The Pilgrim

Titter Ye Not


Our plan for today was a trip out to Pompeii. But first some breakfast.

The food on offer at Hotel Esedra was basic but tasty enough. I had a tomato bruschetta and we both had a sweet pastry. The coffee was passable, which was lucky as Julie ended up with a large refill. "It wasn't my fault" she protested. "She asked me something and I said 'No', then her faced dropped, so I said 'Yes' then this cup appeared."

All in all breakfast was just about worth getting out of bed for. What was odd was the breakfast room only had one table. OK, it was large enough to sit eight people but it felt akward struggling to get the whole bruschetta into my mouth whilst being stared at by a complete stranger sitting directly opposite.

Sufficently fuelled on sugar and caffeine we made our way over to the train station. Even without the large CIRCUMVESUVIANA sign the ugly concrete building was easy enough to find down Corso Garibaldi.

It's strange, or perhaps it's only me, but I can't look at that name and not think about circumcision!?

With tickets bought for the next train out of there to Sorrento we had time for a short espresso stop before finding our graffiti strewn train waiting on platform 2.

The last coffee cup was probably one shot too many as I was beginning to jitterbug! Then again it could have been the adrenalin of excitement and the butterflies of anticipation.

Walking down the platform alongside the messy vandalised BerlinWall-esque train they looked really messy but every now and again a "vivid expression of disilliusionment" appeared. I mean, any idiot could spray paint "Piss Off" with an aerosol can but it took a modicum of talent to paint some of the colourful acid-trip artwork adorning some of these carriages.

We sat down and waited for the wagons to roll. 9:09am, right on time, we set off on our big day out.

I was expecting the train to be completely packed but it was quite a surprise to find that we almost had it to ourselves.

Two minutes later we came to a stop at Centrale Station where they must have been practicing the Disaster Evacuation Plan as a mass exodus of passengers decided to squeeze inside our carriage. Mind you, rattling down the tracks towards Vesuvius would not be the best escape route if the volcano erupted!

Whilst it was loud, hectic and rather stressful inside the carriage it made for a more entertaining "people watching" train ride. The best performance was when a mother came aboard, with two young "little rascals". I don't know what one said or did to deserve it but his mother pulled him up by the ear lobes, lifting him up to the top of his tip toes. Then in a well praticed swooping movement she released her grip and smacked him full across the face before his heels had returned to the floor, and then slapped him again for good luck.

Other than Vesuvius, the view outside the carriage wasn't that interesting. Although we were fascinated to see that all the available green space had been given over to the growing of the Rolls Royce of Tomatoes, the San Marzano. Thanks to the fertile volcanic slopes these tomatoes have an extra quality that is impossible to replicate elsewhere. In fact to be considered a true Neapolitan Pizza you should only ever use San Marzano tomatoes. Thankfully my local Tesco store has started stocking canned San Marzano!

In just under an hour we had reached the station of Pompeii Scavi (Villa dei Misteri). It was similar in size to a typical small village station, I expected something bigger for some reason.

Turning right we walked down the road past tourist stalls where we bought a guide to the Pompeii excavations. It came with a map and at €5 we thought it would be much cheaper than from the official gift shop.

One eye-catching stall had an abundance of citrus fruit and the Amalfi Lemons really stood out as being different to the average. They were obviously over-sized but apparently they also have a sweeter juice than normal sour lemons.

We walked through the entrance and up towards the ticket office. I was relieved and pleasantly surprised to see that the queue was only six or seven people deep. I had prepared myself today for an arduous day of queuing and shuffling along with the tour crowds.

I didn't know what to expect from Pompeii. I hadn't seen any photos so I couldn't begin to imagine what lay inside. What does a devastated city completly buried beneath six metres of volcanic ash almost exactly 1928 years ago actually look like?

24th August 79AD was the day Vesuvius blew and Pompeii expired. I'll only have to live until I'm 112 years old to see the 2000 anniversary celebrations !!

