Monday August 23, 2016
My blabla car driver dropped me off in front of some sketchy looking Metro station. His English was not so good, which I expected the further south I got. He was trying though. Trying hard to help me out. He even called the CouchsurfEr I was staying with and told him i would be coming by metro and asked what metro station I should get off on.
But it was difficult to understand the words that were coming out of his mouth with his thick accent. I zoned out a bit and nodded and thanked him. He drove off.
I slowly realized I had no idea where I was. No idea what metro he told me to get off at. No way of getting ahold of anyone.
I smiled to myself and turned around to the metro. Perfect. A challenge.
I ended up befriending 2 older ladies in the station. Thank goodness they were there because it was completely empty and in the middle of nowhere and no English anywhere. One lady was from Germany and had married an Italian. One was from Sicily. They were both heavily made up with tight clothes stretching over their larger bodies. They were sweet. I gave then the address of where I was trying to go and they told me the station, Toledo. Yes. I do remember that name. We talked. They were super impressed and shocked that I was traveling alone. No plans. And they told me to be wary of Italian men. They can by tricky, one said. “And don’t forget to eat pizza. We invented it you know!” One last shouted as she got off the subway.
The station I got off at was covered in shimmery blue and white and pearl tile mosaics. Tiny lights were scattered about that illuminated everything in blue or white.
The staircase went up and up this beautiful l color scheme. I felt like j was ascending into an ice world.
But no. I reached street level and the heat hit me. Ohh wow this was going to be fun.
My CouchsurfEr, another beautiful Italian. Born and raised in Naples. He took me to his flat. A tiny box of a place with a toilet in the shower! I adored it. The terrace outside was the roof of an old unusable church which had recently been turned into a bar. I got to sit up top on the ledge and dangle my feet below, watching the people below on the little plaza… The entrance to the church changed bar. It was empty during the day. But by night it was hopping. And we talked. Of growing up in Naples. Of where to go in Italy. Of spirit animals.. He lived in the historic district of Napoli. Small winding streets. Little alleyways. Shops selling gelato and everything fried. Everything was closed. It was a Sunday. The garage pull down doors were shut and locked. They were all covered in graffiti as well.
Naples, at first, came off to me as dirty, scary, intimidating. Trash was everywhere. People yelling in Italian or Napolese. All sounding so angry. The graffiti on the walls were more intense, wild, all over the place and mixed with posters or partially torn down fliers. Scrawling. Words. Names. Half faded drawings. As we were walking around that afternoon and all night, I pointed out all of the different things I saw. Hearts. Dragons. “Love” . “Moon”. hidden in amongst the mess. He looked at me. Surprised. “I never noticed that and I’ve been walking these streets for years”. We played a game that night as we wandered up and down the streets drinking our beer. Who could find the hearts and moons and dragons and other bits of beautiful amongst the hodgepodge.
We walked to the sea. As we walked by tourist shops, he would stop and point out what they were selling and explain why they were so meaningful to the city. There were monks and sisters walking about adorned in their religious garb. When we reached the sea, I felt like I was in another world. You know the movie, “Romeo and Juliet”? The converts Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes? I felt like I was thrown straight into that movie. There were beautiful Italians all over, their skins dark from the sun. The men and boys were all wearing colorful tiny speedo like things and ladies in bikinis that barely covered their lady bits. All rocking Italian sunglasses. Italian music was blaring, happy and catchy. Some wee dancing. Some were shouting. It was wow.
We laid on some rocks and he told me of the volcano that towered just outside the city. The one that destroyed Pompeii. He told me of the two castles we could see from where we lay. He told me if Capri and how it’s beautiful but much too luxury and fancy it is. Of Sicily and how it has beautiful beaches, big cities and lots of historical stuff and churches whereas Sardinia which was up by Rome had much more potential to be more wild and untamed. The Caribbean of Italy. I pondered heading back up that way. I couldn’t get enough.
As the sun set and the night settled in the city got more and more beautiful. The small streets were dimly light. People ambled up and down the cobblestone. Occasionally we’d reach a piazza where everyone was hanging out. People watching. My favorite. The people were loud. Passionate. He told me this was low key for a Sunday night. I’m not a city girl. This was soooo cool.
We went to this little hole in the wall Indian street food restaurant. Spent 4 euros and got the most deficits Indian food to split between the two of us. We walked around the corner where old men were playing cards on little tables outside. We found an empty bench and dug in. We had a bottle of wine of 1.20 euros.
Vespas and cars would occasionally zoom down the streets and everyone would scatter. We found more hearts and moons and beautiful things written on the walls.
It was a magical night.
Yes Napoli to be quite dirty. Haphazard. Very different energies than the other cities I’ve been. I can’t put it into words. But it won me over
And for sure. It’s the people you stay with that make or break a city. And I think I lucked out with my CouchsurfEr.
The next day he told me of some catacombs in the cemetery of a church. I charged my phone, grabbed my camera and the map and headed out. I sat next to him as he explained how to get there with the map. Pointing at the different phases. Once again, I zoned out just listening to the lovely accent. I thanked him and set off.
Away from the city I went. Down to where families lived. Everyday lives happened. Old men sitting on benches laughing and talking. Shopkeepers standing outside, their arms crossed glaring into the streets, waiting for more customers. Clothes hung out to dry outside of every window. Radios and the blared into the streets as people swung open the doors to their terraces to get some sort of a breeze. I received a lot of stares. Some creepy hungry old men eueing my like I’m some delicious meat. A few dudes shouted at me. I had no idea what they said. I kept on. Father up the hill. Away from the city streets. It was quieter. I walked up and down trying to find this church. I mentally berrated myself for not paying attention. Or writing down the name of the church. I caught some beautiful views of the city.
I walked up some street that got narrower and barrier as it went up and up. The walls got higher. Ivy and blackberry bramble covered the stone.suddenly I heard a growl, followed by barking on both sides. I froze. Fuck. This might be the day I die. I heard the footsteps of the dogs as they ran. They were just above me. In the wall. Three on one side. Two on the other. Angry. I debated. I doubted that they would jump. I took a deep breath and continued walking. They continued to bark. Snarl. But they did not jump. Thick goodness.
I stopped a few people. Tried to ask them where to go. We couldn’t understand each other but we tried. They were sweet. At one point I stopped at this building that mayyyyybe looked like a church? It had a sign out front. Maybe at least someone knew English.
I knocked I. The door and some 20 something year old guy answered. That was a good sign. Usually most that age knew some form of English. I asked him. He was sweet. Led me down to the street and gave me some complicated directions. I never found it. About an hour later I started walking back to town. The guy from the building appeared from nowhere. He asked if I’d found them with that accent. I said noooo but I’ve had a wonderful time wandering. He smiled. And have me directions again. Wrote them down. Said that if he had his Vespa with him he would love to take me there and show me around. Then he wished me good luck and said something in Italian or Napalese, waved and walked on.
I never found the catacombs.
I have still yet to eat pizza in Naples. Still have yet to ride on the back of a Vespa through the streets. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. But so far. I am charmed with this city.