Following our afternoon by the pool we had a night on the town. The nearest local town is Castellammari, a seaside resort, which has a cable car running up to the cliff tops and buses to Pompeii. The Marina shuttle bus did arrive on the hour, eight o’clock in our case. We drove around the bay away from Naples through the remains of old heavy industry in otherwise derelict streets, then we joined the traffic queue into town. Nicolette the driver dropped us in the central square and offered us another of her cards. She told us to phone when we wanted to go back and she would pick us up from the same place about ten minutes later. The function of the cards became immediately obvious. She would always be at the marina on the hour and would ferry in whoever was there and pick up anyone waiting as she dropped off. If no one was waiting at the marina, she would only come into town when called. When called she operated a free taxi service. Off she drove and we stood to catch our bearings, bewildered by the level of activity.
It was Tuesday night and the place was humming. Cars and motorcycles streamed round the square where we stood, the pavements were teaming with people also on the move. There were no obvious places to settle. We followed the stream headed for the sea. People were promenading along some old tram tracks that ran just in from the sea front. From the relaxed attitudes of the strollers we assumed the trams no longer ran on them. Along the way were benches packed with older people talking. Stall holders were arranging trinkets and jewelry on tables set at intervals long the route, there were a few tables stacked with holdalls presumably full of similar wares just waiting in the open for the owner to arrive and set them out. After a while we turned and walked the other way and came to a splendid wrought iron bandstand, incredibly tall and ornate, in front of a line of grand old buildings. The platform inside was fenced off because the floor was broken, with skewed pieces of masonry set at angles. Presumably the domed roof was also unsafe. Young people sat on the steps leading up to the bandstand chatting. We turned towards the mountains and struck out to find the cable car, assuming the area around about might have bars and restaurants. We were reminded of Matlock Bath. We had a look in at a Japanese restaurant where mainly Italian staff lounged in a big empty place. As we passed the open kitchen door we glanced in to see lots of Japanese cooks with black and red bandanas tied round their heads working furiously amid clouds of steam.
Once more we turned back to the main square. Our mission on coming out had been to explore, find somewhere to eat and also to locate a supermarket. I spotted a woman of my age with an empty shopping trolley heading down a street we had not explored. I suggested to John that we should follow her. He was busy with his phone, but agreed and off we set. She was walking slowly, chatting away on her own phone. John was proving rather inept at tailing, having difficulties with the elementary principle of staying behind the subject. On occasion he looked likely to take out the subject completely, by walking through her, though I admit he did a good job of seeming intent on his phone. Then he disappeared down an alley to our left, just as our mark picked up speed and turned right. Frustrated I followed John, to discover he had actually been intent of his phone, trying to find a seafood restaurant with good reviews. The Blue Mari has tables spilling out onto the cobbles under green umbrellas. It is all very Lady and the Tramp, though we chose the seafood rather than the offerings from the land. The food was really good and the young staff very eager and pleasant. We plan to bring the girls when we come back in September. Although there was not much on the menu for vegetarians, we felt sure they would be keen to make something. Just across the street was a pizza bar, which also looked worth trying. There were only a couple of tables outside, but the pizzas looked great and a steady stream of takeaway customers testified they tasted pretty good too.
After our meal we headed back to the square, moving faster than the traffic. We overtook a man with two small children travelling on a moped; the smaller child in front and the older one hanging on round his back. Neither child was wearing a helmet. Back in the square we called Nicolette, who said she would be with us in ten minutes. We stood by a tree next to the pedestrian crossing where she had dropped us watching the river of traffic swirl past. Many of the motorcyclists weaving in and out the stuttering cars were bare headed. A group of youths pulled over next to us and sat chatting on their assembled bikes, blocking an entire lane of traffic, with the largest bike stuck out across part of the crossing and its owner stood back from it so the others could better appreciate its size and beauty. The cars just threaded their way past them, no looks, no horns. A middle-aged couple helping a disabled man passed us and guided him into a car parked up to the other side of the crossing. The woman climbed into the driver’s seat, the man went round the back, regarded the large bike, looked for a moment as though he was about to pick it up and move it, but then turned and stepped into the back seat. We watched as they reversed slowly out, coming perilously close to the motorcycle. The youth paused in his conversation to look steadily at the car, but made no attempt to shift the bike back. Then the car was away in the stream, which opened and closed seamlessly around it. This left an awkward space for Nicolette to pull into. She arrived shortly after and simply stopped on the crossing, blocking the road completely. We scrambled on board, with another girl, who appeared from nowhere. She and I wrestled with the sliding door and we were off into the flow and back to the marina.