by Melinda Gallo

First day in Naples

We didn't initially plan on visiting Naples. I had always wanted to go to Naples, but never wanted to go alone. I had heard so much about Naples, and not much very positive, that I tended to think it wasn't a place that I would like to visit. And, after our quick taxi ride from the train station to the porto (harbor/port) earlier in the week, I didn't think I'd like it at all: it seemed dirty and chaotic.

Living in Florence :: First day in Naples

After we arrived at the porto, we dragged our suitcases across the street to wait for Alessandro's friend Mauro. After one motorcycle went up the steps beside me to get to the street and a fight broke out in the street between a guy on a motorino (scooter) and a guy in a van, I began to wonder about what world I had just entered.

We sat down on a bench along the street and within a few minutes, Mauro and Andrea arrived. They stopped the car on the street without much concern for the cars that were going to arrive behind them and greeted us. We put our things in the car and jumped in.

They took us to a forte (fortress) where we could look out at the city and the sea. In the distance we could see Pompeii. The sun was shining strongly, but the sea breeze kept us cool. At the forte, there were many young couples about to get married in colorful and frilly dresses getting their photos taken. Mauro told us that in Naples families spend a lot of money on weddings as it's still considered traditional.

We had lunch at a restaurant along a small porto, which is shown in my photo. We ate a type of bruschetta which was a large piece of toasted bread with tomatoes, tuna, mozzarella, and olives on top. They also had a basket filled with taralli, which is a peppery circular breadsticks with whole almonds inside. I think between Alessandro and I, we finished off all the taralli before our food arrived.

We hopped back in the car and Mauro drove us to another park in Posillipo. From the bay where we were standing, we could see Naples from another direction, Capri, and Pompeii.

Mauro had parked the car on the sidewalk and when we got back, a metal pole was stuck in the ground to prevent people from parking there. Alessandro picked it up, let Mauro back out of the spot, and replace it. By the time he started walking to the car to get in, a police car arrived. Luckily, they were just driving by as we feared we would get in trouble for parking in front of the Thai Consulate.

Mauro drove us to a pasticceria (pastry shop) and ordered two plates of local specialties, including babà, sfoglia, and tarts with wild strawberries. Needless to say, we finished them all up rather quickly and easily. I was the only one who ordered a caffè macchiato while the boys all ordered caffè. They didn't give me too hard of a time considering I didn't order a cappuccino as they expected me to.

We got back in the car and Mauro took us to his apartment, which is right next to a large church. From his terrazza (terrace) on the third floor you can look straight out onto the stained glass windows.

Mauro prepared dinner for eight of us of which two didn't show up, but then another four did. Every time a new person would arrive, more food seemed to come out of the kitchen. Everyone brought a different dessert. We brought cantuccini e vin santo, one couple brought an ice cream tronco (log), another couple brought two contenitori (containers) of gelato, and a zuppa inglese alla napolitana.

To finish off the meal, Andrea brought out bottles and bottles of alcohol. We tasted a Sicilian alcohol made of cannella (cinnamon).

Because we were so exhausted, we decided to call it a night around 1AM even though most of the other guests remained out on the terrazza drinking and talking.

My first night in Naples made me very happy. I was surprised how none of the guests asked me any questions about the US. They just acknowledged that I was from California, but we all talked about other things instead. It was the first time that I didn't feel as if I was considered different. It was as if they accepted me and just wanted to know me and not the country where I come from.

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