PART 1: EARLY AFTERNOON, TRAIN FROM BRINDISI
I’m sitting on the high speed train heading to Naples from Brindisi. The first leg of the trip is from Brindisi to Caserta. I’m a little nervous about the transfer because we only have five minutes to get on the next train, with our heavy suitcases. This is the second time we’ve taken a train in Italy, and I’ve noticed that there are only stairs at the train stations. I have no idea how old people manage. From Caserta, we head to Naples (Napoli Centrale). [Update: there are wheelchair assist railings installed at Brindisi, but they move at a painfully slow pace. You’d have to allow at least 5 minutes to get up the stairs]
The total trip by train costs CAD $122 for both of us. The first leg that we are currently on is in first class, while the final hour from Caserta is in coach. I highly recommend paying for first class for longer journeys like this one. It’s a much more relaxing way to travel. You are assigned a seat, so you don’t have to be worried about not getting a seat, and as soon as you are settled in, someone comes around and offers you a complimentary beverage and snack. The seats are comfortable, and you have a table top. I’m not sure if this is true, but it seems like the first class car is more stable and you feel less motion?
So far, the trip has been smooth, with amazing views; however, I did sustain some motion sickness when we wandered over to the dining car in coach. It was very jerky in that car, and I started to feel not so good. I’m contemplating taking a Gravol before we reach Naples.
From Naples, we get onto the Circumvesuviana train to get to our final destination, Sorrento, which Juliette advised against. She was telling us that it is not pleasant to ride the Circumvesuviana, but it is certainly cheaper than hiring a driver. Gérald’s opinion was different. He agreed that it would be the easiest way to get to Sorrento. Taking the train costs €3.60 per person. Hiring a driver would likely cost around €80.
PART 2: EVENING, IN SORRENTO
Our train pulled into Caserta station late, meaning that we missed our connection; however, we ran into Mike from the BR trip. He had travelled on the same train as us, boarding at Bari, and was also heading for Naples. Together, the three of us went looking for the next train to Naples. The one great thing about this station is that there is actually an elevator! This made getting to the other platform so much easier. The next train arrived about 30 minutes later, but what was surprising was that it was a single compartment train. I’ve never seen that before. When it pulled into the station, hoards of people rushed to the doors. I wasn’t sure that we’d all fit.
Once on, I was certain it would be standing room only. The train was so hot (no air conditioning) and narrow. Behind me, even more people were trying to board, and someone asked me to move further in to the car. We moved right, into the seating area. The aisle was too narrow for me to pull my suitcase through. I had to drag it sideways – this is where a 4-wheel suitcase would come in handy. We went straight to the back of the car and luckily for us, there were two seats left; however, no space for our luggage. There was a separated room for first class passengers. That space was empty, so hubs moved my suitcase into that area. He reassured me that the only way out of that room was to jump out the back door. The ride was quite an experience. It’s hot, so people open all the windows causing it to be loud and windy. The curtain kept whipping me in the face, and my hair was blowing around as if I were in a convertible. The experience was completely the opposite of our civilized ride to Caserta.
The trip to Naples was just under an hour, and it was the end of the line. I’m so glad, because rushing to get off would have been a nightmare. It would have required clambering over people and making the people standing, clear out from the aisle. I have no idea where they would actually move to. We said our goodbyes to Mike on the platform, and went looking for our next train – the train that Juliette advised against. This is where the story gets….unpleasant.
Hubs purchased the tickets at the booth while I kept an eye on our luggage. He ran back telling me we had to hurry because we literally had only minutes, so we ran through the gates, down the stairs, and sprinted towards the train. Hubs was in front of me on the platform. The first door was completely jammed with people and we could not get in. He dashed for the next door, with me right behind. He jumped in and I followed, my heart racing. The door closed immediately after I got on.
It’s still very full, but we were on. Our suitcases are side-by-side, and I take off my backpack and put it on the floor, in between my legs. The train is moving and jostling us around. With one hand, I am holding on to one suitcase, and with the other, I’m hanging on to the railing on my right, next to the door. I did take note of my surroundings, which is habit from taking public transit for so long. There was a mother with her son in a stroller on my left, a little old lady on my right, my husband in front of me, group of female girls with suitcases behind him, and just other people with bags around him. There is nobody behind me because my back is against the door. Two young guys come from my right (in the seating area of the train) to where we are. My spidey senses sense they are a little weird, but whatever. Hubs sees them too, but he reacts differently to them. I think he wants to get out of their way because we are blocking the door.
