Ending up in Salerno was the straw that broke the camel’s back – after four months on the road I’m in urgent need of a travel buddy.
How did I end up in Salerno you ask?
Salerno is where you end up if you don’t get off the train like you’re supposed to in Naples.
In fairness to me, no-one ever came on the loud-speaker announcing our arrival in Naples.
No-one in my compartment moved.
And, it was a direct train from Rome to Naples, so I assumed everyone, like me, would be getting off.
I assumed wrong.
In the words of an old uni lecturer – assumption is the mother of all f$@*-ups.
So a few minutes later the train pulls out of Naples – with me still on it.
Although, I don’t actually click to what I’ve done until the train conductor comes on the loud speaker welcoming everyone to a five-hour journey to some place I’ve never heard of.
My eyes well up and I frantically go in search of a crew member to explain my predicament.
Salt in the wound, the dude laughs at me, as does everyone who overhears the conversation, but he kindly doesn’t make me pay for the journey to the next stop – Salerno – one hour and 55 kilometres out of Naples.
When I arrive in Salerno I buy another ticket back to Naples and wait at platform 3 for it to arrive.
Who knew there are two platform 3s.
I’m at the wrong one.
I miss another train.
The next one’s not for another hour so I skull two expressos, inhale a chocolate croissant and pass the time listening to the most over-the-top happy music on my iPod to try and stop myself from having a meltdown.
The good news is – an hour later I’m at the right platform 3. The bad news is – it’s rush hour and I’m wedged under the armpit of a homeless man with horrific BO and I’m pretty sure fleas, judging by the fact I’m slapping tiny bitey creatures off my arms.
I finally make it to Naples right on sunset – exactly what I was avoiding.
You see Naples isn’t the sort of place a solo female traveller goes wandering after dark.
It’s grubby, it’s chaotic, they advise you not to take your bag with you even in the daytime, you pay the mafia to park at carparks, and you’re never quite sure if the kids playing football in the street are just using it as a distraction to mug you.
But I strangely like Naples.
It’s more real than Rome, it’s lived in, it’s Italy at its rawest – and it’s the home of pizza.
So I spend the last slithers of daylight at a true Napoli pizza joint, before retiring to observe the city from the safety of my dorm room balcony.
But I don’t sleep.
At first I thought it was a riot.
Naples’ football team just won a match and to celebrate there’s a full-on Sunday night street party, complete with celebratory cars backfiring (or perhaps shotguns, it is Naples after all).
Add to that my morbid fear of rolling off my top bunk which is missing a railing, the old guy on the bottom bunk’s pur-like snore, the girl next to me having a nightmare (complete with random fits of screaming) and the fact I can’t seem to find my earplugs and what you end up with is one deliriously sleep-deprived Rachael.