Introduction to the journey – Napoli Sorrento
When we talk about Napoli, and by extension of its intricate province, part of the collective imagination tends to associate that name, that sound, with a chaotic, vibrant, irrational microcosm, made of millennial history and culture, smells and tastes that are unmatched and full of people which acts with that unmistakable musical language that is Neapolitan.
Another part, let’s say a large part of the Italian media system, tends to associate it first of all with blood and camorra, open-air rubbish and an allegedly ineffectual, if not criminal nature of the Neapolitan, now a creative thief, now a lazy thief, now a lazy worker , now “romantic mandoliner” who lives in the air.
The air is good and fills, you know.
The truth is that Naples is lights and shadows, neoclassicism and baroque, holy and sulfur water, fallen capital, misery and nobility. Few other cities in the world can boast such a nuanced imaginary, so full of meanings, images and contradictions that they cannot be fully understood only with words.
We must be there, in those streets, among those people, in that vital and creative chaos: in other words, we must travel.
And here comes the beauty: the Circumvesuviana, for friends only “Vesuviana”: a snake of cold metal like many others, more or less intact, more or less (less) clean, more or less (less than) on time, more or less (more), thanks to which the Neapolitan people, commuters and tourists, net of budget cuts, can connect with his heart and discover the beauty of their places.
You will say: it’s just a train. No, never been so far from the truth.
The truth is that taking the Vesuviana is a way of life, an experience of a formative life that not even the young Holden has faced. How many runs at breakneck speed because the next one would arrive after 40 minutes (hello Bolt!); how many friendly discussions to keep a standing place near the exit so hard conquered (other than Bismarck’s diplomacy! and with the summer heat you are ready to join the foreign Legion); how many explanations to tourists, obviously with gestures (are they looking for new Chaplins?); how many fleeing to the first signs of a controller (blessed spider senses!).
And above all, how many strange types! To the point that sometimes I had the impression of being in the old city sung by De André. Or in Silent Hill, it depends on the station (someone shouted Via del Monte?).
In my past as a commuter-university student, for example, I remember a guy who told me he had special blood, I think with particular antibodies, and that many doctors were paying him to analyze it. At this point I sought salvation in music, but nothing, the gentleman was convinced that it was fundamental for me to know the conclusion. Or I remember when another gentleman was interested in my notes on the Dogon, asking me questions that even to the actual exam.
Actually, I believe in this, from the strangest chat to the simple observation of time, lies the beauty of the Vesuviana: in a way where everyone is in a hurry, you can listen and learn to listen, and you realize that everyone has a story to tell, or rather it dies from the desire to tell, and that the Vesuviana, for the modest sum of 1.60 € (Portici-Naples) opens you a world of strangeness, solitude and empathy. With the Vesuviana you travel twice: the first among the people, the second in search of the extraordinary beauties of Naples and its province.
And our journey starts right here, from the center of everything, from the stop.
Spotted ‘Vesuviana – E.P.