We got it into our head to cruise into Naples to grab some pizza before heading down to the hillside town of Amalfi down the coast. Disregarding the advice of friends and family and the explicit words of the Lonely Planet guide, “forget driving in town unless you have a death wish,” we took our chances.
I took the wheel at the rental car agency in Naples assuming that my morning crucible that included navigating my way across Milan at rush hour in order to make the flight to Naples was more than enough to handle a surgical strike.
We immediately got on the highway going the wrong direction which led us to a circuitous route that meant we would traverse most of Napoli on the urban streets.
I am not sure that I can state this emphatically enough. Driving in Naples is pure insanity. By comparison: left turns in LA, a joke; Manhattan, a fun ride; Paris, a whirl. When the car that was behind me as I approached a roundabout skidded out to my left and my mind confirmed that the three scooters that just passed in front of me were headed the wrong way around the roundabout, I realized that I was in over my head.
Survival was akin to playing a fully attentive and intense video game. There was so much going on in the periphery: scooters, dogs, pedestrians all behaving uncharacteristically that I eventually decided to abandon fear and opt for the “when in Rome” (no pun intended) strategy figuring that aggressive behavior seemed to be rewarded.
The crowning moment was traversing a major square near the train station that amounted to a glorified U-turn only I missed the appropriate lane to turn right before stopping at the one light that people apparently paid attention to. I glanced right determined to make a flagrant cut across a few lanes and a curb if need be. My stomach sank as a city bus sidled up on my right. Damn! Craning my head up above and to my right, my eyes met those of the Neopolitan bus driver. He seemed to sense my angst as he flashed a wry grin and proceeded to give me, wait for it…a wag of the finger!
On some level, the wag made me feel accepted by this grimy, gritty urban jungle. He pushed forward and I made my absurdly illegal maneuver because, quite frankly, I could (and I can’t imagine that traffic violations are a priority).
We located the pizza place (Da Michele on a side street off Corso Umberto), double parked (f* it), and had some pizza that was hella tasty. But more importantly, very satisfying.
You want to drive in Naples? Don’t. Anyone out there looking for a good idea for a video game? “Urban Challenge” — a full scale driving game in the world’s biggest cities. I can see it now, “I am going Naples, and you know what, I am going to do it UK Style, on the left, baby!”
[tags]italy, naples, pizza[/tags]