Italy

LAST OF NAPLES

Kris and I attended a HempFest and got hemp pizza. (Only effect was that it was crunchier)

Kris and I attended a HempFest and got hemp pizza. (Only effect was that it was crunchier)

I kept seeing so many English phrases on decorations or clothing around Italy and none of them made any goddamn sense. 

I kept seeing so many English phrases on decorations or clothing around Italy and none of them made any goddamn sense. 

THINGS I'LL MISS ABOUT NAPLES: pizza, ultra-colorful metro stations, Nocciola flavored everything, cheap fruits and veggies, the family that owns the fruit and veggie shop that scream at each other in Italian while I shop and have no idea what they're saying, gelato, the hills of the city, Kris playing John Mayer songs on piano while I bartend, ordering DELIVERY coffee (you call and 5 minutes later an Italian kid shows up at your door with a cappuccino and it's only 1.30 Euro! Why has this not caught on globally?), over groomed Italian men who kind of look like drag queens, ferry access to gorgeous islands, Matias' impression of this, the thrill of just crossing the street, walking by a volcano every day and buffala mozzarella. 

Next stop: Berlin (!)

PROCIDA

Procida is a dreamy little island off the coast of Naples. 

Procida is lovely for just walking around and swooning over the sun drenched, pastel crayon colored buildings all day. I took an outrageous amount of photos so keep clicking the photo below for a few more. 

FUN FACTS:  Procida was formed by the eruption of 4 volcanos, during Roman rule, it was a famous resort for patrician class AND it was a location for the filming of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Trying to get back to the port to catch my ferry, I waited 30 minutes for a bus that never arrived and then a tiny little Italian man who spoke no English (there was a lot of gesturing and me saying "autobus?" "dove?" and "non lo so?") offered me a ride on his scooter. I took him up on his offer and it was simultaneously terrifying and so, SO exciting and fun. Every time Giovanni veered from the path to the port, I became sure that this was it, I was going to die on a beautiful island at the hands of a chubby Italian man half my height and twice my width but of course, he would then stop and say "bella photo! bella photo!" and it became clear that he was just stopping at a scenic point so I could take a photograph of his lovely little island. He dropped me off safely at the port and left me wanting to only travel via scooter from here on out. 

LA CONTRORA HOSTEL

During my month in Naples, I did a workaway gig at La Controra Hostel to sleep/eat/drink for free and save money for my travels. La Controra was an oasis (high ceilings, garden courtyard) in the middle of the madness that is Naples, Italy and (bias aside) it's easily the best hostel I've ever stayed at. 

La Controra is actually a converted monastery, so when you turn to enter your first view is of this eery old cathedral.

La Controra is actually a converted monastery, so when you turn to enter your first view is of this eery old cathedral.

My job was to bartend, lead social activities and cook the Happy Hour Pasta. My culinary repertoire which was limited to stir-fry, omelettes and roasted veggies vastly expanded during my time there... so it now includes: stir-fry, omelettes, roasted veggies and about 15 different kinds of pasta dishes. PRO-TIP: cover everything in cheese.

My job was to bartend, lead social activities and cook the Happy Hour Pasta. My culinary repertoire which was limited to stir-fry, omelettes and roasted veggies vastly expanded during my time there... so it now includes: stir-fry, omelettes, roasted veggies and about 15 different kinds of pasta dishes. PRO-TIP: cover everything in cheese.

An enthusiastic and international (Mexican, German, Canadian and Argentinian) group at reception. 

An enthusiastic and international (Mexican, German, Canadian and Argentinian) group at reception. 

La Controra had an ideal central location, was comfortable for lounging about (this can be rare with hostels) and the built-in bar that was frequented by local Italians and travelers alike always proved to be a good time. Below are a few photos from our Halloween party where we had drink specials ("gin and bubonic" + "sex on a haunted beach"), "blood-and-guts veggie pasta" and I bought a hat and therefore, was a pirate. 

Alessandro:   the receptionist, l  ocal Nea  politan and my toughest pasta critic ("mmm. Not al dente.")

Alessandro: the receptionist, local Neapolitan and my toughest pasta critic ("mmm. Not al dente.")

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This guy (1/2 of a pair of American twins) fell asleep STANDING at the bar. He was not allowed any more Nastro Azzuro's. 

This guy (1/2 of a pair of American twins) fell asleep STANDING at the bar. He was not allowed any more Nastro Azzuro's. 

If you ever find yourself in Naples, get over to La Controra Hostel for a nice stay or at least for a pint of Peroni. 

VESUVIUS + POMPEII

Had a nice little touristy day at Vesuvius and Pompeii, two of the most famous historical sights around Naples.

Here's Vesuvius from the city of Naples (for perspective). 

Here's Vesuvius from the city of Naples (for perspective). 

 Now, here I am on the top of Vesuvius. 

 Now, here I am on the top of Vesuvius. 

