An escape from Naples.. almost!

Posted by on 31, Mar 2023 in 2023 - Sicily and Italy, Europe, Italy, Tilly the Tandem

Typical small back road
Casserta Palace
A little rural escape
Beach day…
Roman aquaduct at Minturnae
Roman Villa and baths at Baiae
underground at Pozzuoli Amphitheatre
Hang on to yer hat!

The cycle up from Versuvius was what we’ve come to expect now from mainland Italy around Naples. Mad drivers and rubbish eveywhere. The main roads aren’t too bad, but if you’re lucky enough to find a small back road then it will be lined with rubbish. It really is a disgustingly filthy country around here.

So, what would have been a pleasant cycle was just another A to B whilst holding your nose on the back roads and clenching your buttocks on the main ones.

We’ve cycle toured in the north of Italy and really enjoyed it, so this must just be a southern Italy thing.

We arrived at Casserta to be greeted by a cycle path and enjoyed a brief traffic free cycle before it petered out near the Royal Palace which is what we came to see here.

It’s a Versailles style Palace with a 1000 rooms and is set in a location dominating the approach to the town.

We spent most of the day looking around and walking the gardens, before giving up walking the gardens and getting the bus to the waterfall at the top – we’ve done enough exercise I think!

The waterfalls come down the side of a steep hill and then gradually run down to the palace through a series of ornamental ponds set in gardens and it must have been magnificent when it was built.  Sadly now it’s just (as estate agents would say) laid to lawn and though still very impressive it’s not Versailles.

The place interior on the other hand is breath taking. Room after room of opulent splendor and a wonderful place to wander around, pretend you could have been king and then realise you’d actually be a servant working all hours and confied to the tiny rooms in the attic!

We’ve not really enjoyed the cycling in Italy after the first cycle out of Salerno, but the trip to the coast was a welcome change as we left the hellish Naples traffic behind and found small quiet roads to traverse.

We’d booked a couple of nights on the coast as we’ve decided we’ve had enough of Italian drivers and will bail out and head to Naples airport to escape, so have a bit of spare time.

Our day off was a leisurely one on a deserted beach, with plenty of rubbish naturally, and then a short cycle into the town for a crepe and cocktail along a lovely new cycle path. So new that part of it had white lines on a red surface, part had no lines and part had no red top. It was all fenced off with plastic tape which the impatient Italians had cut so we could all cycle on it, finished or not !!

Heading south back to Naples was another good day, we stopped off at yet another Roman site with a great Aquaduct and then headed through chalk and cheese areas. One area was so run down, crumbling houses, bad roads, few cars and obviously a ghetto for immigrants who waved and chatted to us in perfect English! The washing hung on lines and it wasn’t actually to rubbishy filled, but when you came to the edge of the ghetto people, who clearly didn’t live in that area, had driven there and dumped tonnes of rubbish everywhere…

Our road then reached the inevitable closed road, which one of the ghetto inhabitants helpfully stopped on his bike and told us to ignore – again in perfect English, which we did.. and had a great bridge all to ourselves. One side of the bridge looked like a war zone with the road broken up and half repaired, the other was new tarmac and a nice(ish) town. There was no sign of any work going on on the bridge though and judging by the vegetation growth, hadn’t been for a while. No prizes for guessing who lived on either sides.

Cumae was our morning stop, another Greek Roman town where we had planned to then cycle on to the largest Roman sistern in the empire after. However the traffic now we were back in Naples hinterland was back to normal for Naples madness and we chickened out.  Linda said we’d got this far alive and we should quit whilst we are ahead! So we stopped off at Baia, another Roman site with incredible baths carved into the hillside all the way down to the sea. It even had cycle parking (well, not the Roman bit) but naturally enough you couldnt use it as a car had parked there. Oh well, it’s the though lt that counts.

We then cycled past miles of private beach. You couldn’t actually get to the sea without paying to go to one of the beach clubs that lined mile afte mile. Some looked absolutely amazing places, more like Carribbean resorts than Italian beaches. Our hotel was about 2 km past these and by the time we arrived we’d returned to the falling down, under invested poor squalid town, with our very nice hotel stuck in the middle..

Pozzuoli was our final stop before Naples. We’d come here to see the Amphitheatre – the 2nd largest in the empire – and the underground city. Sadly the Amphitheatre was partly closed so we could only venture underground, but that in itself was quite extraordinary and perfectly preserved from Roman days. You could almost hear the lions growling and gladiators talking in the cells as you walked around it.

The Roman underground city, another Pozzuoli sight, is obviously underground and is a time capsule… You go under the medieval city and then walk the streets of the Roman town peering into the shops and house as you wander with the ceiling above supporting an ancient medieval city.  Another great tour, even though it was all in Italian.

We had been dreading our last cycle into Naples but it turned out to be ok. The wind was ferocious, so strong we got blown up the hills and for once in our favour. We made a brief stop at the Pozzouli stadium one of only 2 in the empire. Theres only a small part of the stand and the flat end of the stadium left now, but the maps gave you a great feel for it’s enormous size.

We raced into Naples, wind assisted, actually having to walk bits as we didn’t feel safe along the coast with the wind gusts, but it was great fun / terrifying (depending on who you asked) and arrived at our Naples pad for the next 5 days.

The owners wanted to charge us to park Tilly (bloomin cheek) so we decided to pack Tilly up on arrival and store her in our apartment instead… never paid for parking a bicycle and not starting now!

It was a quick walk to the nearest hardware store which was the size of a small kitchen to get 25m of bubble wrap and tape, where we had a fun time with Google translate and a lot of hand waving from the 3 Italian staff who somehow managed to all get behind the counter, finding out that if you wanted 25m of bubble wrap it was twice the cost of 50m!Anyway, our landlord is now the proud owner of our spare 25 m of bubble wrap.

We had already tried to get some bicycle boxes at bike shops but had been told that you won’t get them anywhere in Naples. Surprisingly this wasn’t because Italians preferred to drive into the countryside and fling them on the side of the road, but because they recycled them! . Yeah right… After Linda had applied the smelling salts to me and I’d come round, the bicycle shop continued to say that they used them to send bikes out, or I could buy them at 50 Euros each …! So we thought we’d forgo the 2 boxes we needed and just use our groundsheet and bubble wrap, which we do sometimes. But as fate would have it there was a load of cardboard boxes lying on the street next to our hotel. Imagine eh? Rubbish at the side of the road. What ever next! Actually I’m being a bit harsh here, we were adjacent to a motorbike shop and these were the boxes for their mopeds and we’re being left out to be collected for recycling / throwing at the side of the road on a fun family day out. Anyway, I asked the owner if I could have one and he said of course, or possibly something else entirely, but I smiled and carried one off. So Tillys nicely wrapped and packed and patiently waiting in our apartment while we spend our last few days on foot exploring Napoli…

One Comment

  1. This trip is still on the bucket list but not on a bike!! You two continue to amaze me xxx

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