Opera Buffa….

… defined as, ‘comic opera with characters drawn from everyday life’. The term originated in Naples where, I happily found myself magneteering for a few days last week.

My fondness for spaghetti Bolognese was indulged and to get into the swing of things, I rattled through Elena Ferrante’s, ‘My Brilliant Friend’ and ‘The Story of a New Name’, both of which determined me to visit the city if the opportunity arose – which it did at the end of our stint.

The centre of Naples is only 25 minutes by train from Arco Felice. You buy a ticket from the paper shop, validate it by sticking it in a time-stamp machine at the station then, off you go. I discovered that it’s best not to consult a timetable or ask anyone what time the next train will be – neither source is reliable; just turn up at the station – you won’t wait long.

There’s always plenty to look at, in fact the whole experience of being in Italy is just like I imagine a trip to the opera might be; drama, shouting, laughter, people rushing about, and all of it completely unintelligible but hugely entertaining.

Naples is stunning – probably for all the wrong reasons; crumbling, defaced, a bit grubby and reputedly dangerous but nevertheless the energy is palpable. Narrow streets fall away from the station at Montesanto and take you into the heart of the old city where street performers, hawkers, and the blare of car horns all vie for your attention.

I slipped into the Chiesa di San Giuseppe della Scalze a Pontecorvo, now host to occasional markets and exhibitions, to see 150 Italian paintings and sculptures dating from the 14th century to the present day – helpfully arranged chronologically. This Caravaggio was billed as the star of the show and it was a cracker but…

.. this view of Amalfi (I’ve stupidly mislaid my note of the artist’s name but the signature is visible when enlarged) was for me, ‘best of show’.

As I’ve remarked before, someone’s making a lot of money out of spray cans in Naples. I was in the city for only a few hours; enough to see the exhibition, have lunch and a refreshing beer (it was 28° and getting very humid) before I got back on the train and later clocked on to the night shift back in Arco Felice.

The bonus of being on the night shift is the daily spectacle of sunrise. Vesuvius and Capri melt in and out of view as the sea mists come and go; fishing boats start to potter about the bay and stray dogs appear on the beach to look for food left by people I never see but sometimes in the small hours, hear under the pier.

On my return home a week later, I had just enough time to complete one of the trolleys for the barrels on the lower shelf of the stillage in the cellar of my local pub – the idea works very well and saves a lot of struggling with a 70kg weight in a very small space.

Two days later I was back in Sweden where passion and deep emotion were less easily detected in the ordinary fare.

30°….

… is more than hot enough for me so, I was pleased to see that I was down for the night-shift and my unfortunate fellow Magneteer would, working in a plastic tent, have to suffer the full effect of the Italian sun. A balmy 20 -26° would see me through the night quite comfortably.

Load out

We were just round the corner from Naples in what seemed to be a slightly less salubrious suburb of Pozzuoli. This did nothing to detract from the fun of being in Italy again – my last trip was to Rome on one of Cook’s Tours – the scooters, the horns, the battered cars and general mayhem had changed only with the addition of mobile phones with which it seemed obligatory to engage whilst in charge of a vehicle.

Paint job

The local trains were a colourful sight – obviously a lot of money is spent on paint – and I was glad to be able to take pictures of railways, unencumbered by fences and threats of prosecution.

Railway

In my hotel room, with shutters continually closed to keep out both the heat and light during the day, I was obliged to shuffle around in the half-light. This Hughesian existence was relieved only at supper time when, on my way to start the night shift, I would stop at a local restaurant for something to see me through the next 12 hours.

Spaghetti

And then on to work as the sun set and the bitey things came out to play.

Arco Felice

There’s a particularly vicious type of mosquito, black in colour, which on the first night made a mess of my arms and legs. I’m not usually attacked by insects but I’d had the foresight to pack some cream to take away the temptation to scratch and make an even bigger mess.

Pier

The beach below the pier was probably the source of my persecutors as it was strewn with litter, stray dogs and the rotting remains of picnics. Nevertheless, every morning at about 7.00am, half a dozen or so elderly couples would drift down, carefully pick a spot to put their towels and breakfast and wade into the calm and clear waters of the bay as the rising sun turned Pozzuoli a pinky orange.

Pozzuoli

Quickly the dawn would turn into day; the view into the water below the pier would reveal hundreds of fish in shoals, darting here and there, the mozzies would disappear and I would be looking forward to my relief arriving.

Penne all'arrabbiata

The last time I ordered Penne all’Arrabbiata was in Amsterdam. It was disappointing (Mr Vadar and Mr Stevens would have had words) so I decided to try it out at source – so to speak. My order was prelude to a lot of shouting and arm-waving – I wondered if I’d upset someone – and then it went quiet (by Italian standards at least; there’s always someone shouting and arm-waving about something). A second uproar heralded the arrival of my food, carried from somewhere up the road by a hapless youngster who seemed to get it in the neck for some crime or other.

The Penne was superb but the lad didn’t deserve the 3rd degree.