Monday, October 11, 2010


I've just begun Week 3 of my immersion language at Centro Italiano. I'm loving the class and feel like I'm getting a great intro to the language - as well as the knowledge of how/when to use what we're learning. But as I've said before, this commute is killing me! And it's just more confirmation of why I did not want to live here on the Support Site. It's a nice place if you need to be near things like the school, hospital, grocery store, etc. But for someone like me, who has a greater need to be near the museums/sites of Naples, it's difficult. I've tried three different options for getting downtown and walking to class, and no matter what, I can't get the commute less than 1.75 way. Most days, it's at least four hours spent commuting. In my month of class, I will spend 80 hours commuting just into downtown Napoli! If we were living here on the Support Site, I would not leave this base during the week. Planning the route, waiting for the bus that runs only once/hour to the train station, etc. is just exhausting.

A short bit about is beyond a doubt the dirtiest city I've ever seen. Trash is everywhere. Bagged trash, loose trash, overflowing dumpsters, dog poop. I could go on like Forrest Gump's  friend, Bubba, talking about shrimp. This is unfortunate because having spent time in other Italian cities, I find that Naples could easily rival any of the more popular tourist destinations. We have world class museums, including one of the world's top archeological museums, beautiful cathedrals,  historic castles, ruins galore with Pompeii, Ercolano, Campi Flegrei, Paestum, etc., charming alleys, the ocean and seaside towns, and easy access to incredible mountain towns, skiing, the Amalfi Coast, and three distinct islands with their own charms (and thermal baths!). Plus, the best pizza and coffee in Italy. Sadly, it's really hard to overlook the trash. You just can't escape it.That and the crazy drivers. Even the rest of Italy acknowledges that the drivers of Naples are loco.

Today was my first day driving alone. Conveniently, this day happened to be our first torrential downpour. Fantastic! I'm not normally skittish about driving in rain, but guess what Italy has lots and lots of. Marble. So much marble that they mix bits of it in with the asphalt used to pave the roads. Marble and rain create a dangerous combo alone, but then add in the driving. One particular intersection  I go through has four lanes painted on the road, but in the morning commute, these lines are ignored. Both times I've driven this way, the four lanes are actually about seven lanes of cars plus scooters zooming by at close range. Also, I get to this intersection via a tunnel, which spits me out on the left side of the madness, while I must make a right turn about one short block down. Here is the trick: don't look behind you. A refreshing cultural norm here in driving is that you are responsible only for you. For example, once you signal your intention to join a car in their lane, they politely move over for you. After all, the lane is clearly wide enough for 1.5 cars, so why shouldn't you all just share. And if you start moving over, the car must give way to avoid hitting you, which is their responsibility. See...easy.
Piazza Garibaldi in downtown Napoli, where the Central train station is located. One of my three commuting options includes taking a train into the city, and then beginning the death march across these streets to get to school. To quote my friend with whom I commuted for two weeks, "I'm pretty sure I'm going to die at least five times per day on this walk." Crossing streets is another skill...don't stop or hesitate, just walk. But give way to buses and scooters - they don't stop for you...ever.
One of the alleys I enjoy using to get back to the main piazza - this one has far fewer cars to avoid than the main street...and less dog poop.
One of the beautiful buildings in downtown Napoli. Sadly, it was days before I noticed it because my first few days walking the route were exercises in avoiding traffic, trash, dog poop, and a multitude of other commuters strolling along.
Most street corners have interesting art posters pasted to the walls.

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