Vesuvius is the most dangerous volcano on the European mainland and the only one that's erupted in the last 100 years (1944). If or when it does erupt, there would be a 14-20 day warning period where approximately 600,000 people would need to evacuate the area. Let's hope that only happens after my stint in Naples is finished. 

After Vesuvius we took the train to visit Pompeii, the town that was destroyed and buried with ash from the 79 AD eruption. It was a mix of sad/creepy/fascinating but it was mostly wild visiting a place I've been learning about since elementary school. 

Ryan (a Kiwi I found on the island of Ischia and then brought back to the big city) is considerably taller than the residents of Pompeii back in the day. 

Ryan (a Kiwi I found on the island of Ischia and then brought back to the big city) is considerably taller than the residents of Pompeii back in the day. 

ISCHIA

A spontaneous trip to the island of Ischia with Mugu (the fun-sized Romanian manager at La Controra) led to: a ferry ride on the Tyrrhenian Sea, night swimming, a stay at a hidden paradise of a hostel and a morning at the hot springs. 

Ischia's a volcanic island and natural hot springs flow out of certain parts of the coast, so we hung out in the relaxing springs for a few hours before heading back to the hectic city. 

I visited Ischia a few days later for pumpkin pasta (which I was thrilled to see on the menu...Italy doesn't embrace the ultimate seasonal flavor nearly as much as it ought to) and to do a hike up Mount Epomeo. 

Just hanging out, in front of a sketchy cave.

Just hanging out, in front of a sketchy cave.

Never dressed appropriately for a hike. 

Never dressed appropriately for a hike. 

We made it to the top in 6 hours, just before sunset and had a steep trip down followed by boxed wine and cookies for dinner and of course, epic pizzas for lunch the following day. 

One of the greatest things about pizza in Italy is that people don't share them. It's just understood that everyone is going to eat an entire pizza themselves. Every pizza is a personal pan pizza. What a beautiful concept. 

MORE AROUND NAPLES

Naples has a decaying kind of beauty to it and it's current look seems to reveal the eruptions, earthquakes, bombings, rebellions and conquests it's endured. 

Nowadays, Naples has an energy to it that's reminiscent of when you first step off the train at Penn Station in Manhattan. It's (loud) buzz is made up of the whirring engines of scooters, little cars honking and Neapolitans yelling in (what I've learned to actually be is) the most affectionate way possible.

Watching Italians interact with each other on the street (eyes wide, voices raised, hands flying) I keep expecting fist fights to break out but every time it ends with double cheek kisses and it's clear that they were just discussing their favorite type of bufala mozzarella or something. 

The other day I was sitting outside a cafe giggling at this book (Amazon Prime is just as awesome while abroad) when the whole city actually ROARED when a goal was scored in a Naples vs. Rome. I wasn't sitting within a block of a television but I swear the ground vibrated with cheers from miles around. These people truly express themselves.  

This kind of energy also makes for lively nights out, specifically in Piazza Bellini where everyone congregates just about every night of the week. There's a few cute bars surrounding it but everyone mostly buys 2 Euro beers and takes over the square with live music and loud conversation. With crowds blocking the street I'm floored that it's never broken up by the police because it's absolutely packed. It looks a protest or a riot or like Southie on St. Patrick's Day but it's just another night Napoli. 

SORRENTO

One of the best things about Naples (besides the pizza) is the easy access to the Mediterranean islands and the Amalfi Coast. A couple of recent day trips to Sorrento consisted of fettuccine and sunbathing with a few rowdy Australians followed by prosciutto sandwiches and rock jumping with some cute Americans. 

I'm not pushing Kris off the rock here, even though it very much appears that way. 

I'm not pushing Kris off the rock here, even though it very much appears that way. 

Sorrento was really lovely. I should note that I kept a lookout for shredded cheese everywhere I went before realizing that's actually SARGENTO and I'm a dumb American. Still a lovely place.

AROUND NAPLES

Baristas at Cafe Mexico. Which is understood to be (oddly enough) the best coffee in Italy. 

Baristas at Cafe Mexico. Which is understood to be (oddly enough) the best coffee in Italy. 

Kris and I at the highest peak in Naples, dubbed "the secret garden" which you have to hop a 15 foot fence to reach. This was minutes before we got kicked out and yelled at. Kris is a fellow  workawayer  at the hostel. He appears to be your typical American broseph at first but he's super smart, inquisitive and full of surprises... like when you learn he plays the mandolin, is planning on studying neuroscience and says things like "you know, sometimes Macy Gray just really hits the spot". He's only 18 and I blew his mind when I told him John Mayer had an album before Room For Squares because he was only 3 YEARS OLD when it come out. I didn't think kids born in 1996 were eating solid foods at this point, but apparently they're traveling around Europe. 

