Probably one of the most emotionally fulfilling experiences I’ve had since moving abroad occurred two weeks ago when I visited my father’s first cousin and his family outside of Naples. The last time I saw this side of the family was 8 years ago when I was 16 and on a whirlwind summer family tour of all the major Italian cities with stops at my mother’s hometown – the island of Ponza – and also a few days spent in Brusciano, the small town outside Naples where my father grew up.
Just to quickly set the scene of that trip four score and seven years ago, it is important to consider my emotional status at the ripe age of 16. I’m not sure what all of you were like, but to put it bluntly, I was a total hormonal lunatic with teen angst seeping out of my pores. I didn’t speak a word of Italian (and only understood a few key phrases like wooden spoon and how to properly curse off Roberto Baggio on Sundays) and really had no interest to learn. We were in Italy during July, it was 300 degrees and in general one does not think their family is very “cool” at this point in their teenage career. I was tired, probably pining for my boyfriend or Justin Timberlake and well, just acting like a huge pain in the ass. I think you get the picture of my first
embarrassing encounter with this side of the family and hope you won’t judge my behavior too harshly as we’ve all gone through a bratty phase at one point in our lives, right??
So back to the present, I took the (overpriced) train down to Naples and was met by father’s cousin Rocco, his daughters and niece. I was nervous about the whole language thing even though I’ve been taking classes since September and can generally communicate with the Fiorentini. For those of you who are unaware, once you get south of Roma, all bets are off in this country. The dialects can be so strong and so defined even between two neighboring towns that there are instances where people who live 20 minutes from one another use completely different words when referencing the same thing! This was a phenomenon I never truly understood. I mean I grew up hearing southern dialect between my parents and relatives, but didn’t yet have an ear for the great difference between the Italian that is taught in schools and the Neapolitan way of speaking.
But how exciting, right?! People are instantly identifiable but the way they speak and while we kind of have a hint of this in the states, with for example New York, Boston, Southern accents, in Italy these strong differences actually imply a different language! If you think of it, Italy was only unified toward the end of the nineteenth century, before then, it was just a pile of city states that one day were all meshed together, so naturally 200 years later there are still great differences between regional speech. History can be so exciting sometimes!
Alright, I’ve got tons of pics to share but just to give a quick rundown of the trip. I of course went to see my family and revisit my father’s hometown but I also made stops at some notable museums in Naples. You see, I am trying to look into possible internship opportunities for my Masters and have been weaving my way through the major cities over the past weeks. Naples offers a diverse selection of museums with my favorites being: Museo Madre in the city center, and Museo Capodimonte located in a quaint neighborhood at the top of the hill (providing breathtaking views of the city below and the Bay of Naples). There was also an unforgettable pizza experience at Da Michele and multiple sfogliatella (riccia) were consumed throughout the duration of the trip.
I left Naples floating on cloud 9, completely enamored by the simultaneous grit and natural beauty that defines this complicated and in many ways lost city. Walking down Via delle Mille near the water I felt like I was on 5th avenue as I was surrounded by fabulous women in high fashion get ups, effortlessly managing their 4 inch stilettos through the romantic cobblestoned streets. With a quick subway ride though, I was back in the city center feeling suffocated by foreigners shouting at me to buy squishy toys and sunglasses. I heard the garbage problem was taken care of a few months ago, but Naples is still a mess and stinks like dirty baby diapers in some areas. Yet, there is something about the city’s complicated history and identity and the passion of its inhabitants that is absolutely intoxicating. I feel like I need more time to explore this area of the world as I feel a pull or some sort of natural connection to the ebb and flow of its unstable rhythms. Wow that was a bit too poetic but I like it… and let’s get real: I also need to get back and have some one teach me how to make real pizza dough.
Allora, ora le foto:
First stop in Naples: Museo Capodimonte
Next Stop: Museo Madre
Allora, day 2, the family dropped me off at the train station and I hopped on the Metro to Piazza Amadeo. There is a contemporary space, Pan Palazzo, along via delle Mille. Unfortunately their exhibition just closed days before so there was not much to report. Although, the book store was fully stocked with contemporary art literature and the security guard let me use the bathroom even though the building was closed… nice people in Naples.
Anyway, I then sniffed my way down to the water for spectacular views of the Bay of Naples and the surrounding islands before heading back home to Firenze.
Now back in Florence I am getting ready for a slew of visitors heading my way all through March. I’m so excited to play tour guide will keep you posted with updates soon!