Italy marks country number 14 and I may be speaking for myself but I am currently experiencing a severe culture shock. English is not widely spoken (it wasn’t in Finland, either), the four-hour breaks in the middle of the day are NOT a joke, and the laws of driving, walking and living are merely suggestion. Here’s a list of observations after 24 hours that have been doubly frustrating for us, so hopefully you come away from this read more enlightened with a better chance of enjoying your time.
It’s extremely difficult to find someone that is willing to speak English out the gate. It seems that most people want you to fail at Italian so they can get a good laugh before they attempt to help you. Once you sit down, it’s a 1 euro fee (per person) to occupy the space. At a higher end restaurant, this can be up to 2 euro. It seems through experience that you’re expected to know what you like to eat straight away, and order drinks and food at once. At one restaurant, we were told to reuse our water glasses for the wine because it’s “tradition” to drink wine and water from the same glass (Can anyone actually confirm this?).
Once you order, expect to never see your waiter again. American expectations of hospitality: How are you doing? Do you need anything else? How is the food/ drink? are completely absent. Let me say it again. You will not have a waiter come by and ask you if you need anything else. EVER. I read in an Italian culture blog that their perspective is to leave you alone until you need something; however, this is only really effective if you can actually find a waiter to flag down.
You eat, you drink. Every restaurant we’ve visited sets bread on the table. If you eat the bread, it’s another charge of 1 euro per person.
Then you receive the check. There was a bill yesterday that literally read: Pizza, 50. Pizza, 8. The total was 58 euros. Every restaurant must provide an itemization of what you ordered. Demand it if they don’t. In our case, we asked for it because all we wanted to see is that the waiter understood our order. Turns out he was right, but I was charged an additional 2.5 euro because I wanted my chicken grilled, not fried. 😦
Activities and Things to Do
Sunday: Only a few restaurants open after 2pm. Some stores open. Not much. I was told bars started opening up after 8pm. Supermarkets and grocery stores also closed on Sunday. If you want to do anything in Naples, don’t arrive on a Sunday.
Monday: Actually, don’t arrive on a Monday, either. Apparently there’s NOTHING open on Monday. If you want to visit the Naples National Archaeological Museum, it’s closed. Want to check out the Bourbon Tunnel? Closed. Want to understand the history of the Catacombe di San Gennaro? Closed. Want to unfold the history of LAES – La Napoli Sotteranea? Color me surprised – that’s closed as well. Turns out that reviews on TripAdvisor are useless if you plan on visiting anything of merit on a Monday.
Tuesday: If you’re dead-set on taking a day-tour to Pompeii, Herculaneum, or Mount Vesuvius, odds are you’ve checked out the tours offered by Viator. Turns out they run tours every day except for Tuesday. That’s the day we wanted to go. Need to go to Pompeii, Herculaneum or Vesuvius anyway? Your best bet is to rent a car from the Napoli train station and hope for the best while you drive yourself. Haven’t done this yet – will report on it after 9th September.
**NOTE** Booking tickets to Pompeii online so you can go it on your own? You can only do so if you have an Italian address and an Italian equivalent of a social security number. Not Italian? Sucks to be you (and us) – you’ll be lining up at Pompeii to get your ticket at the door.**
Wednesday – Saturday: All I can say is that from about 12:00pm – 4:00pm, it’s slim pickings for food, cappucino, or a glass of wine. We’ve been here for nearly a week and still haven’t adapted to the 4 hour absence of food that isn’t gelato or espresso or pizza.
Our Airbnb has been good to us so far. Space is so limited here that there isn’t even a place to put a clothes drying rack on the balcony. You have to let it fly freely in the space away from your balcony. No big, right? Until one of your clothing items falls down to the concrete overhang on the ground floor. No worries, says Mark, I’ll go get it. So he walks down to the ground floor, braces himself against the CONCRETE OF THE OVERHANG, and guess what? The concrete holding up the building actually COLLAPSES. It collapses. Are you kidding me? Not to mention Mark free-falls 7 feet and now has a lovely bleeding gash about 2 inches across. Also, if the place has an elevator be prepared for world’s smallest. It fits two people and two carry-on bags. That’s it.
Drivers in both scooters and cars will run you off the road. They run the show. Pedestrian right of way? That’s funny! Smokers (of real cigars and cigarettes) abound and they have no problem letting you know about it on the exhale. Train rides, unlike Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Finland, Brussels, the Czech Republic, or France, are ridden with conversation and children yelling and running up and down the aisles of the train. If the quiet, near-silence on the trains in other parts of Europe gives you anxiety, don’t worry, because that quiet won’t exist here.
NOTE: There was also a protest today. Apparently the Napoli mayor is really sticking it to the Prime Minister. It was a peaceful demonstration that lasted about 6 hours with some rhetoric sprinkled in.
That’s Naples after 24 hours. Tomorrow we’re picking up a car and driving ourselves to Pompeii. Taking adventure to an entire new level.