My last morning in Naples became an illustration of the cultural gulf between me and my Neapolitan hosts. In my role as a genuine opera tragic, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see inside the Teatro San Carlo, Naples’ famous opera house, which pre-dates La Scala in Milan and has had a recent facelift. Although there were no performances during my visit (my preferred way to see inside an opera house), I did discover that there was the possibility of guided tours of the interior. The charming concierge at the hotel made a telephone enquiry for me, and assured me that there were indeed tours running “from 10 am until 7 pm” including in English. It seemed to me that there may be more detail to this, but I turned up at the Teatro at about 10.30 am to enquire about the next English tour. The large sign at the doorway proclaimed (in Italian and English) that the tours ran “in Italian and English”. Indeed they did, but not at the same time. The only English tour of the day was at 4 pm, and I had to be off before then. I opted to take the Italian tour at 11 am. At roughly 11.20 am the 11 am tour began, 4 or 5 of us, led by one of the young ladies at the desk who had discussed the matter with me. In English. However, not one word of English did she deign to direct my way during the whole proceedings. Indeed, she avoided my eye.
|See? Lots of boxes.|
|I managed coffee, at least.|
After my theatrical experience, I took myself across the piazza. It was thronged with motorbikes, a parade of people holding religious banners, and banners which seemed to be of people who had passed away (judging by some sobbing women). I have no idea what was going on. I headed in to a cafe named Gambrinus, which I had been told was an historic hang-out of celebrities. These would presumably be Neapolitan celebrities who would understand the system pertaining in an historic Napoli cafe, unlike yours truly. I did manage to order a coffee (probably the wrong kind for the time of day), but could not figure out how to get food. Figuring out how to pay was the most difficult bit of all. There was an elderly woman in a white frothy wig singing quaveringly down one end; near the front was a bar with the stand-up coffee drinking going on; and a pasticceria for take-away pastries (none of which seem to be extant in the sit-down dining room bit). Ah, well. I did spy a brass plaque on display, commemorating the occasion of the composition of ‘O sole mio’ by Giovanni Capurro and Eduardo di Capua, which apparently took place right in this very cafe.
It was time to move on. I had discussed the timetable for the ferries to Capri closely with the concierge gent at the hotel, and he assured me that the list of times he had given me was accurate, and I could simply buy a ticket at the terminal. I hefted my bags into a cab for the 5 minute ride down around the cape to the ferry terminus, a grubby and ill-run place where various companies vie for business. The ticket booths of most of these were shuttered and closed. Fetching up under a sign which said ‘Capri’ I asked for a ticket on the next boat, which according to my timetable should leave in about half an hour. For reasons which I will never know, the next boat was in fact due to leave in about two hour’s time. Encumbered as I was with bags, and having drained Naples to the lees (I felt), there was nothing to do but spend an uncomfortable two hours sitting on the steel back-less benches in the sun which were provided by the ferry companies for the comfort of their patrons.
|The hydrofoil that took me to Capri. Eventually.|
|The Hotel Quisiana reveals herself.|
|Capri sunset. Nice.|
Image of San Carlo interior from: