Hills and Hawkers
Napoli is hilly. I kind of knew that from pictures, but Google maps lulls you into a false sense of security. To my knowledge, Google maps doesn’t have a topographical feature yet where you can see the hills, which seems a bit weird as Google knows everything about me so really it should know that I really do not like hills (didn’t you notice how many times I visited www.avoidhills.com ?).
We have got to the stage now where by we have worked out which metro station to get on in the morning (Salvator Rosa…all downhill) and the evening (Medaglie d’Ore, still a bit of a hill, but less so than at Salvator Rosa). What I have noticed a lot of here are electric bikes. At home, I feel that they haven’t really caught on (except for subscribers to avoidhills.com) and the Brompton folding bike appears to be the vehicle of choice. Here they are everywhere (particularly a fat tyred version). They do make complete sense, as you have all the benefits of cycling with that extra bit of oomph to get you up the hills.
We are staying at the top of the hill, with the main town being down at sea level. The other night when we got off the funicular, we had a little roam around the area. (By roam around, I mean “get lost looking for the Metro station”.) We discovered that the area of Vomero is beautiful and a totally different area to “down the hill”. If Toledo is Oxford Street; Vomero is Chiswick. If Toledo was a music style, it would be rap; Vomero would be jazz. If Toledo was a colour it would be neon pink whereas Vomero would be a tasteful pastel. You get the idea.
We now refer to going up or down the hill; “shall we eat up the hill tonight?” “Do we need to go down the hill for anything today” etc. There are 3 funiculars joining the upper and lower parts of the hill, but luckily it just seems to be locals who make use of them.
One thing that there are a lot of “down the hill” are hawkers. These are the guys who lay out their sheets with all their fake Gucci bags and flog them to unsuspecting tourists. When the police come, they just whip the sheets up and leg it with their bags in the sheet like a giant swag bag. When we were in Florence for our 10th wedding anniversary, we were eating in a restaurant (which generally what I find is the best thing to do in a restaurant). We were sat in the widow and we could see the hawkers selling their wares as we ate. Whenever the police came along, what followed was a game of cat and mouse, with the mouse being particularly agile and the cat being somewhat lethargic.
We saw the hawkers gather up their stuff into their sheets and dart down a side alley and then 15 seconds later a police car come along. As soon as they had passed the hawkers jumped out and continued trading. Billy Connolly once joked that the queen must think that whole world smells of fresh paint as there is usually a man just ahead of her painting everything ready for her visit. Well the Italian police must think they have the most hawker free streets in the world as they are never there when the patrol the streets. They must also never use their rear view mirrors, as if they did, they couldn’t miss what was going on behind them! We were really glad of this distraction whilst eating, as these days we have most of our meals sat in front of the telly, so it was like watching a real live boxed set.
The hawkers in Napoli seem to prefer the adapted shopping trolley to the sheet to make a quick getaway. Perhaps it is easier to get up the hills.