Saturday, August 13, 2005

It was the best of times... and then there was Napoli

I awoke this morning, took my shower, and went up to the fifth floor for breakfast. There was a nice spread of continental confections and coffee, so I ate my fill before walking down to find the boat to Capri. It took me several stops, asking each time for directions that were given entirely and very quickly in Italian, even though all I had done was to state the word "Capri", before I actually found the boat dock that seemed always to be, according to gestures, around the corner and further away. I also found the ticket office and bought my roundtrip ticket to the island that is off the coast of Sorrento in the Bay of Napoli and the namesake of what might also have been described as "coulie" pants in another era.

A few minutes later, I was aboard a jet-foil, heading out to sea with a whole slew of other tourists. We passed by a sleeping Vesuvio, with its head in the clouds, and then approached what appeared to be a mountainous island. In fact, it turned out to be the cape where Sorrento is located and just east of Capri, which soon appeared in the distance.

On arrival at the island, I walked around the area of the marina and discovered that the seas were too high today to allow us to go into the Blue Grotto, the entire reason for my visit to Capri. I was disappointed, and soon came to realize that if the seas were too high for us to enter the Grotto, that would also mean that the seas would be high enough to cause sea-sickness. I decided that lunch sounded like a much better idea.

After eating lunch, I walked around the Marina area and investigated the few shops that are in the area. There is a small public beach which also gave me several hours of enjoyment watching tourists at rest or play, depending on their temperament. I realized, in fact, that for many people, the perfect idea of heaven is an Italian beach. For many others, the perfect idea of hell is an Italian beach. I guess it depends on how comfortable you are with sand and water and rocks and hairy bodies roasting in the sun.
Eventually, I overcame my recent shyness to approach a lady in a gift shop about participating in one of my on-camera interviews. She herself, was too shy, to do it, but she was quick to point to her friends and companions in business in their little square. She ended up introducing me to Salvatore and his friend Ernesto who both decided that their English was good enough after all to answer my five questions.

We filmed their interview, which was the only one of actual Italians that I have been able to capture while I have been in Italy. Although they said nothing that I have not heard at least twenty times before, they were exhuberant in the way that only Italian men can be, and I was happy to have met them. When I was done, I bought a couple of souvenirs from the woman who set everything up for me and then bought one from Salvatore. They were happy to give me a special discount since my work is such a good endeavor and because I asked them to participate. Ernesto bought me a capuccino. It was a nice afternoon, all in all, and the beauty of Capri was a welcomed relief from the dirtiness of Napoli.

Once I returned to my hotel, I was really quite tired, and I slept for a couple of hours. I decided that it was better for me to just eat dinner across the street in a restaurant that I had tried when first arriving in Napoli than to try to walk to another place. I walked across the street and entered the restaurant. Once again, as usual, I recognized one of the people who had shared a train compartment with me on my way to Napoli inside the restaurant, and planned to speak to him before I left, but the event of dining turned into a spectacle.

My order was simple enough: mixed salad, followed by mixed grill and a plate of fried potatoes, a coke and a water. Everything I ordered arrived at once. Meanwhile, I began to notice that everyone around me was struggling to hold their tempers as their meals failed to arrive. I began to observe the situation and found that there was one waiter, one eight year old boy who looked like Dewey from "Malcolm in the Middle" and a chubby guy with arms that hung from his sides. His forearms were covered in tattoos of someone's name in heavy metal script and he had the perfect voice of a mafia character....high pitched and raspy at the same time. Apparently, his job was to walk to different corners of the restaurant and to scream, well, sort of scream, more like rasp out the names of others who worked there, or for plates, knives, forks, etc., in his cappo de tutti voice while everyone else awaited their food, or their check. By the time I got out of there, the eight year old kid had cleared all the tables and I had not yet seen anyone except for the one waiter take an order although tables were continually coming in and the place was full of angry and frustrated customers. Each of the checks, when finally delivered 20 minutes or more after requested, was padded with additional charges that we all took in stride just to get the hell out of the place. By the time I left, I had eaten a meal worth about $15 that cost me roughly $40, but I had experienced quite an evening. Unfortunately, I didn't get in to say hello to my former train compartment companion again.

Tomorrow, I will be leaving Napoli by train, assuming that all goes well, around 10 PM and will arrive in Basel, Switzerland the next afternoon. During the day tomorrow, I hope to leave my bags here while I explore Pompeii a bit.

It will likely be hard to leave Napoli...not because of any emotional connections, but simply because nothing here has been particularly easy. I do know how to find the station, though and consider that a major advantage this time around.



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