Thursday, August 28, 2014

Postcard from Naples ~ August 21, 1971

Dear Mom and Dad,

Italy, I finally made it to Rome The last week has been warm. Hotter than where I came from. Rome was miserable. And empty, save for a few Americans who actually had lire. Wartime in America. Nixon devalued the dollar the day I arrived in Rome to get more European countries to buy things from us. We need the money to pay for the war in Vietnam. And it looks like we are going into a recession that could last for years.

Naples from Rome on a train. Walking. I have a day before the ferry takes me to Palermo. I have a day to kill. I start walking.


I am wearing an army surplus khaki short sleeve shirt. I like it because the pockets are big enough for me to put a light meter in it. I am traveling with two rangefinder cameras, Canon VIT models. One has a normal lens and the other has a wide angle. I bulk rolled FP4, FP5 and Tri- X. I had 20 rolls of film.


Heading towards the water on Via Mergellina. Where the Via Mergellina runs into the Via Antonio Gramsci and turns into the Galleria di Posillipo, I get my first up close view of Vesuvius.

Walking on the Galleria, it turns into the Via Giulio Cesare, past the zoo. Miles later it turns into the Via San Gennaro Agnano, then the Via Solfara and then the Via Campi Flegrei and finally the Via Domitiana. By then it is lunch. I find a little osteria/pizzeria and sit down. The soles on my desert boots are hot. My jeans, worn such that they need patches, are steady. They’ve been there before. But I am hungry. I order a simple pizza with tomato and basil and mozzarella cheese. It was 800 lira. A few minutes later the lady brings out the pizza and asks me what I want to drink with it. “Un bicchiere di vino rosso,” I answer. She brings me out a quarter of a liter of wine and a glass. It was 80 lira.

It is August, it is hot and I am having pizza for the first time in my life. And the red wine, slightly chilled, is a dance of red pepper, ripe tomatoes and deep rich cherries. A bottle of mineral water, frizzante, waits its time on the table.

After lunch, an obscene version, for who would eat pizza in the afternoon? Young tourists with flat bellies. I then order an espresso. 40 lire. A small cup barely filling the bottom comes to me. It is rich, frothy and potent.

I leave 1000 lire and the lady comes out to me to give me the 20 lire I left. I tell no, it’s OK, keep it. She looks at me, puzzled, shakes her head and goes back into the restaurant.

Twenty feet down the street I stop to look at sandals made with cork soles. Everywhere there is cork. We are in Pozzuoli. I buy a pair for 1800 lire and put them in my back pack. Kids of all ages are coming up to me, touching me, following me, running by my side as I walk up the street. Everywhere there is noise and music, yelling and crying, playing and shouting. Everyone in Pozzuoli is outside.

The kids are talking to me in their Neapolitan dialect. I vaguely understand them; Mom, they sound a lot like Nonna Lucrezia. They talk to me as if I should understand them. I look like them. But I am about 6 inches taller than the tallest person in the town. I am wearing jeans, an army shirt and desert boots. I have a camera and a backpack. And the kids, they want to touch everything.

I finally make the long circle back to the Terminal Traghetti Napoli to go to Palermo. Before I get on the ship a young boy comes up to me. He wants to sell me a watch. I had read about that, never thought I’d see it. But there I was in Naples, being sized up for a watch purchase by a ten year old. Where is that boy now?

I'll write more when I get to Palermo.
Love,
Alfonso



wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

1 comment:

CharlieCA said...

Please do write more ;)

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