Tuesday, March 01, 2016


Seamless flight. We are loving Turkish Airlines aside from the bizarre and slightly frightening gelatine, orange egg breakfast. The arrival at Capodichino airport was a great little primer for life in Napoli – miscommunication, misinformation and much wandering around. The passport control was literally as soon as we stepped off the bus from the plane. One agent for the whole plane. About five minutes in another agent appeared for the EU members and there was a rush – all the people dressed in black talking on their cellphones pushing their way across the line.

After customs, we went from the Information booth to the little store at the far, far end of the airport and back to the travel agency, getting conflicting information from everyone about the tickets for the bus and the metro. The Informazioni lady told us that the little store sold 3-day tickets, the guy in the store said only the Informazioni people did. The other informazioni lady told us only the travel agency lady sold them. She did but she told us that the kids didn’t need tickets while the informazioni people AND the shopkeeper said they did. And we hadn’t even tackled how to find tickets for the shuttle bus to downtown… We spent a half hour walking back and forth through the airport, pulling our stupid bags and dragging the kids along until we finally gave up. Taaa-xi! Benvenuti a Napoli!

The cab driver was lovely. Giving us all the information we couldn’t find online about transport and soccer tickets and, most importantly, about the Sunday family meal of ragù that was waiting for him at 2 and what his wife puts in hers. Like our adventures in Mexico, time sitting up beside the taxi driver is arguably my favourite in any country and invariably my best opportunity to practice Italian. All the verb drills paid off because I can actually understand 90% of what he’s telling me and he actually understands me! I get the sense that five more minutes in the car and he would’ve called his wife to see if he could invite us along.

The apartment seemed a bit sketchy at first. The neighbourhood not exactly salubrious. Walking through a gate into an inner courtyard and up a set of crumbling stone steps. We didn’t have an apartment number so we were in the dark, literally and figuratively. I was texting our host as we waited for him to come find us and lead us to the loft. Finally a door opens and Gaetano appears. The apartment is cool — decorated simply but the place is just right for us. The windows open on to the courtyard – laundry hangs outside every window, scooters are parked everywhere, elaborate scaffold is set up along one wall but whether for repairs or to bolster the crumbling wall is unclear. The location is perfect. Our road is called Pasquale Scura but it’s informally known as Spaccanapoli because it splits Napoli down the middle —stretching straight and forever through the historic centre. This would not be surprising if this were New York, but in this maze of cobbled alleyways and staircases it is a bit of a miracle.

We dump our stuff and head out for a little wander. Italy is so friggin’… Italian. It’s Sunday so no one is out. The stores are all shuttered but we manage to find a few things still going on. Dapper old guys in colourful sweaters and contrasting scarves tied european-style walk their weiner dogs and chat with ladies clickety-clacking down the cobblestones in their heeled boots. A squad of boy scouts troop down the street, chubby legs in shorts and dark blue knee socks, leather backpacks and bedrolls bunched on their backs.

We stopped for our first pizza and it was a doozy. It is so not complicated. Not-too-thin crust, very well-done, borderline charred, on the bottom, the top almost creamy on its own but made even better by a simple and perfectly sweet san marzano tomato sauce, some lumps of mozzarella di bufala (which bears absolutely no resemblance to any cheese I’ve had in Canada), a few basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. It is not sliced. It comes with a fork and knife and almost no one eats it with their hands. Perfectly delicious.

We stroll around, taking in the sights and stop in at the Museo archeologico nazionale. It is comically disorganized but awe-inspiring. It is vast and there’s almost too much to digest. Wil has brokered a deal in which the kids will not race to the end if I agree not to read every single thing and dawdle — which is a bit easier because the expected explanatory text is almost entirely absent. Some rooms are inexplicably closed, 8-1/2 x 11” colour photocopies stand in for pieces out on loan to the MBA. Nothing is cordoned off, making it sometimes a little tense with energetic kids. The statues are phenomenal. The perfect physiques are either an indication that romans spent a lot of time at the palestra getting fit or that the artists were sucking up big time because everyone is beyond buff. The mosaics were what really wowed me the most. Tiny little 5mm square tiles of colour pieced together to create magnificent portraits of water birds, battle scenes or moments of daily life totally blew my mind.

Watching the girls’ eyes widen at the room of erotica was a laugh – massive winged phalluses (phalli?), statues in robes propped up by large erections and some interesting pan on goat action lifted a lot of eyebrows in our group.

We had a yummy dinner of pasta and seafood. We sat alone (did I mention that Italians are all eating homemade ragù on Sunday?) in a clear plastic tent — the sidewalk extension for every third restaurant in Napoli — under a little heater, dined and listened and watched the howling wind rip through the city.

When dinner was done, we found part of the street cordoned off by the caribinieri because a flagpole had been blown off the side of a stone building into the passage below. The wind shrieked, almost as loud as the front door of the apartment’s courtyard which rocked back and forth on hinges in desperate need of some jig-a-loo. Nothing like a little jetlag and pasta belly to make for a wonderful sleep.

1 comment:

Jenny Wren said...

What an amazing adventure for you all. We had blizzard warning here - I get up this morning, I see about 1 centimetre of snow and freezing rain. People changed plans flights and here, in the Eastern Townships, nothing much happened. As you know I love reading your blogs - sending lots of love, safe travels. Looking forward to the next instalmentxx