As we walked up towards the city walls I was getting increasingly excited with every step. Our self-guided tour, aided by our cheap guide book began as we walked in through the gates of Porta Marina.

It was a dark and narrow passageway leading steeply upwards and as we emerged into the light we saw on the left what remained (I assume) of a house. "Is that it?" I asked myself, "Just some stone walls?"

Then to the right of us stood a massive partition built from a diagonally laid clay brick. We stepped through a gap in this wall and entered the Basillica. "That's more like it!"

Of course there's not much of it left but what remained was incredible. I tried to visualise what the whole structure must have looked like but it was difficult. One thing for sure it must have been huge and to think that it dated back to the 2nd century BC.

We left through the Basillica's original entrance which led us down into the Civil Forum. This great wide open space was historically the centre of the city. Not geographically but this is where it would all happen.

There were many routes leading out from here. The typically straight Via dell'Abbondanza sending you all the way downtown, or Via Broadway towards the theatre district. We decided to turn left, towards Vesuvius.

With the volcano looming large is wasn't difficult to imagine the violent eruption with its huge cloud billowing out like a runaway steamtrain and the super heated debris raining down from the sky, smothering the entire city.

There must have been sheer pandemonium on these streets.

An intriguing glimpse into how some of the citizens faced their demise can be seen in a building alongside the forum. Archeologist discovered peculiar cavities in the ground. These cavities were the final resting place of the vicitm's bodies, entombed by ash and locked in time.

In a macarbe jelly mould process, filling them with plaster of paris they could recreate figures of the dead.

One lay prone, flat on his back, probably overcome by noxious gases before being engulfed in ash, another poor soul can be seen curled up as if praying, or shitting himself.

I could almost hear him call "Woe, Woe and thrice Woe! "

In 79AD the typical Roman would have prayed to any one of a multitude of gods, some from within their own traditions or others from Greek, or even Egyptian mythology.

Just off the forum was a temple dedicated to Apollo, the son of Zeus, the most quintessential Greek god of all. It's strange how the Romans adopted Apollo as one of their own but then again the Greeks had colonised this part of Italy centuries earlier.

Inside the temple it was amazing to see bronze statues striking their pose (although I think this one had lost his bow and arrow?!)

It certainly created a more vivid atmosphere to the ruins.

After being suitably impressed by Apollo the Archer we made our way towards the far North West corner of the site, aiming for the House of Mysteries.

Along the route we strolled through an area filled with brick ovens, the largest and most industrious looking were in a house imaginatively entitled the House of the Bakery. These serious two milenia old ovens made my little brick oven at home look like a toy.

Anyway, after refering to our cheap map we decided that the House of Mysteries would remain just that ... a mystery as it felt an awfully long way away and in the wrong direction.

(I later learn that this is probably a Pompeii "must-see" and regret not making the effort!)

Instead we turned down Vico di Mercurio, a main thoroughfare cutting through parallel smaller streets. Much of the 163 acre site was laid out in a grid fashion. There weren't many bends in these roads!

All of a sudden a strange sensation of familiarity hit me as I turned left up the nearly identically named Via Mercurio. I felt as if I was coming home?

I told myself "Don't be such a flipping cretin" and snapped out of it but I must admit it was a really strong déjà vu feeling!

Spooky eh?

At the end of this street was the House of Apollo. They believe that it was the home of a humble merchant by the name of Colinius Maximus or something like that.

It was very quiet down here and we had the place to ourselves (briefly).

The best features were the frescoes in the entrance to the back garden. The portrait in the circle was exceptionally enigmatic and I was mesmerized by it for quite some time.

Perhaps I was trying to discover a slight family resemblence!

The garden was a nice peaceful surprise where we sat down in the shade for a while watching a few people come and peer inside what the cheap guidebook called a bedroom and then go.

It was great to take some time out. We'd hardly covered a tenth of the city but we were already feeling the pace.

