone off exploring. One day last week, however, I made myself take some time. Naples has an underground most of Europe's larger cities, it's built on top of ancient cities. Dig down just about anywhere, and you'll hit some sort of sign of habitation from centuries ago. Even way out here in the country, this base must be built over some sort of old city or farm because our commissary and department store both have glass walkways on certain aisles providing a window onto the ruins below.
In the Exchange (base department store); We'd lived here three weeks, and I'd passed this aisle half a dozen times, before I looked down and saw this!
One of the sites I really wanted to see was Napoli Sotterranea - a tour of the underground city. Arriving at the site, I found the tour was still an hour away, and "it is not possible" (a favorite Italian phrase) to visit without taking the tour. Next door is the San Lorenzo Maggiore church, which has their own access to a subterranean site. While the San Lorenzo scavi (ruins) are listed in all the guidebooks, by all reports, it's closed to the public. Since I was there, I thought I'd just go see for myself. Off I headed to stand at the ticket booth. And there I stood, in front of a lighted booth with no one in it...and waited, and waited....watching other folks heading into the area, walking with purpose. I finally got tired of waiting and went through a nearby doorway, which opened onto a very pretty courtyard surrounded by a loggia on all sides. Discreet signs pointed the way to the scavi. Not too many people were about, so I followed the signs, walking down a corridor lined with old columns on their sides and statues, and eventually coming to a narrow staircase headed down and an open door at the bottom. Since I'd yet to run into anyone who challenged me or looked askance at my presence, I headed down...and into an amazing subterranean world. Since I hadn't actually paid for a ticket, I didn't have any information on what I was seeing with the exception of my limited Naples guidebook. That at least told me which parts were ruins of an old main street - a street of shops.
Main Street
 Even without information, it was wonderful to wander about on these old streets, walk into homes last inhabited centuries ago, and just imagine what the lives of those who came before must have been like. A friend commented several years ago that the older he gets, the more he realizes that people all over the world are the same, regardless of country, economic circumstance, religion, etc. People everywhere are just focused on their friends and families, raising their kids, getting together with friends, all the things that make up our daily lives. The women living in these houses of old were most likely thinking about what to make for dinner, heading to the shop to get some lamb or chicken, resewing a fastener onto their children's clothing, and taking time to chat with a neighbor. I love the opportunity to live in a place where history is so very present in the day to day. Rounding a corner can bring speeding cars and vespas, yet rounding another corner can put me face to face with a castle built 1000 years ago, and still another corner brings an exposed column set in place over 2000 years ago.

While I enjoyed my little side trip, I was brought back to crushing reality when I got to the train station, waited almost half an hour for a train, finally got to my stop in Aversa (the nearest town to the base accessible via train), and headed to the bus stop alone. Waiting at bus stops in the outer towns, especially alone, is just not pleasant for women. Even when with a friend, it's a constant barrage of honking, men coming up to talk, circling the road by the bus stop to stare, etc. Alone, at least one man stops to try to get you into his car. You may be getting the picture of where the working girls ply their trade, so apparently, no matter one's mode of dress or the fact that they're wearing a backpack, woman at a bus stop equals woman looking for some johns. My friend and I asked our teachers at school what a good Italian phrase is to communicate "get away from me," as we had problems even when we waited together, but they said it's a problem for all women at bus stops,  foreigners or not, and you just turn your head away. So I spent an enjoyable afternoon in Naples capped off with a not so lovely commute home. Plus, it meant Scully was in his crate for 10 hours.  I guess my days of afternoon exploring are over until we're living in our house.

1 comment:

  1. So even though it's a hassle to get around, and a constant risk of being harrassed, put it in perspective. You are probably traveling farther in one day then many of the inhabitants of those ancient cities traveled in a lifetime. Now think of your (young) lifetime travels. You are Marco Polo, Magellan, and Christopher Columbus... and then some!