We spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to leave a bag at the “left baggage” area at the airport, as Jan had promised to drag back my winter gear back to Canada when she flew from Napoli the following week, which I assumed (wrongly) that I wouldn’t be needing in Sunny Sicily.
After a frustrating hour long hassle, we finally managed to get help from the sleepy, but kind hearted left luggage attendant, who (along with everyone else at the airport) seemed to be in hiding, since it was lunch, then risposo, or siesta time). It was a bit of a wake up call for us, after our early morning flight. We were suddenly faced with the harsh glare of a more complex and much less friendly travel than we’d gotten accustomed to in Turkey and especially in Kurdistan Iraq. Though there was much ambiguity surrounding all our “would be plans” there, things just seemed to be a whole lot easier than when we arrived back in Italy.
We never quite understood the how or why of it, but it seemed somehow less fraught with angst and frustration. I chalked it up, partly to being tired and a bit grumpy due to our early morning flight, but in hindsight it was a bit of both, I suppose. Comparisons are always dangerous, but I found myself yearning for the helpful smiles of the Turkish information folks, especially since they usually invited us inside their offices for tea and sweets, and a relaxing, if not fully comprehendible chat.
The Naples airport Info booth was particularly unhelpful, manned by several dark eyed beauties who were obviously not interested in being there, much less providing information. They remained deep, deep, oh so deep in personal conversations with either each other, or on the phone with friends. “a Mappa, Pianta?” No, No!!” That was the full extent of our air time with them, then back to giggling with their friends on their side of the counter.
We attempted to find the public bus, the Alibus into the centre of Napoli, but again were foiled by the obscure location, and lack of signage. We began to wonder if there was some strange missing gene that wasn’t allowing us to “get” the Italian logic? But even after many attempts to find the bus stop, and many frustrating attempts to flag down and board a passing Alibus, we finally managed to locate the proper bus stop…another hour or so later! By that time, there was a parade of people either leading us or following us, all trying to locate the bus stop, everyone else was Italian, and most from Napoli.
The other Info booth, at the central train station, was manned by a gorgeous, manikin-like blonde, who yawned and reluctantly peeled off a city map from her giant tablet of them, and immediately returned to her deep contemplation of her fashion magazine.
Okay…we were on our way! Or so we thought. After all, Napoli was MY city, I’d lived here for 2 months while I was studying Italian, so it should be easy to find our way to the port, to catch our evening ferry, right?
Wrong! We fumbled our way around the Statione Centrale for a good ten minutes before I finally swallowed my pride and went begging to blondie for help again, at least to help us get out the exit door of the station.
Finally, we were off to find the bus to the port; but nothing looked familiar. Blondie had just tilted her head back in that Italian gesture that meant “just out there”, or did it mean “out behind there”? “Where”? Trolley in hand, we finally found the exit and in high gear, we chased down a young, dark haired woman and I asked her, in my broken Italian how to find the bus stop. She responded rapid fire, and I just stood, speechless until she realized that I didn’t “get it” and gestured for us to follow. We all dashed across a busy intersection, and along the same street front that we’d passed on our way to the station, and finally to an area where many busses were parked, walled off with rusty corrugated steel sheeting. Our new friend ran along the fronts of the buses until she located one that was about to leave and gestured for us to board. We did, and stood, a little bewildered while the bus driver volleyed for his place in the busy traffic, and she yelled “temporaneo”! Everything was in turmoil and under construction, and the busses had been relocated to a new hiding spot. Okay, I felt slightly less stupid.
We nearly missed the port, and only due to the kindness of a large woman seated in front of where we stood, that she screamed at us “Navi? Navi?”, and we saw the large boats and hopped off the bus, quickly…or as quickly as we could, considering there were wall to wall people and we had our bags to tug through the barrage of people at the exit doorway of the overcrowded bus.
After walking for a couple of kilometres, we agreed that we could have remained on the bus for at least one or two more stops, but regardless, we were in the vicinity and could still see the large boats. We kept walking and continued to ask about our ferry company, the TTL lines, and folks continuing to point us onward, until finally a nice woman told us that it was about 100 metres further along.
