Hotel reviews, Naples, Bari, Matera, Rome

For once, I kept notes of our experiences in hotels.

Naples: Hotel Miramare.   A great experience, if a bit on the pricey side.  I could have gone with less expensive accommodations, but when arranging a room on the Internet in a city I don’t know and has a reputation for being–er–something of an adventure for tourists,  I wanted to go with something very reliable.  It was worth the price.  The hotel arranged for our ride from the airport (45 Euros and for the driver/guide to Pompeii (around $175 Euros, which did not include the actual guide at Pompeii (another $100 Euros, which is standard),  which I thought was fairly painful until I realized all we got for that–a ride in a comfortable car with a knowledgeable and intelligent guide who knew everything about Naples and Pompeii).  Everyone in the hotel earnestly listened to our bad Italian without judgment, most spoke at least basic English, and the room was clean, well appointed, and attractive.  The best part was the breakfast, however, server on a rooftop garden overlooking the Bay of Naples and Mt Vesuvius, with fresh pastries and excellent coffee and agreeable attendants. 

Bari: Hotel Boston.  Great location, nearby the old town and close to lots of shopping and restaurants, only a five minute ride from train station. Good, if unremarkable, breakfast, helpful clerks, and a manned bar/coffee bar where they let us hang out off and on during the rainy afternoon after we checked out.  Very modern.  Internet in the lobby.  Excellent enormous bathtub, which always gets big stars from me.

Matera: Hotel Sant’Angelo, a sassi hotel.  (The sassi are the caves carved into the soft rock of the mountains) the best of the lot, though it is a little quirky.  Our room felt like part of an ancient church, with aHotel_room_matera
big arch and windows letting in light from the front.  On the downside, the caves are soft rock, which means they shed a little bit and I had to brush off my black clothing once in awhile, and I did see a spider or two, but hardly worth mentioning.   The silence at night was deep and restful, the bells a delight in the morning, and the patios are wide and gracefully adorned with plants and sculptures.  One night, the moon was rising over the caves on the other side of the river, and I wrote and wrote and wrote (all of which was, sadly, lost when I lost the journal, but that’s life.  I remember the experience and the sketching and the plot points for the novel) on the patio outside my room.  The breakfast was excellent–I especially loved the pear juice and our server, already mentioned elsewhere here.

Rome:   Hotel Principessa Tea.  Supposedly a three star joint, and while it was in a good location, with helpful guides who spoke excellent English
and are obviously used to tourists, the breakfast was mediocre,Map2
only coffee from a cafeteria-style machine.  The bathroom was a pretty horrific bright pink, which I could have lived with, but the shower head did not attach to the wall, and electrical tape was wrapped unreassuringly around the cord to the blow dryer.  Also, if you are interested in such things, the bidet had no attached plumbing.  The room was a generous size for a European city hotel room, and there were plenty of windows for cross ventilation (which would be great in the high summer), and the beds were very comfortable.  Not bad, but again, the location was terrific.

Ah, I see on the site that the hotel is undergoing renovations, so perhaps all those niggling inconveniences will be addressed. With that and some real (brewed) coffee for breakfast, I would be quite happy with the

Hawkhurst.  Casa de la Gina.  Cozy.  Excellent breakfast, cooked to order.  Banoffee pudding for Sunday afternoon.  Built in tour guide.  <g>

Matera…the sweet yearnings of travel

Matera, last morning.  In the moment…..

In the moment, I am sitting in the sassi Hotel Sant’Angelo (which I chose because my grandmother used to spend much time in San Angelo, Texas).  Christopher Robin has had a relapse of the cold we both brought home from Indianapolis, and is half-sprawled on the leather couch opposite me, his eyes dull and red as he listens to a book on tape on his Ipod.  We are awaiting out ride to the Bari train station, one day early, because we decided to see about spending a day in Rome.  So, that is where we will go tonight and tomorrow, then fly to England on Tuesday afternoon.  No idea if I can access a computer from there. 

In the moment, there are two young women cleaning up the breakfast dishes, chatting in a low, musical river of Italian.  The bells are ringing again, urgently and energetically–ring ring, ring ring, ring ring, ring ring, ring ring.  Sometimes they ring for hours, but not at every hour.  It seems more to mark medieval day, the names of which I have forgotten, but Matins and Noon and Evening.   I kept worrying that I had no alarm without my cell phone, but the bells woke me at seven each morning. 

Last night, we walked home from the gala and I felt as if it was the last day of camp. I tried to press th
e sights and smells and soft crisp air into my memory–the worn slick granite streets beneathKing_of_the_dogs_matera our feet which made anything but walking sandals impossible, though I carried nicer shoes to events, the little pack of
pale, tan dogs guarding one turn on the road; the beacons of light shining on the hill of sassi.  The creepy cold quiet that spills from the abandoned, empty rooms still quite prevalent alongside the shops and apartments that have been redone.   I will post a little more history of the town when I bring my pictures, but for now, these are simply impressions.

