I hadn’t given much thought as to how I would get to Sant’Agnello. Getting to Naples was enough. Once I was there, I knew that Sant’Agnello was only about 25 miles further to travel. Arriving in Naples, I discovered that Sant’Agnello was the penultimate stop of the Circumvesuviana railway in the direction of Sorrento––good––and that the day I arrived was a festival day in Sorrento and the entire population of Naples planned to be making the same journey as me––not so good.
The crush of bodies surrounding the Circumvesuviana ticket office on the underground concourse at Napoli Garibaldi Station had to be seen to be believed; the noise of travelling Italian humanity beyond any safe decibel levels. Members of the Polizia di Stato were herding and corralling passengers with limited effect; there was no apparent queueing system; the principle of first come first served sacrificed at the altar of survival of the fittest.
I thought that my chances of obtaining a ticket, let alone getting on an actual train, were minimal at best but, much to my surprise, I found myself edging forward; discovered the wall of Neapolitan noise gradually subside in the face of my quiet, stoic determination; realised that my everyday London-life had conditioned me to crush and mayhem. Before I knew it, like a Biblical Red Sea, the crowd had parted in front of me and I found myself at the ticket window, handing over my Euros for a precious biglietto.
The train to Sant’Agnello took an hour, and was crowded to an extent that I was forced to carry my suitcase above my head in order to get on and off, but I was aboard, and that in itself had been an achievement of classical heroic proportions.
A final memory: the entire hour-long journey was spent crushed next to a young Neapolitan woman who had only two volumes of normal conversation: shout and shout very loud. And she shouted a lot; almost continuously. I can only presume she was a habitual commuter on the Circumvesuviana.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny extols the virtues of silent stoicism.