Eventually we returned to the main street and made our way down to the corner of Vicolo dei Vetti where a crowd was gathering.

They were all huddled around a gated entrance, locked to keep out the rabble. Naturally, curiosity got the better of me and I joined in the scrum working my way to the front. A plaque by the door said that this was the House of Vetti and it was closed for renovations.

As everybody peered inside hoping to catch a glimpse of something, I too pressed my nose up against the grill. This property was palatial in comparisson to the previous house. I didn't expect to see anything so complete here in Pompeii. The entire structure was in good repair, this was no ruin. The roof was still intact, the columns still holding strong, the ornate sky light still letting the sun shine on the atrium rain-basin. I didn't have to imagine what it would have looked like two thousand years ago, it was all there in front me.

Despite being impressed by what I saw I actually missed the whole point of the crowds excitement! I did see a fresco tucked up high on the right but I didn't really take a good look at it.

It was only later when looking at the photograph did I realise that I had taken part in a Pompeii peep show! How did I miss the famous fresco of "He Who Is Hung Like a Donkey" (aka Priapus), one of Pompeii's most recognisable erotic art.

Another Pompeii "must-see" we didn't quite see!

I was kind of disappointed that I didn't pick up another déjà vu feeling of having posed for a painting!

We soon met the main street of Via Stabiana that cuts this ancient city in half and we followed it down hill from North to South.

The road itself was a marvel of engineering; smoothly paved, with two grooves to guide the carts safely on their journey. Every now and again three large stepping stones were laid across the middle.

We could only guess that they were indeed stepping stones to cross the road when the streets flooded or speed bumps to slow down the boy racers in their supped-up chariots!

At the crossroads with Pompeii's other main street, the East to West traversing Via dell'Abbondanza, we heared a comotion from inside a building on the corner.

The echoing voices came from within the male changing rooms of the Stabian Thermal Baths so we went to have a look to see what everyone was getting excited about. In the centre of the room, in glass boxes, lay two contorted bodies spectacularly captured in plaster. Unlike the ones near the Forum we could get right up close to these two. The detail was quite unnerving.

We have the Neaopolitan archaeologist Guiseppe Fiorelli to thank for these ghostly death masks. It was his stroke of genius that realised the voids in the earth were formed by the decomposed bodies but I'm sure even he didn't expect them to be so perfectly detailed.

Being on the main strip meant this was a popular tourist stop but we gave them the slip as we ventured further than the herd. At the back of the baths we wandered down a dark and damp hallway that led to many small rooms which had the eerie ambience of prison cells.

It really wasn't pleasant. Unsurprisingly we later learned that these were the latrines. No wonder we were the only fools there! The rest of the Stabian baths were quite interesting with rooms that were for frigidariums, tepidariums and calidariums (cold/warm/hot baths). It's amazing to think that two thousand years ago they had hot and cold running water.

Moving on, stepping back out onto the road we noticed that the traffic was getting a lot busier. In fact we nearly got run over by a Japanese tourist juggernaut. So instead of getting caught in the congestion we took a right at the crossroads and continued our journey southwards along Via Stabiana.

Our progress soon came to an abrupt stop however as a road block diverted us up Vicolo del Menandro which, as luck would have it, was where we stumbled across the impressive House of Menander.

This was some consolation for the House of Vetti disappointment. It was on a similar scale and was in excellent condition. You could almost imagine someone still living here!

It's called the House of Menander because of several frescoes of a Greek poet by that name. There were also fascinating paintings still in situ depicting scenes from the Trojan War!

More or less directly opposite was the House of Ceii. We entered through a narrow doorway found it to be quite dark inside. It was also a much smaller house than Menander's magnificent mansion. It didn't have an atrium allowing in natural light but it had one treasure worthy of a visit.

At the back we saw an exceptional fresco that reminded me of a cave drawing! It acted as a back drop to the garden as the entire wall had been given over to a hunting scene.

It was sadly deteriorating quite badly.

