See Naples and Cry
As we progressed through Campania, suddenly everyone wanted to speak to us about what we're doing. People in bakeries, markets, petrol stations and even motorbikes stopped at lights would cheerily ask where we're from, how far we'd come and where we're headed. Our initial response of Scotland would inevitably wow them...then they'd say "you've cycled all the way from Scotland" and we'd explain we'd flown to Lisbon and cycled from there - at which point they'd deflate somewhat, then even more so if they found out about the car to Genoa. IT'S STILL OVER 2000km YOU KNOW! AAARGH.
As we neared Naples, the traffic inevitably started to build up until we were navigating on the hoof through narrow streets with cars parked, double parked and semi-parked on both sides. Rust-bucket cars flew at us from all sides, as often as not in reverse. Car doors flung open into our path on cobbled streets while Neapolitans exercised their god-given right to beep their way through the smallest of gaps. The sheer number of cars carrying scars, bumps and dents paid tribute to the demolition derby that is life on the streets of Naples. It's a dog-eat-dog-world out there (or as D discovered, dog-eat-bike, when accelerating with a mongrel clamped to her right rear pannier). Rome was a doddle compared to this. In Naples, the only rule is "there are no rules".
Naples itself is a bit rundown but full of energy with plenty of "streetlife". Its image is hardly helped though by the huge piles of rotting garbage spilling out of every alley. We like to think that this was just the result of the (6 month long) binman strike but the fact that we'd spent the last 2 days cycling through countryside where every junction had its own town's-worth of broken fridges, mouldy mattresses and festering nappies just suggests more of a laissez-faire approach to waste-disposal.
We wouldn't go so far as to recommend Naples but it certainly has its own character and the pizzas are fantastic - must be all that buffalo mozzarella.
It also makes a great base for visiting some of Italy's archeological sites. We took a day trip on the Circumvesuviana to Pompeii where the ruins, although another tourist cliche, are well worth the visit. The eruption of the volcano in 79AD mostly flattened the town but also preserved it under thick layers of ash and pumice. What strikes you most about this site is its size -this was no village but a wealthy town of up to 20,000 people with richly-frescoed villas, shops and wide avenues centred around a large forum. The size of the amazingly well-preserved amphitheatre indicates just how big a town this was and makes you appreciate the volcano's power. With Vesuvius looming (and still smoking) in the background, it's easy to imagine the terror of the last minutes when the residents must have known they were about to be engulfed but had too little time to flee.
Day 64.4km (Total 2009.8km)