Napoli has a great metro system. Actually let me rephrase that; Napoli has a metro system. It consists of 2 lines and various funiculars (all of which I will have travelled on before we leave. That’s a promise). The only problem is trying to buy a ticket to travel on them.
We have a metro stop about 10 mins walk from us, down the hill (Napoli is very hilly, but more of that another day). Napoli is also quite arty, in a grimy graffiti kind of way. As we turned into the street where the station was located, we stopped and looked at what appeared to be a church spire in the street in front of a huge mural. We then walked up he street to find the Metro. We saw the sign and the building itself resembled a modern church. We walked in and tried to buy a ticket. Two machines were out of order and the third seemed to be for something completely different. Luckily there were 3 men in a little kiosk and after a bit of gesturing one of them came out to see us.
“Can we buy a ticket please?”
Of course, I had forgotten about the all encompassing Tabacs. For those of you who have never come across them, let me explain. The name comes from tobacco, but they are much more than a British Tobacconist. Yes they sell tobacco and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, but that is just a fraction of their services. You want a drink? Many have bars. You want a lottery ticket, no problems. You want to fax someone? They still seem very proud of this service, so if you need to fax someone in the 1980’s to tell them about the British Gas share offer, you know where to go. They are like all the more interesting parts of a corner shop, without the overpriced washing powder. I tend to call then Tabacs as I first discovered these places of wonder on a French school trip. Tabacs were also the place to buy flick knives. Now knife crime was hardly prevalent in the early 80’s in Ormskirk, but it showed you how hard you were if you had the guts to go in and buy them. Needless to say I didn’t even have the guts to buy a flick comb, never mind a flick knife. One lad did but bottled it and threw it overboard off the ferry in case he got caught at customs. Ah the be 12 and foolish again.
Anyway, back to the story, Tabacs also sell transport tickets, so we headed over and bought 2 tickets and returned to the station. We then descended down 3 sets of escalators to arrive at the other entrance…which was was the spire thing was that we had first seen at the bottom of the road 20 minutes earlier! So we had effectively walked up a steep hill and then come down it on an escalator. Good start.
We had been trying to research what was the best ticket to buy for our time here. That is a full time job, there are three-day museum cards which give you free access to 3 museums on days ending a y plus free transport, others that give you access to the metro for a single journey, 90 minutes, all day or a week and others that give you all this and also buses, trams and the ability to commandeer a man and his donkey if there is an r in the month and he just happens to be called Giuseppe. (The man that is. The donkey can be called anything.) All very confusing.
We went to the tourist information who gave us an idiot’s guide and we concluded that we thought that we needed the TIC weekly ticket. The only problem is that we then couldn’t find anyone to sell us this ticket. The Tabacs all failed us until they told us that we had to got to the central station. I was confident we could walk it in 20 minutes. I was wrong. I hadn’t taken into account it was now nearly 6:00 pm and the temperature was still in the high 20’s. We eventually arrived, tired and about 2 pounds lighter due to sweating so much. That had been the easy part.
As we approached the man in his booth we noticed the “no cards” sign. We had read in the guide book that they didn’t accept credit cards so much, so we did what any right minded English person would do and ignored it and said “of course they will take cards at the places where we will be visiting”. Yep, we are idiots. Well actually, not so much. I paid for a €6 pizza in a back street pizzeria with a card, but it would appear that I couldn’t use one to buy a a train ticket that costs three times the price from a corporation. I asked the man if we could use a card at another window.
“Upstairs” he replied
“I can pay with a card upstairs?”
“No. ATM upstairs”
Ok, I wasn’t going to win this one. We were going to have to break into the Euros. I passed my idiot list to him and pointed to the €16 ticket.
“7 days” (he even held up 7 fingers to stress the point)
Let me guess, I have to go to the Tabac. When we arrived at his window we were his only clients. Now there was a queue of 8 people. The lady behind us decided to take things into her own hands. There was a bit of Italian spoken, she looked at our idiot sheet and launched into an explanation. Luckily I had the foresight to move away from the window to let other people get served before us.
She stared by saying “My English isn’t very good” and then spoke for a good 10 minutes in perfect English to us. “Napoli is very disorganised….”. She then began explaining about there being 2 different operators, the fact that he couldn’t sell us a ticket for the other operator, the fact that some tickets where just for Napoli and some where for the whole region. Also, we didn’t want to buy a weekly ticket. You know that scene in Star Wars “these are not the droids you are looking for”? It was like that. She was right, we did the maths and we didn’t need a weekly ticket.
We thanked her and we each went our separate ways. The only problem now was that we still had to buy a ticket to get us home and we really did not want to go back to Mr No, even though in the time that it had taken the lady to explain, the queue had dispersed and a man was now sweeping up. We wandered around a bit wondering what to do, and then as if by magic, a Tabac appeared.