Before long we rejoined the busy High Street and shuffled along with the hordes.

This section seemed to be the shopping district where numerous stalls would have lined the streets. One such place that caught the attention (because of it's theatrical fresco) was the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus.

It was basically a Roman cafe. The holes on the counter would have had hot charcoal inside to heat up the food or drink.

"So ... it's a sort of McCaeser's then?" said Julie!

We then slid into a silly phase of uncontrollable tittering.

"I'll have a Bigus Maximus please" titter titter

It was a shame that Vetutius wasn't serving food today as our brains were lacking some essential nutrients!

In the heat of the midday sun we may have seemed to be deliriously wandering without purpose, staggering about laughing like drunkards on hot mead, but we actually knew exactly where we were going. (Or at least I did. Julie always puts her faith in me.)

Aiming for the Amphitheatre, we consulted our cheap guidebook map and took a right off the main drag down Vicolo dei Fuggiaschi and then a left down Via di Castricio.

The first major structure we came across was the impressively vast area of the Large Gymnasium.

This is where athletes would have excerised and honed their skills for Olympic style competition. It even had a large swimming pool in its middle.

Unfortunately the gate was locked so I couldn't show Julie my mastery of the egg 'n spoon.

The physical exertion of walking around Pompeii was hard work, and with perfect timing we came across a tree trunk neatly cut into a park bench for weary tourists. We sat here in the shade, in view of the arches of the amphitheatre and shared a delicious panini we had bought earlier from a stall just outside the main entrance.

It was surprisingly quiet down here? Had we out run the tour groups?

Maybe they all stop for lunch and squeeze into the only cafetria on the site, near the forum?

Whatever the reason for our seclusion, we enjoyed a really relaxing quarter of an hour sitting on our log, sharing a our tasty roasted vegetable focaccia.

With our blood sugars back to normal we moved on to the Amphitheatre. Walking in through the north entrance I was a little surprised how much of an incline there was down to the amphitheatre's floor. There must have been a drop of 30ft from ground level to pitch level.

Stepping out into the bowl was a tremendous feeling. I could almost hear the roar of the 20,000 capacity crowd all chanting my name. "Colinius, Colinius!" as I carefully placed my duck egg onto my gladitorial spoon and prepared to do battle.

The playing field had two exits/entrances, one north and one south, both wide enough for chariots to race down, or wild beasts to be unleashed into the mix.

From our cheap guidebook I read that Nero closed down this amphitheatre for over 3 years after Pompeii played host to a rival "team" of gladiators from Nuceria. A brawl between opposing fans escalated into a full scale riot. Not too disimilar to modern day Italian football then!

Things haven't changed much in the design of a stadium either. I suppose you can't really change much. Built by the architect firm of Valgus and Porcius (as declared on a tablet at the South entrance) this design allowed for thousands of people to enter and leave efficently and safely.

A vaulted crypt below the lower tier was the exit for most of the spectators in the front row seats.

Those in the cheap seats left using the external staircases.

We left the amphitheatre through the south exit and back up to ground level passing along the way a small room that would have been the mortuary.

Once outside we sat down again, on another log, to plan an alternative route back the forum. One of Pompeii's other "must-see" is the Garden of the Fugitives. Here the plaster cast Pompeiians are at their most graphic. The images of their bodies have been placed where they were found. Women sheltering their children, arms outstretched in protection against the apocolypse. The anguish on their faces visible and real.

However; in keeping with today's theme the Garden of the Fugitives became another unseen Pompeii "must see". Our route was blocked by orange tape and a "do not cross" sign. They must have been working on something. Never the mind .... at least on our next visit we shall have plenty of things to see !

Unperturbed we made our way back the same way we came, stopping at the House of the Ship Europa. Having a large port meant that Pompeii was an important city along the trading routes of Europe.

There was a cartoon-like mosaic in one room showing rowing boats similar to gondolas. In fact I read somewhere that some believe the port area of Pompeii would have resembled the canals of Venice!