We’d been walking at a fast pace for about 30 more minutes when we saw the sign for our ferry. We tried to gain access to the boat, but the kindly and very handsome guard sent us to the office instead, and told us to return at 7 thirty. Since it was only 4 o’clock, we found lockers in the admin building and set off, free at last from our bags to explore Napoli.
A new subway line had been installed since I’d been here 2 years before, so we hopped aboard (using the old tickets I’d kept since my last Napoli adventure).
It was great to be back in this hectic, loud, gritty city again. We exited the subway at Piazza Dante, and headed up to my old neighbourhood, which is known for being a cacophony of zany, busy food stalls and markets. As we wound our way through the cobblestone streets, we visited some of my old favourites, including the tiny deli where I always found the most interesting and tasty dishes when I was too lazy or tired to cook. The owner, Maria was like a kind auntie to me, sensing my loneliness, and had always been very sweet to me, giving me treats and tastes of her wares, and always tucking a little present into my bag. She wasn’t working that day, but her nephew was there, and he was thrilled that we stopped in. He directed us to the best bufo mozzarella shop (my favourite was closed), so we set off in search of it.
Our food karma was off that day. The “other” bufo mozzarella shop was closed, as was my favourite pizza place, but a friendly man sitting out front of the restaurant, convinced us that it would open shortly. “at 6 oclock, he yelled several times in Italian, holding up 6 fingers and making the universal *“open” sign with his palms. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHZwYObN264
We ambled up the street, meandering around tables laden with clams, and myriads of shellfish, tubs of octopi, and stumbled along the streets oozing with moisture, dripping from the icy beds. We were hungry, and tempted by every conceivable variety of gorgeous pastries and savoury treats inside the glass cases on the walkway, but I convinced Jan to hold off.
We must have real authentic Napolitana pizza, in one of the best places, so instead we went up the street to a corner bar to have fresh lemon sodas and wait the 40 minutes until the restaurant opened. We sat outside, across from the subway and funiculare station, and watched the never-ending hubbub of activity there, as well as the tables adjacent to us. To one side was a group of supersized Napolitanas, women in their sixties. One, who seemed the most vociferous orator was wearing skin tight red velour sports outfit, with matching lipstick and shoes. She had raven black hair that hung to her shoulders and swayed with her movements as she boasted to her friends, her hands and arms moving so swiftly she looked like she was finger-painting in the sky, while holding a cigarette firmly between her shiny, dark red lips. I tried to make myself small and invisible, lest she decided to speak to me, as I was sure whatever I my response was, would make her volatility burst forth and scorch me. And the men on the other side of us, also smoking furiously, but with less venom, seemed curious about us. We kept to ourselves, and our incredibly intense lemon sodas, which seemed like several lemons squeezed, and a teensy bit of soda! (Something lost in the translation again?).
When it was nearly 6 we hustled down to the Attila pizzeria, in great anticipation. But our kindly padrone was nowhere in sight, and the door was still locked. I put my face to the glass, and the owner came to the door, and her response nearly broke my heart. She, in that oh so Italian way, gestured that they would open at 7 tonight, and shrugged her shoulders. There had been a time change, and the usual opening hours were delayed for summer hours. We sadly surrendered and sat down at the place next to it and each of us dug into our own margarita pizza, and a glass of white wine. I was told later that there had been a scandal regarding the bufo mozzarella in Napoli. Gossip had it that the Mafioso had somehow contaminated great quantities of it, with what? Something terrible, I could sense from the timbre and the dramatic gestures, but what exactly it was still eludes me.
After our hefty pizzas, Jan was swooning with that heady feeling that came from a stomach that was under great duress and turgor, but I was an experienced Italian overeater, so I assured her that she’d be fine in no time and since it was time to hurry back to the dock again, we scurried off, or in my case, my scurry had more of a waddle to it, in search of the waterfront, and our somewhat elusive ferry boat.
As we entered the ramp to the boat, baggage in tow, it finally occurred to us…’we were in Italia’, I think we both has a sense of euphoria and excitement as we climbed and finally found the ascensore, the elevator to the 6th floor where we were booked into a tiny cabin with a teensy little window, and a vista of the Napoli harbor at sundown.
We stood on deck, to enjoy the views, as the sun receded into the sea behind us…..and watched the final glow of Napoli at night, the castle, the beautiful glistening city looked so peaceful as we awaited our departure.