Napoli, Italy (Naples)

June 9, 2010

We took a taxi…our driver, chatted in Italian the whole way, intermittently pausing to allow shana to pipe up in Spanish. I threw in random words here and there and a lot of laughter, giddy at the prospect of good food.

The driver pointed at himself and said Guiseppo and then pointed at me, then shana, repeating our names as we said them. Lizzie was in the back seat, still exhausted after her flight in (and 5 hour nap) and ravenous. It was 9pm, just getting dark, and we were finally venturing into the city. She mumbled her name, swallowing the “e” in Elizabeth so that Guiseppo heard lesbeta.

“lesbeta?” he repeated. “lesbeta? Dame e dame?”

What he was asking slowly dawned on us… “no, Elisabetha” shana chimed in with Italian pronounciation.

“ohhhh!” he exclaimed while we all laughed, unsure why he thought she would introduce herself as “lesbian” even if she was a lesbian.

No matter, we arrived and shana handed over €10 (we’re running through euro like water here) and prepared to exit. Guiseppo pointed to the money and said, “two more.” To this, lizzie began digging in her pocket while shana motioned for her to put it away.

“so you’ll come back in two hours?” she asked with a 200watt smile. He answered with what we inferred to be that he would be off work then but reminded us that we must call him tomorrow to take us to the restaurant he suggested. We nodded enthusiastically and exited the car – €2 still in lizzie’s pocket.

Shana has a gift.

Of course the two euro reprieve does very little to remove the sting from our train ride down. We bought our tickets to naples from a machine in the station (complete with me assuming the machine had eaten my card only to discover – at the police officers’ we stopped insistence- it was in my wallet) for €31 for the three of us. Downright giddy. We headed to the train a few minutes before departure only to discover it packed to the gills…we searched frantically for any seats (holding little hope for three together) and finally found a cluster of three in one of the last cars.

We hunkered down and chatted together, catching up on the last few months and giving each other a hard time. A few stops in the ticket agent emerged. We gleefully handed him our ticket and he looked dour. He rapid fired Italian at us and gestured to our ticket. We kept pointing at the number three on there…making sure he saw that despite there being only one ticket it had three people on it. He snatched the ticket and walked away. When he returned he wrote down €50 and pointed at us.

We owed money. As best as we can figure, the extra money was a fine for not having validated our ticket before we boarded. There are little yellow machines at each station and you stick your ticket in before you ride because the tickets themselves are good for a period of time. That was one hell of a lesson to learn…from rough $12 to about $35 tickets…just like that. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

Still…finally seated at an Italian restaurant, Italians (not tourists) all around us, we scanned the menu and prepared to order. Water, a glass of wine for lizzie, antipasto (some kind of cold stuffed eggplant, and assorted peppers and tomatoes with basil and oil), and of course bread (which was not bad like everyone warned me it would be).

We were off to a roaring good start, everyone trying all the dishes and smiling with gastronomic delight. Then we ordered our next course…gnocchi with mozzarella for lizzie and myself and spaghetti with tomatoes for shana. Hers – light and the taste of summer, ours – dense and superbly textured with a mild tomato sauce accented by a generous helping of parmesan cheese.

But we weren’t finished. Fruit had been wafting by our table and so we ordered fruit. Huge chilled wedges of sweet watermelon emerged, followed shortly after by some kind of homemade donuts dusted heavily with sugar.

I was beyond full. Happily patting my bloated belly and basking in the foreignness of the feeling of – not just fullness – but satisfaction. We are early in our trip…still figuring out how it will unfold, what we will do and where we will eat…I am cautiously optimistic that my food fantasies might actually come to fruition.

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