In the centre of the House a single olive tree stood in the garden.

In another room an attractive olive press stood, almost as if it were an art installation!

We returned to Via dell'Abbondanza and followed it to the crossroads with Via Stabiana, at the Thermal Baths. Turning south we aimed for one area we had yet to see, the theatre district.

Just before arrived we got a little confused by our cheap guidebook. We walked inside this building whose plaque outside listed it as number 47, which according to our book was The Brothel.

It didn't look like a brothel but what do I know? The only experience of one I've ever had is watching "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" ! So we strolled about suitably unimpressed. Not a strumpet in sight!

Taking a closer look at our map however, (listed as number 55), we realised that we were actually in the Temple of Isis.

Once again this was an example of Romans adopting a foreign belief as Isis was an Egyptian deity. Apparently there was a crypt beneath the temple where a basin would have contained the sacred water of the Nile. How fascinating.

Our purposeful striding was begning to wane and so Julie took the opportunity to sit in the shade of some tall trees near the Doric Temple.

I galantly carried on, (I suppose I did eat more of the panini) taking in a quick view over the Large Theatre and the Gladiator Barracks. From this vantage point I could see how vast an area this ancient city covered. I also noticed a tall white building which wasn't on my cheap map?

I joined Julie and rested for a while before moving on.

We stood up and walked wearily up Via di Teatri, over the familiar Abbondanza touristbahn, then up Vicolo dei Lupanare. The name Lupanare roughly translated means the lair of the she-wolf and was a clue to what we were about to see. Right on a bend (the first we'd seen!) there was a huge crowd of excitable people all trying to squeeze through this narrow doorway. We had found the Brothel.

We were quickly swallowed by the mob, being pushed and shoved towards the small entrance and after the mini-trauma of being seprated amidst the throng we eventually both stepped inside one of Pompeii's most notorious buildings.

"Ah, so this is what a brothel looks like!"

It was a very small dark room, made smaller by the twenty sweaty people inside. Up on the left hand side, adorning the walls, were small frescoes of sexual acts that apparently would have been the speciality of the "lady" in the little cubicle opposite.

I use the term "lady" loosely for several reasons; one being the mascuiline appearance of one shown straddling the other.

The beds in the paitings look large and luxurious but the reality was very different. Each cubicle had more resemblence to a stone feeding trough than a comfortable bed.

There were only three cubicles here and a door that led upstairs. We didn't go up the stairs; being the lemmings that we are we just shuffled along, following the person in front until we were dumped outside onto the street. With hindsight we should have gone upstairs as we read afterwards that it's even more elaborately painted Pompeii porn!

This wasn't the only brothel in town. There would have been dozens of them set up to service the needs of a thriving Roman port. This was however the largest purpose built brothel in the city.

Walking around the bend we then turned up another narrow street called Vicolo Storto which also curved to the left. This one didn't lead us astray though, taking us instead past the House of the Faun on Via della Fortuna.

In its heyday it would have been the largest and most luxurious house in Pompeii. Many of this treasures have been removed, such as a large floor mosaic of a battle scene between Alexander the Great and Darius; and kept in the safety of the National Archaeglogical Museum in Naples.

Greeting us as we entered the open-air ruins of this house was a dancing faun. The original bronze statue of course was also in the museum but this replica made plenty of an impact.

We walked around the remainder of this huge house and its garden. It actually covered a whole block to itself!

We had now thoroughly exhausted ourselves and so decided to find the air-conditioned cafe near the forum by the Thermal Baths. It was practically just around the corner and it was such a welcome relief to step inside.

It was very popular (as we expected) but not unbearably busy. We weren't that hungry, all we wanted was to top up our fluidse and take the weight off our feet for a while. A glass of ice cold water was dispensed but after seeing someone tucking into a mozzarella (boccinico) & tomato salad I simply couldn't resist and thought to myself "mmmm ... I'll have some of that!"

