Greetings from Bari, on the east coast of Italy. Writing this from an Internet cafe what is painted a warm pumpkin shade. I am happy to discover most of the keyboard is the same–not always true.
Bari is a rather tidy city after the madness of Naples. We arrived here last night by train. We spent four days in Napoli, which is a big, loud, arrogant and amazing city. Crowded, intense, full of nepotism–it made me think of what Pueblo would be like if it were a million people and 2000 years old.
On Sunday, we returned from Pompeii to see the archeological mu
seum, but it turned out that they didn’t
take credit cards so we had to walk back to the hotel, down a long, long hill crammed with people who were evidently on their way to Sunday dinner at Nonaàs house or maybe Mama’s. Every person in Napoli must have been in those streets–mothers with strollers and high heels and bountiful cleavage, boys with tight button up shirts, girls walking five abreast in their sexiest clothes, all holding hands and giggling.
Entire families on mopeds–mom, dad, two babies in between–and a river of small cars and mopeds and motorcycles clogging every lane and alley and street, honking, swerving, pushing through. One learns to take a quick look but also just keep moving; astonishingly, we did not see a single fender bender or even any evidence of such, though parking does seem to net a few scrapes. Our hotel was right on the bay, a block or so away from Castel Dell’Ovo, which is castle of the egg. It is a giant, largely empty Norman castle that was practically deserted except for the brides, all dressed in their frothy yards of sequins and tulle and net and satin posing against the keep, at the doorway, on the turrets. We saw a genuinely bizarre number of brides—I am not exaggerating when I put the number at twenty over the course of the day. Maybe it is that way every Saturday, or perhaps it is lucky to marry on the 22 of September. I don’t know.
ay, when we walked back to the museum, the streets were utterly deserted. Me. Neal, a couple of dogs and a few other tourists. By the time we visited the museum (crowded with cruise ship passengers—1000 cruise ships stopped here last year, and they’re well on the way to breaking that number this year) and came back down, people were trickling out again.
The breakfast patio of the hotel overlooked the bay to Vesuvius, which is an impressive mountain next to a smaller one. Both blue in the distance, not quite as tall as Pikeàs Peak, but tall enough to show tree line. Turned out that it is only one mountain—that middle part is what
was blown out in 79 AD.
(I will write more of Pompeii, but it is a place a person should just see. There is no way to cut through all the things you’ve seen and heard about it to give you a fresh enough perspective. It is enormous and astonishingly well preserved and haunting, with the mountain standing there in the background like a gruff troll.
The people here are enchanting and engaging and delightful. Our driver to Pompeii was called Mike, and he was nattily d
ressed in a suit and red tie, thick salt and pepper hair cut perfectly and brushed away from his very Italian face, a big nose and sharp chin and twinkling eyes. We asked about guide. He said over his shoulder. °I know a guy.° I laughed and nudged Neal, because in Pueblo the only way to really get things done is to know a guy, or have your neighbor know a guy who knows a guy. Mike winked at me over his shoulder. °We say here °guido.° he said °guido.°
And he was the one who drove us back through the parade to the museum and told us we should have something to eat because everything was about to close for the whole of Sunday afternoon, so everyone could go eat with their mamas. Five courses, and really, you can’t give up the fried fish, he said.
I eased into being able to say a few things in Italian. Not so shy as with French, mainly because it’s so much easier and I can fake it by thinking first in Spanish. Also, it’s just not as intimidating to speak to Italians as to the French. (Though I had a melt down this morning—everything was all mixed up and I had to have a booksigning tonight and I got the time wrong, which meant we had a long delay and I couldn’t find the number for our ride to Matera, and…..and…..Little meltdown. It turned out all right. We scoped out the bookstore and Neal patted my shoulders and we found the cheerful, kind clerk instead of the mean one, and I got it all sorted out. So now we’re at this cafe and I feel better connecting to the world in some wordy way.)
Food: pizza, of course. Naples is known for pizza, so of course we ate some. A lot, actually. One had a divine tomato sauce, DIVINE, and just fresh leaves of basil scattered over it, and three cloves of roasted garlic.
Running out of time now. More later……tonight we head to Matera.
PS I’m editing some of these blogs a little, to add art and clear up some of the typos from posting in internet cafes. True to the spirit, if not the letter, of blogging.