Thursday, August 28, 2014

Postcard from Naples ~ August 22, 1971

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well I'm in 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.

I got to Naples from Rome on a train. I have a day before the ferry takes me to Palermo. I have a day to kill. Now, I'm 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 Viale Antonio Gramsci. It runs into Via Mergellina runs into the Via Antonio Gramsci and turns into the Galleria Laziale. I get my first up close view of Vesuvius.

Walking on the Galleria, it turns into Via Diocleziano and then Via Bagnoli, where it turns and runs into Via Pozzuoli. Heading towards the town of Pozzuoli it name changes again to Via Napoli and then to Lungomare Pertini. I am walking. It is a long walk, blistering hot. 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. I’ve been marching through Italy and I am hungry. I order a simple pizza with tomato, garlic and oregano. It was 600 lire. A few minutes later the lady brings out the pizza and asks me what I want to drink with it. “Vino rosso,” I answer. She looks at me like I’ve gone mad, and instead brings me “una foglietta” of white wine and a glass. It was 80 lire.

It is August, it is hot and I am having pizza for the first time in my life. And the white wine, chilled, is a divine dance with the tomato, garlic and oregano . 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 800 lire and the lady comes out to me to give me the 80 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.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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