It turned out to be the tastiest milkiest little balls of cheese I'd ever eaten. Perhaps I was slightly sun stroked as well.


Upstairs, there was a roof top terrace, (without any seating?) where the views were fantastic. We could see Vesuvius over the roof tiles of neighbouring buildings, to the south we overlooked the forum, and to the east all of Pompeii was laid out in front of us.

We only came up for a piss but ended up standing there for well over five minutes!

So that was that. We'd only been here four hours but had seen most of what Pompeii had to offer, (except for those notable "can't see must-sees"). So it was now 2pm; time to leave and make our way back to Naples.

We left through the forum, past the basilica but instead of leaving the way we entered, through Porta Marina, we were directed to leave through the Temple of Venus.

It may once have been the location of a majestic temple to the goddes but today it was just a series of trenches; an abandoned archeological dig. We didn't even stop to look at anything. I don't think we missed much however.

Once down the steps it felt quite strange leaving the ancient world behind and stepping out onto tarmac. We even forgot that in the modern world cars do drive on the roads as we almost got run over by a Fiat Uno.

By the time we'd walked back up the hill towards the station we were beginning to feel a little peckish so we decided to try the food at Bar Sgambati, a cafe very near the train station.

We ordered a pizza margerita to share. At €6 it was the most expensive yet and yes, it was the least enjoyable. It was as if it had been reheated in a microwave.

The cheese had melted into a sauce of superheated molten lava and the overpinged base was far too chewy. At least the tasty tomato sauce was its saving grace. 5/10 scored.

Whilst the food was below standard it was a pleasant setting, with a runner bean canopy providing shade from the sun. We made the most of it and spent a relaxing hour people watching, having a beer, a coffee, reading, writting, eating a shit pizza.

As we got up to pay the extortionate €15.50 plus 10% service charge we heard a train pulling into the station.

We made a run for it, rummaging in my pockets for the return tickets to shove in the yellow validating box and then scrambling down the steps to a subway beneath the tracks and to the other side.

When we emerged on the platform we just caught the train's tail end disappearing towards Naples. Nevermind.

That sudden rush of excitement went straight to our legs and we had to find a bench quickly. We sat and waited for the next train to arrive. Over half an hour later one eventually turned up.

In the original plan for today we had thought of visiting the smaller, lesser-known but in many ways better preserved victim of the Vesuvius eruption, the archeological site of Herculaneum. When the train rolled into Ercolano we stayed firmly in our seats. Suffering ancient ruin fatigue neither one of us could muster up the energy for another hour or two plodding around more roman remains.

Our only focus was our hotel bed and a well-earned siesta.

It was only 4:15pm when we arrived back in Naples but we were absloutely knackered. We walked the shortest route possible back to our hotel, walking through Porta somewhere ? through the market stalls.

We stopped for a can of lemonade at what appeared to be a cash and carry shop but we couldn't get out of there quick enough. I'd never felt so intimidated buying groceries before! They had some "heavies" on the door, protecting the "godfather" inside, who sat at his desk collecting our €1.

Our insticnt told us that they were definetly up to no good so we "ran for our lives" in the style of an Olympic walker, not daring to look back.

Back in the safety of our room we quickly showered off the dirt of the day. Our feet in particular were filthy dirty. There was enough rich vesuvius soil between our toes to grow the best toma- toes!

Our heads hit the pillows and we didn't wake up until two hours later!

It was such a great feeling. Rejuvinated we bounded out into the evening, making our way over to Piazza Bellini without the aid of a map. It was also without the aid of a street lamp! The evening had turned dark but the municipal lights weren't switched on. A cost saving excercise no doubt. We followed the familiar route along the Spaccanapoli which we probably could have done blind folded and then continued on until we reached Via Toledo which had its lights switched on.

Turning right we reached the wide open space of Piazza Dante and then aimed for the top corner to walk through Port Alba.

