by Melinda Gallo

Bella Napoli

Our first taste of Naples was sweet. Alessandro's friends showed us the view from above and carted us around to the cleaner areas. I was dying to see what the other side of Naples looked like. The Naples that I feared and resisted. The first thing we did was walk next door to the Museo Cappella Sansevero (Sansevero Chapel Museum) where we saw "The Veiled Christ."

Living in Florence :: Bella Napoli

Mauro had explained how the marble on the statue seemed to be a thin veil, but it wasn't until I saw it did I truly understand what he meant. Only Alessandro and I entered the museo as Mauro and Andrea had been many, many times before.

We then walked through the church next to Mauro's house and proceeded to the mercato (market). It wasn't like the mercato that I go to in Florence. It was a street lined with shops that had tables set up on the sidewalk and were selling their goods from there. Cars and motorini (scooters) with at least two people not wearing caschi (helmets) were zigzagging through the crowded streets. Sometimes, a motorino would stop and the driver would try to buy something from the vendor while still on the motorino.

A few times I had a car inching up behind me and a motorino breathing down my neck. Once, the driver of a motorino, said in a low voice, "Signora." I stepped to the side to let him pass between me and the car.

We went to multiple shops to get fish and bread. We even stopped off at a bakery that specializes in taralli, which were the peppery circular breadsticks with almonds in them. I had to buy some for Alessandro's mom and me to take back to Florence.

While Andrea dropped off all the groceries back in the apartment, Mauro took us through the streets and pointed out many of the important monuments. He explained the history of each one and even entertained us with some interesting anecdotes about many of the monuments. I learned that Naples's history is vast and complex. Mauro showed us many traces of the different groups of people that dominated Naples like the Greeks, Spaniards and the French.

We went to lunch in a small restaurant that Mauro often goes to. We started with a dish of different fried vegetables, cheeses, and rice. I could've eaten another plate, but instead I enjoyed a plate of spaghetti con vongole e zucchine (clam and zucchini spaghetti). Because we were in Naples, Alessandro suggested that we try at least one pizza. We ordered one with mozzarella di bufala, which is mozzarella made with buffalo milk. We wanted to order what we call napolitana, which usually has acciughe (anchovies) and capperi (capers). But, in Naples, they call it the romana (Roman).

By the time we finished lunch, it was around 3PM. Supposedly the napolitani don't have lunch until at least 2PM. The same streets we walked down earlier in the morning were literally empty except for the tourists and stranieri (foreigners). Mauro explained that on Sundays, Neapolitan families have Sunday lunch together. Some of them also enjoy watching their team play calcio (soccer).

I was a little sad to leave Naples as I found it quite enchanting. I think that if I wasn't so in love with Florence, I could see myself living in Naples. It's a large city, but with the Mediterranean Sea that seems to be at the end of every street, it feels open and airy.

I did notice that parts of Naples are dirty, but somehow that seems to be a part of its charm. What I did notice is that Naples is filled with napolitani (Neapolitans) unlike Florence, which seems to contain a smaller and smaller percentage of fiorentini (Florentines). I enjoyed hearing and seeing the napolitani as they added so much to the city. I almost wanted to walk around with a voice recorder to capture another part of the city that you can't appreciate with your eyes.

We both hope to go back again for a longer visit because two days do not suffice. Naples has so much to see, taste, and appreciate that we'd need at least a full week to know her a little better. But as our train headed north, I felt that I was leaving behind a new friend.

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