This is the first entry of a public log to chronicle my first trip to Italy. I may or may not be all that disciplined as to write every day, and I may or may not resume once we have moved here for good. But that seems to fall into perfect line with the Italian way of life - a way in which nothing is linear for that matter. So Andiamo!
After arriving yesterday (19th June), I checked in and did the typical routine with rental car, hotel, etc. After a short party at the home of a prospective coworker, I set about the task of defeating jetlag. I dare say that I was successful in the first day thanks to the cafe and ... well, more cafe.
Today, was all the more productive for those efforts. After a short run this AM (and some cafe), I hit the road in my little car to see the towns of Vomero, Posillipo, and Pozzuoli. Vomero was nice but a bit too urban. Posilipo was exactly what we want if not a bit hard to access. In Pozzuoli, we have a winner. the town is surreal and the people are incredible. the sea is everywhere (and everything) in this little enclave with its cobbled alleys, cafetterias, seafood, and pizza.
Drama was unavoidable as the predictably unthinkable happened - I hit a pothole and blew a tire. Whilst changing the tire in the rain, I thought about this little metaphor: the best Italian phrase in the language is "Va bene." "It's fine." You can say anything you want in basic Italian, but chances are you will get something else. Knowing you are struggling, they try to please and hand you their best guess as to what you want and ask, "Va bene?" Just say, "Va bene!" Enjoy whatever it is, learn your lesson, and move on.
(If you know me, then you recognize that this is a life-changing epiphany. Feel free to applaud now.)
After returning my "guide" (i.e. the guy whose position I will assume in Sept) to his car, I went back to my room, exhausted and unmotivated, to head out into a rainy if not otherwise peaceful Neapolitan Sunday afternoon. Italians typically "roll up the streets" on Sundays - days for church and for family. Most of the businesses are closed everyday at mid-afternoon, and on Sunday, it's hard to find any sign of activity. But this is not just any Sunday. Italy is playing New Zealand in the soccer World Cup. I just can't bring myself to stay in, so I drive back to Pozzuoli for the match.
I make it to Pozzuoli in time for the second half whereupon a passing thunderstorm interrupts the TV signal. No worry however, as the Italians are as much fun to watch as the game. In fact, when Italy are playing badly (as was the case in this match) it was just as well to turn my attention to the fans. During the frequent TV outages, the fans kept me entertained all the same.
After the match, a 1-1 draw to otherwise hapless New Zealand, I set out on foot to see the parts of Pozzuoli I missed in the car. Though there are no car-free zones anywhere (including sidewalks), it's easier to take it in on foot. If you come to visit, be prepared to walk.
The Pozzuoli harbor is my favorite so far. The rain kept many away, but I was joined in the streets by quite a few locals looking for a distraction from the memory of an underwhelming performance on the soccer pitch. I chatted in 4- to 5-syllable Italian phrases (my limit) with a few people at a coffee bar. The staff there knew no English, but I imagine that if Bon Jovi were to come up, then they'd learn - they accompanied him flawlessly as he sang "Always" on the radio. A dopio (double) cafe went down wonderfully, and I bid arrivaderci to my new friends.
The trip was a total success in teaching me that there are a great many beautiful things about this place that too many are reticent to share amidst all the bad-news stories of crime, drugs, and burglary. The Neapolitans enjoy life. They love to smile, and I think they really love it when you smile back at them.