Now if we thought it was dark before, this path beneath the arch of Port Alba was ridiculous! It was pitch black, total darkness. We may as well have been blindfolded; we wouldn't have gained an advantage if we weren't.

On the other side of this void the tempting siren of "where all the trendy people hang-out" Piazza Bellini was luring us to walk through this valley of death. We linked arms, took a deep breath and stepped out into the unknown. A dozen steps in and we were doing well. Another dozen and we were half way through. We could see a faint light on the other side of this street. Then all of a sudden lurking in a doorway some way behind us an angry slurring voice blurted out something. We quickened our pace as if we'd just heared the starter pistol of a three-legged race. Two dozen rapid steps later we had reached the exit arch and scurried our way towards the dimly lit cafe bars up to the left.

"Jesus Christ, I almost shat myself" I admitted to Julie.

"I think I have!" she replied, catching her breath.

We sat down at Bar Molina to recover with a bowl of peanuts and a strong shot of alcohol! I enjoyed the special treat of a Perroni Gran Riserva and Julie relived her Northern Thailand experience with a Gin Fizz cocktail. We reminisced briefly about riding elephants and sighed longingly whilst dreaming about Phi Phi.

The drinks were too expensive to stay here all night and they didn't have much of a food menu either, only bar snacks like bruschetta di pomodorino (which of course we had tried and they were delicious). So we had a dilema. Were we to stay here, go hungry, and blow our budget on a couple of rounds of cocktails or face our fears down the haunted Port Alba and find a proper restaurant.

After a long day marching around Pompeii we were a little more than hungry, so fuelled with a little alcohol induced courage we got up and walked down to the black hole of Naples. On our return leg we linked arms as before and strode with purpose. I talked out aloud reciting from memory like a tour guide of what I knew about a famous pizzeria on this street.

"Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples is widely regarded as the world's first pizzeria. They started producing pizzas for peddlers in 1738 but expanded to a pizza restaurant with chairs and tables in 1830, and still serve pizza from the same premises today, except of course in August when it is bloody shut !!"

By the time I'd finished my sentence we could see the lights of Piazza Dante and we were safe!

To celebrate our new found bravery we aimed for the first restaurant we saw. It was on the corner of the square. We didn't like the look of it so we aimed for the second restaurant we saw! It was literally next door, called '53' and looked extremely popular.

All the tables outside were taken but as luck would have it one group were just leaving as we arrived. We slotted in nicely and started perusing the menu. Julie went straight to the fish section as I kept on turning pages getting increasingly frantic as I got towards the end. "What? No Pizza !??!"

"We could leave if you like ?" offered Julie.

"No, no, it's OK, it's fine, I'm fine, I'll be fine ... really, no really" I replied unconvincingly.

Looking around the other tables the food did look very good and there was plenty of other choices for the akward vegetarian so I was OK, and we stayed.

All of a sudden, in a flash this waiter whizzed in, spun around and tried to extract a rapid order from us. As we were ordering he was either clicking his fingers or waving his hand in that "wind it up" motion. My instinctive reaction to such behaviour is passive resistance i.e. do quite the opposite. So as I s-l-o-w-l-y turned the pages and eventually ordered Melanzane Parmiggiano he bounced up and down like he needed the toilet, waving his arms in frustration, and saying "Finito, finito". He must have been on his 100th cup of coffee or something because he was seriously on the edge. Anyway, he finally got our order and flew off inside, shouting orders at other waiters. "Do this, do that, tuck your shirt in"

Our food was a little less frantic arriving but no less chaotic. In fact it came in dribs and drabs. First came a big ball of Buffalo Mozzarella which was absolutely glorious. We shared, wishing we'd ordered two! Then I had an interestingly sounding dish of Spaghetti Omlette arrive. It was exactly as described, an egg omlette mix, poured over cooked pasta, and then fried. I was actually looking forward to it but then noticed pieces of dead pig in it so I couldn't touch it. I slid the plate to the side and hid it under a napkin as I didn't want to complain to our highly strung waiter!