As we walked last night, though the very busy Saturday night streets, I felt that sweet wistfulness of yearning equally for the powerful hug of my big son, and the fluffy feel of my dog’s neck and the quiet of my garden, but also that seductive idea of abandoning the career and the life and becoming that earnest ex-pat who stumbles into learning the language and figuring out the new hours and the possibilities that might present for work, for creativity…..

Of course, I am very rooted where I am.  It is just that pleasurable fantasy, the sweet longing of imagination.  I have felt I could live in Scotland and the west of Ireland and now the south of Italy in this small and ancient city with its blue, blue sky and agreeable population and fantastical sassi.

Tomorrow, Rome!

A little bit about Napoli

Greetings from Bari, on the east coast of Italy.   Writing this from an Internet cafe what is painted a warm pumpkin shade.  I am happy to discover most of the keyboard is the same–not always true.Naples_building

Bari is a rather tidy city after the madness of Naples.  We arrived here last night by train.  We spent four days in Napoli, which is a big, loud, arrogant and amazing city.  Crowded, intense, full of nepotism–it made me think of what Pueblo would be like if it were a million people and 2000 years old. 

Flags_naples_street On Sunday, we returned from Pompeii to see the archeological mu
seum, but it turned out that they didn’t
take credit cards so we had to walk back to the hotel, down a long, long hill crammed with people who were evidently on their way to Sunday dinner at Nonaàs house or maybe Mama’s.  Every person in Napoli must have been in those streets–mothers with strollers and high heels and bountiful cleavage, boys with tight button up shirts, girls walking five abreast in their sexiest clothes, all holding hands and giggling.   
Entire families on mopeds–mom, dad, two babies in between–and a river of small cars and mopeds and motorcycles clogging every lane and alley and street, honking, swerving, pushing through.  One learns to take a quick look but also just keep moving; astonishingly, we did not see a single fender bender or even any evidence of such, though parking does seem to net a few scrapes.  Our hotel was right on the bay, a block or so away from Castel Dell’Ovo, which is castle of the egg.   It is a giant, largely empty Norman castle that was practically deserted except for the brides, all dressed in their frothy yards of sequins and tulle and net and satin posing against the keep, at the doorway, on the turrets.   We saw a genuinely bizarre number of brides—I am not exaggerating when I put the number at twenty over the course of the day.   Maybe it is that way every Saturday, or perhaps it is lucky to marry on the 22 of September.  I don’t know.   

AnywNaples_streetay, when we walked back to the museum, the streets were utterly deserted.  Me. Neal, a couple of dogs and a few other tourists.  By the time we visited the museum (crowded with cruise ship passengers—1000 cruise ships stopped here last year, and they’re well on the way to breaking that number this year) and came back down, people were trickling out again. 
The breakfast patio of the hotel overlooked the bay to Vesuvius, which is an impressive mountain next to a smaller one.  Both blue in the distance, not quite as tall as Pikeàs Peak, but tall enough to show tree line.  Turned out that it is only one mountain—that middle part is what
was blown out in 79 AD.   
(I will write more of Pompeii, but it is a place a person should just see. There is no way to cut through all the things you’ve seen and heard about it to give you a fresh enough perspective.  It is enormous and astonishingly well preserved and haunting, with the mountain standing there in the background like a gruff troll.   
The people here are enchanting and engaging and delightful.  Our driver to Pompeii was called Mike, and he was nattily dHanging_out_with_the_guys_naplesressed in a suit and red tie, thick salt and pepper hair cut perfectly and brushed away from his very Italian face, a big nose and sharp chin and twinkling eyes.  We asked about guide.  He said over his shoulder.  °I know a guy.°  I laughed and nudged Neal, because in Pueblo the only way to really get things done is to know a guy, or have your neighbor know a guy who knows a guy.   Mike winked at me over his shoulder.  °We say here °guido.° he said  °guido.°   
And he was the one who drove us back through the parade to the museum and told us we should have something to eat because everything was about to close for the whole of Sunday afternoon, so everyone could go eat with their mamas.  Five courses, and really, you can’t give up the fried fish, he said.

I eased into being able to say a few things in Italian.  Not so shy as with French,  mainly because it’s so much easier and I can fake it by thinking first in Spanish.   Also, it’s just not as intimidating to speak to Italians as to the French.   (Though I had a melt down this morning—everything was all mixed up and I had to have a booksigning tonight and I got the time wrong, which meant we had a long delay and I couldn’t find the number for our ride to Matera, and…..and…..Little meltdown.   It turned out all right.  We scoped out the bookstore and Neal patted my shoulders and we found the cheerful, kind clerk instead of the mean one, and I got it all sorted out.  So now we’re at this cafe and I feel better connecting to the world in some wordy way.)

Food: pizza, of course.  Naples is known for pizza, so of course we ate some.  A lot, actually.  One had a divine tomato sauce, DIVINE, and just fresh leaves of basil scattered over it, and three cloves of roasted garlic.

Running out of time now.    More later……tonight we head to Matera.

PS I’m editing some of these blogs a little, to add art and clear up some of the typos from posting in internet cafes.  True to the spirit, if not the letter, of blogging.