Kris and I at the highest peak in Naples, dubbed "the secret garden" which you have to hop a 15 foot fence to reach. This was minutes before we got kicked out and yelled at. Kris is a fellow workawayer at the hostel. He appears to be your typical American broseph at first but he's super smart, inquisitive and full of surprises... like when you learn he plays the mandolin, is planning on studying neuroscience and says things like "you know, sometimes Macy Gray just really hits the spot". He's only 18 and I blew his mind when I told him John Mayer had an album before Room For Squares because he was only 3 YEARS OLD when it come out. I didn't think kids born in 1996 were eating solid foods at this point, but apparently they're traveling around Europe. 

Clotheslines are EVERYWHERE in Naples. 

Clotheslines are EVERYWHERE in Naples. 

Apparently it's a bit of faux pas to order a cappuccino past 10 AM in Italy. This hasn't deterred me in any way, especially because I try not to be awake before 10 AM. 

Apparently it's a bit of faux pas to order a cappuccino past 10 AM in Italy. This hasn't deterred me in any way, especially because I try not to be awake before 10 AM. 

Vesuvius (!) over the Mediterranean. Last erupted in 1944. Still a bit too recent. 

Vesuvius (!) over the Mediterranean. Last erupted in 1944. Still a bit too recent. 

One funny thing about Naples is that while the streets are rather dirty, the subways are SPOTLESS. Many of the stations have been designed by artists and are absolutely immaculate. This is at Toledo station, which is filled with blue tile sculptures, ocean scenes and a tunnel that lets the sun shine through.  

One funny thing about Naples is that while the streets are rather dirty, the subways are SPOTLESS. Many of the stations have been designed by artists and are absolutely immaculate. This is at Toledo station, which is filled with blue tile sculptures, ocean scenes and a tunnel that lets the sun shine through.  

Matias and Marcos, Argentinian workawayers at the hostel who are also DJ's under the name  Rebel Pandaff . One night they played at a local club so we all went and danced til 5 AM. I won't lie, I don't fully understand what "Deep House" music is quite yet but  this song  starting at the 24:10 mark is my jaaaaaam. 

Matias and Marcos, Argentinian workawayers at the hostel who are also DJ's under the name Rebel Pandaff. One night they played at a local club so we all went and danced til 5 AM. I won't lie, I don't fully understand what "Deep House" music is quite yet but this song starting at the 24:10 mark is my jaaaaaam. 

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NAPLES, ITALY

Naples is (gratifying) chaos. 

Naples has all the elements of a city I would normally hate: crowded, dirty, filled with bad graffiti and loud people... but for some reason, it's completely thrilling and charming. And thank god, because I'm here for a whole month (2.5 weeks-in at the moment... a bit behind on blog posts!). 

I haven't properly captured the insanity of Naples through photos yet but trust me when I say it's there. The thousands of scooters carrying whole families (babies and dogs included) and loud Italians yelling and gesticulating from cars, windows and shops are a couple of cinematic stereotypes proved to be very true. 

I'm reading An Italian in Italy right now which explains that "...in Italy rules are not obeyed as they are elsewhere. We think it's an insult to our intelligence to comply with a regulation. Obedience is boring. We want to think about it. We want to decide whether a particular law applies to our specific case. In that place, at that time". I admire the sentiment but this Italian attitude towards traffic laws ensures that I feel like I've cheated death every time I've successfully crossed the street. 

Vesuvius, looming in the background. 

Vesuvius, looming in the background. 

Despite being the perfect package for a tourist spot (warm weather, rich history, on the coast, amazing food-- the pizza is here is OUT OF CONTROL), Naples has failed to take advantage of the tourist industry. This means (outside of the hostel) I rarely see another non-Italian and it's made the last few weeks here feel really authentic.

My 2 years of Italian at BC has proved completely useless (not that I retained much at the time) as Neapolitan Italian is a whole other vernacular away from standard Italian. The few phrases that I do know must be said with an accent that feels like I'm mocking Mario and/or Luigi in order for anyone to understand what I'm saying, so usually I get by with a lot of smiling and nodding. Although doing that, I did agree to a dinner date with a butcher when I thought he was just talking about the pancetta I ordered. So now I have to find a new neighborhood butcher. 

It's been a genuine Italian adventure so far.

More soon. Expect a lot of photos of pizza. 

24 HOURS IN ROME

Flying in from Marseille, I had 24 hours in Rome before heading to Naples by train. I ate delicious pizza, drank an overpriced cappuccino and toured the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. 

At the Colosseum tour I learned that the politicians and rich people always got the good seats (the stadium held up to 80,000) and the gladiators would risk their lives and well-being for money, fame and women. So really, not much has changed in the sports and entertainment industry. 

+ Keep clicking the last photo above for a few more shots. 

The touristy sites were educational but the real cultural experience was meeting Angelo (doppleganger of the drummer from The Strokes), an Italian kid flying back to his hometown after a year in Marseille. We spent a few hours together at the airport and he taught me useful Italian phrases while I taught him American curse words which he promptly texted to all of his friends. American diplomacy at it's best.