The secret alleyways above via Toledo
Some while ago I wrote a story called Il Libro d’Amore set in Naples. When I wrote the story I had never visited the city and took my locations from studying maps and the feedback provided by my daughter. The trouble is, the maps did not show exactly how steep and tortuous some of the routes were in the maze of alleys north of Via Toledo, and my daughter is uniquely oblivious of her surroundings. Having now made my second visit to this wonderful city I decided I would wander these alleys and climb to Castel S. Elmo. If you google this, on the map produced you see a grid of narrow alleys and the castle north of them. What this does not show, unless you switch to Terrain view, is how precipitous these alleys are, and even then you don’t get the feel of the narrow and steep nature of these streets.
We passed the location of Nunellas restaurant – the most wonderful, mad, lunatic trattoria in Naples which we visited in December and plan to visit again before we leave, time permitting, but time is running out fast – and moved beyond, climbing, always climbing. As we moved deeper into the alleys I was reminded of my story. I could go back now and make it more realistic, but I have moved on and I think the story, despite its limitations, stands as it is without being changed. Shops and pizzerias give way to residential areas and the atmosphere becomes darker. The houses let directly onto the cobbled alleys and washing hangs outside, at least one scooter chained against each doorway. Today is Easter Sunday, and it seems the most popular way of spending the afternoon for the young is to zoom around on a scooter – always the man on front, the girlfriend behind. At one point we were almost run down by a scooter with a family of three perched on it. Papa sat on the pillion, Mamma behind, and steering and controlling the machine was a girl of no more than seven with a huge grin on her face. Proud Pappa sat behind her as she stood in the footwell, his arms crossed over his chest.
We became lost, as in my story turning into blind alleys until we were saved the first time by a middle aged man with hardly any voice recognizing us as tourists and directing us along to the next turning where we found steps leading up. And up. And up.
We made our sweating way to what we innocently believed was the summit. Deciding in which direction to turn we took the roadway heading slightly uphill and walked around piles of rotting rubbish until once more totally lost. An older man repairing an ancient scooter once more took pity on us innocents and directed us back two hundred meters where we once more found the route upward. Thus we proceeded, step by step up the hillside until sometime later, tired and slightly light headed arrived at the top of the rise.
From here the view of Napoli is outstanding and you can see across the entire bay to the towering presence of Vesuvius, the influence of which I have written of before and so will not dwell on again here.
We navigated around the Castle and made our way back down, down, down over another series of steps which led us almost directly back to the far end of Via Toledo. Alongside the steps we heard families celebrating their Easter lunch. Dogs and cats crossed our path. Young children leaned over balconies and waved and shouted “Ciao”, perhaps as perplexed and delighted by us as we were by them. On these endless steps we found a different Napoli. Gone was the constant roar of traffic, the buzz of scooters, the confusion of people. Instead the bay came in glimpses, ferries crossing to Ischia and Capri. The sun warmed the cobbles and we made our way slowly downwards, emerging eventually into the world we had left behind, having discovered yet another side to this magical city.
To see all of the pictures from today visit my Facebook page.