We left Rome the next morning and headed for Sorrento by way of Naples. Literally every single person who heard we were going to Naples told us to beware of thieves, so I think I was basically vibrating with tension the whole time. If anyone walked anywhere near me I was ready to KICK THEM IN THE TEETH. In retrospect I think I was a little overly cautious, but we didn't get anything stolen so I guess you could say that we were the right amount of cautious.
We checked our bags at the Naples and train station and headed to the Archaeological Museum. On the way we stepped into a cafe for breakfast. A woman passed us as we walked in and I remember thinking there was a lot of commotion and yelling in Italian. I brushed it off until we sat down and Yvette asked us if we had seen that the woman had stolen a piece of pizza. That Snow Pea, she misses nothing. Brie and I split a neopolitan panino (some kind of roll with sausage) and Yvette got what she called a "calzone" but which was really a "ham doughnut." They were playing, like every other cafe in Italy, 80s American music. It was playing "Time After Time" when the waiter came over and changed it to Celine Dion. It was great, our first experience in Naples... a woman just stole pizza, Celine's playing, we're eating ham doughnuts.
Walking to the museum was interesting because Naples is pretty different from Rome. Much crustier, more laundry hanging out windows, virtually no tourists, me glaring at everyone. The museum was fine. It has most of the art and artifacts from Pompeii and other cities destroyed by Vesuvius, but a lot of the displays are poorly lit or only in Italian, so it was hard to really be as interested as I wanted to be. They did have a statue called the Toro that was pretty great, although against the white walls it looked much blander than it should have.
We went on a walk through Naples to see some of the city before heading straight for the pizza (my main objective in going to the city at all.) We saw tons of kids in costumes walking with their parents. Really elaborate costumes. I wanted to get some snapshots but I was afraid the parents would think I was a weirdo. One little girl, maybe 5, was dressed as a carnie vendor and was pushing a miniature popcorn stand. Another little boy was dressed as a doctor and his father was pushing a gurney with a babydoll strapped down to it. It was hilarious and awesome. The piazzas were covered with confetti.
We were walking for a couple of miles, trying to judge whether we had time to see more of the city before getting pizza. The restaurants almost all close between lunch and dinner so you have to be careful not to miss lunch entirely. We decided to walk down to the Bay of Naples, Mt. Vesuvius glowering at us over the water, and then turn around and head to the pizzeria. As I was taking this picture, I thought I felt a drop of rain. I said, "I think I just felt some rain." About fifteen seconds later we were drenched. We tried to move quickly back through the city, but in my hurry and general handicappedness regarding directions, I got us completely lost. For the first time that day. Yvette finally went into a hotel and had them call us a taxi. He raced us through the city and we got to this specific pizzeria that is supposed to be true Naples pizza just in time. The guy said something about closing as we walked towards him, but he must have been telling us that they were about to close, because he let us in. Or else our soaked, driven expressions just scared him. The pizza, unfortunately, was only fine. I mean, good, but not as earth-shattering as I was hoping for. There's actually a place near our apartment in Rome (which we call "Santa Monica Pier" because it's all sort of neon and weird, I'll get a picture when I go back) that has the best pizza I've had so far. We brought Brie there her first night and she agrees.
After lunch I decided I would get us lost in the pouring rain for the second time. We wandered around all over the place, getting directions from a guy who basically made me buy his unused bus ticket, insisting that it wouldn't matter that there was one ticket and three of us. Non c'e problema, non c'e problema. After walking for, oh, quite a while in the wrong direction, we got straightened out and made it back to the station. While we were waiting to leave, a guy came up to Brie and said, "I. Police. You. Beautiful." I let him talk to her for a minute or so (since you could tell from her horrified expression that she loved it), and then said, "Ok, basta. Basta." This means "enough", but Brie thought I was being much ruder. He looked at me like I had just killed his puppy but he did leave.
