Magic World, frantic calls to Anna, and how we got out of Napoli alive …

I am not a navigator. I have no sense of direction, but I can drive stick shift (most of the time – I only let the car die out three times from Rome to Napoli), I know Rome and I know how to drive towards Napoli … but Napoli? Forget it!  Several times during our ride I told Kalei and Kuʻulei, “This is not going on our blog.” But then I thought I would deprive you folks of a good laugh. So here is our surrealistic trip …

I only knew one way to get on the freeway to head towards Napoli, but when we finally got to the cut off after driving through Roman traffic, we were redirected right back to where we had rented the car (See Kuʻulei’s post about that segment of our journey). Anyway, finally we were on the freeway, but it was 11:30 a.m. by that time and we still had a ways to go. I wanted to show the girls a few picturesque towns along the way, but traffic continued to be horrible and we by-passed all but one, Sperlonga. Sperlonga is predominately pedestrian town built on a hill off a pali and has lovely narrow winding streets and a fantastic view of the sea. Unfortunately, we had no time to explore the actual town, because we wanted to be sure to make the ferry for Capri. We had neglected to check online for the ferry schedule, so we were a little nervous. However, we stopped in the piazza at the bottom of Sperlonga and took some pictures.From there we continued along the coast. The weather was changing quickly and storm clouds, which Kalei tells me are puoa. I immediately began worrying about the ferry crossing.

SperlongaSperlonga sea

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After driving for another hour we are somewhat near Napoli and I decide that I need to stop and get an expresso at a rest stop before tackling the traffic in Napoli, which Italians have always told me is horrendous. Oh by the way, even though I was wearing my glasses to drive, the prescription is two-years old and at the speed we were going (100-120 kilometers per hour), the signs and turn offs would arrive too quickly for me to figure out which way to go, so Kalei and Kuʻulei were my eyes. Therefore, when I IMG_1044IMG_1060thought I saw the correct turnoff for the rest stop (area servizi in Italian), I didn’t bother to ask the girls and made a sharp turn off the freeway right in front of the rest stop. Only the road didn’t lead us to it, but just behind it. What happened next was “Outer Limits” and “Twilight Zone” material.  I quickly realized that the turn off I took was for someplace called Magic World. Magic World was an eerie four ride amusement park. The rides looked rusted and the paint was peeling off. For some reason it looked like it could be a parallel universe where you blink your eyes and open them to find the rides filled with screaming people a la Edward Munch’s “The Scream.” Then you would blink your eyes again and they would be gone. That is the kind of feeling we got the moment we drove past this place. We drove very slowly because the road from Magic World led into a small decrepit town and everyone we saw looked angry. I had no idea how to get back on the freeway, which was only one block away! It had vanished. We nervously joked about the weirdness. When I saw two small statues of what seemed like greyhounds, one of which was missing its back, with only an iron back bone remaining, I said, “You know, what if when we drive past those two statues slowly turn their heads to watch us pass?” Shortly afterwards we saw three golden retrievers lying side-by-side on a door step and they watched us slowly drive by. Now you have to understand that this town was dark. It was as if as soon as we had turned off the highway, the light had been sucked out of the day (See Kalei’s post for her impression of Magic World).

Finally we made it out of Magic Town (that was its actual name, by the way) and I stopped at a gas station and got directions to get back on the freeway for Napoli. Once we were back on the freeway, I realized that I had no idea which turnoff was the right one to reach the ferry. I called Anna (Anna, my dear friend and owner of the Il Corallo restaurant and whom I have mentioned in other posts as being from Napoli) for advice, which she gave me. She told me to take Napoli centro cut off, to take off all our jewelry, to never ever leave anything in the car and roll up our windows and lock the car doors.

Gee. She was confirming everything I had ever heard about Napoli, but which I had hoped was an exaggeration. Were we ever going to make it out of there?

There is something you folks need to know about driving on the freeways in Italy. There is a fast lane. And there is a fast lane. There is no slow lane. When people want you to get out of the way they drive right up on your car, just a few meters away and stick to you until you change lanes so they can pass you. Tunnels are scary. Right after a particularly long and dark tunnel there was my cut off, which of course I missed. I take another cut off and we find ourselves in Napoli, in the heart of the city, but on a hill. We figure no problem, we just go down towards the sea. We lock the doors and quietly freak out. Driving in Napoli is a TRIP! Omg, it is like playing chicken. After a while we relax. We see well-dressed youngsters and adults strolling the streets with shopping bags and a few tourists with camera’s around their necks. Thanks to my seeing-eye travel sisters who can read the road signs, we manage to finally find the harbor and the ferries for Capri. More about that portion of our trip tomorrow …