Next came Julie's fries. Just her fries, as if they were a course unto themselves. We had ordered Mozzarella in Carozza as well, but we never got to see them. Some ten minutes later the waiter swooped in with Julie's swordfish and a turd on a plate for me.

"Wooagh ... that's not mine!" I don't know what the hell it was but I certainly didn't order it.

He huffed, spun on his heels, and raced inside to probably to slap some one!

I did manage to get an order in for a main dish of Spaghetti aglio e olio. Which arrived ten minutes after Julie had finished eating. Despite all of this terrible service the food was actually quite tasty. Julie rated the flavour of tonight's fish as the best so far and my bowl of pasta was perfect, plain, simple and delicious.

We paid the incredibly inexpensive €24 bill and left in a hurry before they realised that they'd forgotten something, like charge the €8 bottle of wine and the €5 pasta dish!

With a spring in our step at the thought of getting something for nothing we made our way back down the dimly lit (but at least it was now lit) Spaccanapoli, the spine of Naples. It was again filled with the now familiar faces of the old lady sitting alone outside a church??, simply watching the world go by, the little rascals kicking their football for fame and glory and a whole family playing card games down Vico Fugurari. It was all quite theatrical and one we've not experienced in any other city.

All the way down the spine there was only one thing occuying my thoughts ... Pizza! Could I let the evening slip away without having eaten one? Will I have failed my self-imposed challenge?

I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to wimp out just because I'd already eaten three courses.

"Aren't you full?"

"Hey, there's always room for pizza!"

So, as we reached the end of the spine we saw Trianon da Ciro, a well respected pizzeria.

I was so happy to find it open!

Being able to eat here was quite exciting for me because I finally got to cross a pizzeria from off my Top 5 must-eat-in list. (Da Michelle, Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba, Trianon da Ciro, Brandi, Sorbillo)

Stepping inside the first thing you see is the oven, aglow with the burning wood. Then the smell envelopes you like a soothing warm blanket.

The tables and chairs are simple yet effective. You can sit on the chairs and eat off the table. That's all they need to do. No pretentions here.

The walls are a bright yellow wash with one side covered in black and white photographs showing the heritage of this place. Established in 1923 by the Leone family it had plenty of history. It was named after an old theatre called Trianon where artists like Toto, Nino Taranto and Macario once acted.

The other two walls both had a large mirror facing each other, which produce an amazing "infinity" optical illusion. The reflection of a reflection of a reflection was recaptured until it disappeared up it's own black hole.

This reminded me of my parent's bathroom. It had two large opposing mirror that produced this effect and I'd spend many a happy hour looking at thousands of reducing reflections of myself!

I could make myself look like Vishnu with a hundred arms, or if I moved about a bit I'd look like a futuristic music video. Much to Julie's relief I didn't give her a demonstration!

Anyway, back to the pizza.

I decided to go for the lighter option of a Pizza Marinara. Despite sonding a bit fishy the Marinara does not have any sea food on it. It is actually the simplest form of pizza available. Just the flatbread with a tomato topping.

When it arrived my task became more challenging because it was very large. Whilst probably being a 14" base and not the more conventional 12" it was quite surprising the difference two inches made. (Titter Ye Not Missus !)

My first bite however made me realise that to eat this pizza was going to be an absolute joy!

The pizza dough alone would have been a treat. It was light, perfectly thin in the middle, great crust at the edge and a wondeful taste that was almost similar to pancake! Then dressed in an intense flavour of simple tomato sauce with garlic, a few basil leaves, and then an oregano infused olive oil liberally drizzled in the centre, it was astonishingly tasty.

A score of 8/10. Easily the best so far!

Hopefully we'll have time to return to Trianon before we leave to try their Margertia or even something more fanciful like artichokes!

Having washed all fourteen round inches down with a half bottle of vino rosso I was now ready for bed and fortunately Hotel Esedra was less than a minutes walk away.

Next day >>>  

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