Sorrento, where we were staying, is a cute and lemony resort. We got moved into our fourth floor room, with the help of a dumbwaiter (the last place, it turns out, where they wouldn't have to lug their duffles up several flights of steps), and tried to decide whether to go out and do something that night. Yvette and I voted nay. Brie kept saying she wanted to and then fell asleep in the middle of a sentence, so that took care of that.
The next day we took a train to Pompeii. It was, shockingly, raining. We decided to buy audio guides since trying to carry a guidebook, a map, an umbrella, and a camera is difficult, and otherwise you can't tell what you're looking at. It turns out, actually, that you can't tell what you're looking at anyway. The audio guide was just like, "The Temple of Jupiter, as you see in this pile of ruined brick, was excavated in blah blah blah" and meanwhile you really have no idea if you're looking at the Temple of Jupiter or an ancient Pompeiian bagno. I think this was objectively difficult, I don't think it's just because I'm retarded with directions.
The first thing we looked at was fine because we all looked sort of confused and American and a tour guide took pity on us and gave us a free little mini-tour through the baths, which was nice. In one room there were some erotic frescoes, not a menu of activities like in the brothel we would see later, but just some friendly locker room decoration. The tour guide said something like, "And the young man in the first fresco is waiting for a surgeon." Then after he left we stared at it for five minutes trying to figure out what he was talking about. We came up with a theory, which I was going to confirm by posting a picture here and asking for opinions, but now looking at the photograph I took, I think it's much clearer when you can zoom in, and I'm afraid it would just be rude. I'll include a different picture of the baths instead.
After that we tried the audio guides, got bored, and wandered around in the rain. It was nice to be there when it was kind of lonely and empty. What's interesting about it is that it's a whole ruined city, so you're wandering through a whole city with roads and intersections and everything. I think if Pompeii were in California they would put you in a little car on a track and have narration in English and Spanish.
After a while of wandering, we started to get kind of frustrated that we couldn't figure out where we were, so I had to give in and pull out Rick Steves' Italy, which we have come to call the Good Book. Things brightened immediately, as they always do when you rely on the Good Book. We were able to actually find the casts of volcano victims, which we had previously walked right past. And the reason we walked right past them was because, even though they're the most interesting thing at the site, they're stuck in what basically seems like a tool shed. One of the casts was literally lying on a shelf below a stack of yellow plastic storage crates.
Just to explain what they are, in case you didn't really know this, which I didn't, the people of Pompeii who died in the eruption (about 2,000 out of a town of 20,000) were smothered by several feet of ash and not killed by lava. The ash clung to them, even filling in the folds of their clothing, and then hardened over the years. The bodies decayed, leaving a Pompeiian-citizen -shaped void, and archaeologists filled the cavities with plaster before chipping away at the ash-rock around them. Hence the plaster casts. They were quite eerie, even with their less than respectful surroundings.
For the rest of the day we wandered around, much happier despite the fact that it was still raining (rivulets of water rushed past on the road in the ridges carved by chariot wheels) and Yvette's map was falling apart. With the help of TGB, we found an ancient brothel with stone beds and stone pillows, an ancient fast food stand with holes cut in the countertops for pots, an Egyptian temple, a pizza place with big brick pizza ovens, and a huge private residence called The House of the Faun, which I may steal as a screenplay title.
That night, back in Sorrento, we took ourselves out to eat to a place called Giardiniello's, where I had really amazing canelloni and the waiter-owner gave us free samples of limoncello, the specialty of the region. His name was Franco I think, he was probably in his late sixties and had once lived in Los Angeles. He told he was wearing black because he had recently lost his father. We gave him our sympathies, and he said, "Well, that's life, you know. He was 92. But... I need him. I need him." On our way out he showed us his father's picture.
(I'm in Venice by now so I'm really far behind on this, but we have free internet access here so I'll try to see if I can can catch up a bit. Sorry, Mom.)
In Christ Alone
1 year ago