I have spent a good chunk of my life taking public transit. I’m not saying that one needs to be as vigilant when riding the subways in Toronto, but one does develop a different attitude to rider conduct. I’m not a jerk, but I’m also less concerned about blocking a door on a moving train because on a moving train, nobody can get out anyway. I prefer to stay put and wait until the train comes to a stop. When the doors open, I have no problem stepping out of the train to let people out before getting back on. I think hubs is still part of the courteous and polite rider club. He asked me if there was any way I could move to my left, through to the seating area of the car. The aisle in that area was clear; however, getting to that place was impossible. I would have to get past the kid in the stroller and push through some people. I firmly said no. My expectation was that we’d stay put until we reached the next station, and we’d re-organize ourselves then. This is where everything got weird and awful.
Much to my surprise and confusion, hubs makes a quick move to his left (my right) with his backpack, and drops his bag down in the corner of the dividing wall between us and the seating area. He takes a giant step back to grab his suitcase to move it over, but the train jerked and it’s like watching this all in slow motion – hubs is falling backwards and he is trying to grab the large duffle up against the wall. I can’t remember if it was the guy behind him in the pink tank top, or one of the two weird characters that stepped behind hubs at the door that grabbed hold of him to help him stay up. I’m still standing in my original spot, trying to figure out why he moved in the first place. I was going to stay put, but he asks for my backpack and I pass it over to him. Now more confusion ensues when the two weird guys grab hold of my suitcase to help move it over. That part was ok, but what truly confused me was when they hoisted it up and over the duffle bag instead of just dragging it around the duffle because the suitcase is big and heavy. Hoisting it up is a weird and awkward move. So now those two guys, and Nelson, are lifting the suitcase. I’m just standing there with hubs’ suitcase watching this circus act, my thoughts still trying to figure out what is going on. As soon as everything has settled down, Nelson is patting down his pockets and he has a look of concern on his face. I ask him what is wrong and he said that his phone is gone. He immediately asks the guys that helped if they took his phone. They say no (but what else would they say?). He’s questioning them. They are speaking Italian to us. They empty their pockets. No phone. They get off at the next stop. Hubs thinks they swiped his phone when his arms were in the air to receive my suitcase.
In retrospect, I should have seen this coming. I’m not saying that hubs deserved to have his phone stolen, but that I’m not surprised that it happened. We had read that pick-pockets have mastered their trade by creating a lot of confusion and body contact, making it seem like they are helping you. In this particular case, they didn’t even have to do anything – hubs had already set the scene for them. They just had to play along. Hubs had helped them by creating the commotion. Even though his phone was in the cargo pocket, buttoned shut, the guys were able to swiftly get at it.
I did, and still do, feel really sad for hubs because I know he is upset by it. I write about it, but will never speak of it to him again, unless he wants to talk about it. He’s handling it better than I would. Had the tables been turned and my phone was stolen off me, I would be sad, mad, scared and I’d feel completely violated. For me, I’d just want to get on the first flight home. Hubs’ biggest concern was if his phone was locked, though my thinking and hopes are that these petty thieves want to phone to sell, not for the data.
Sorrento was the end of the line. When we got off, I was excited about the city. It was vibrant and bustling, but I couldn’t be truly happy because I could see and sense the distress in my husband’s face. It is heartbreaking, knowing that I cannot make it better for him.
We checked into our apartment, which is not nearly as nice as the one in Brindisi, but still good and more affordable than many of the hotels in this city. This is the first time on the trip that I’ve heard so much English, but this is a major tourist city. As soon as we were in our room, hubs set about wiping his phone, while I started to unpack for the both of us.
Once he was done, I picked a place for dinner, and we headed out. Our apartment, Sorrento Apartments, is centrally located, making it a perfect home base. The restaurant Porta Marina was down by the port (obviously). When we arrived around 8:45, they were full. They don’t take reservations, so we waited. We were seated within 15 minutes. It was worth the wait. The octopus salad and fresh pasta with seafood was delicious!
After dinner, we strolled a little, stopped for gelato, and we are now back at our place. Hubs needs some quiet time, and we have a walking food tour in the morning, so I want to ensure we are well rested.