The Best and Worst of Naples

SEPT. 18 - NAPLES - Naples is a cacophony of sensations, an assault on all five senses at once. Imagine putting a heavy metal CD into a stereo, cranking the volume up to 10, and then turning it on in the middle of a song, and you'll get some idea of what we experienced when we stepped out of the train station. In the rest of Italy, there are many pedestrian tunnels, crosswalks and streets closed to automobile traffic. In Naples, the streets, alleys, crosswalks, curbs, even the sidewalks all belong to the drivers -- and they use every inch of them.

As we walked away from the station in search of our hotel, we couldn't discern a pedestrian way across the busy piazza, nor even a pattern within the chaotic mass of traffic. We finally decided to just "go for it," leap-frogging from island to island. Halfway across, Michelle turned around at the sound of a honk, and saw a car barrelling toward her. She jumped out of the way just in time, and we finally made it safely to the other side of the piazza. We cursed our stupidity, thinking we had ventured across a way where pedestrians were forbidden -- till we looked back and realized we had been in a crosswalk, and the car had been careening the wrong way down a one-way street!

My memory of the rest of the walk to our hotel -- which turned out to be 15 blocks away -- is a hazy nightmare of Fiats and mopeds coming at us from all directions (on and off the sidewalk). We've taken taxis everywhere since then (for the first time this trip).

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