Category Archives: italia

pro-sitting manifesto / my sitting education

Hi friends / but actually just my family: I hope you are all very well. I am about to embark on a very exciting project that is centered around a very exciting pastime: sitting. Not convinced sitting is so great? Check out my most recent musings on sitting, and why it is worth your thought, consideration, love, and butt.

Sitting is sacred. Sitting is beautiful. Sitting is so simple, so seemingly obvious that we fail to appreciate or even recognize it on a day-to-day basis. In America, we associate sitting with waste, laziness, and poor health. Businesspeople invest in stand-up desks, or worse, treadmill desks. Health scientists publish studies on the ill effects of too much sitting. Michelle Obama and other very bright, well-intentioned public figures encourage us to move, upright and often. This is very reasonable; Americans sit too much. The fundamental problem, though, isn’t the act of sitting; it’s that we aren’t sitting properly.

Having traveled through Italy, from Bergamo to Palermo, I’ve found that my most treasured memories transpired as I sat: eating a luscious bowl of spaghetti alle vongole, discussing Berlusconi with an old man on a bench, sipping aperitivos perfectly alone in a café for hours. When we gather to sit together, we enter a special realm where sharing is the ruling principle. Seated, we share meals, memories, stories, beers, secrets, and cheese, really all of the best things. But when we sit alone, we experience something equally magical — the ability to deeply observe the beauty and complexity of our surroundings.

Italians know how to sit.

piazza bellini in naples

piazza bellini in naples

The literal translation of Dolce fare niente is “sweet doing nothing.” The phrase reads awkwardly in English, in part because we can be pretty squeamish about “doing nothing.” And when we are doing nothing — stalking ourselves on Instagram, toiling at the gym, deciding on the appropriate emoji for a particular text — we are numb. At best, we’re vaguely interested. At worst, we’re lonely, alienated by our screens, made anxious by our inability to set aside daily space to sit and inhale and experience peace, with others or alone.

Peace, however, is not always silent. There is a loud peace, a sort of hectic order to the narrow streets of Naples, for example, where old men and women sit for the vast majority of the day. It was sitting on benches and stoops in the piazzas of Naples when I first truly understood the meaning of the sacred tradition of dolce fare niente. I couldn’t have arrived at this understanding alone. Italy’s elders enlightened me: It was how they sat.

***

Parked on stoops or plastic chairs outside their homes, dolling out ‘ciaos’ to people passing by, the old people of Naples unequivocally run the streets. Typically, they assemble in packs. Visit any piazza in the Campania region and you’ll find clusters of them, on benches or stairs, playing cards and gossiping with the same friend groups they’ve had since grade school. These older folks, men and women, offered me an invaluable (and unsolicited) sitting education.

One afternoon, as I lugged groceries up the narrow street to my apartment, I noticed I had a spectator: a short, fleshy old woman named Maria, sitting outside her home on a pink beach chair.

Now I’d grown accustomed to being watched, particularly by people over 60, ever since I’d moved to Naples. From balconies, windows, and motorcycles, my retired neighbors would both watch and openly discuss me. Once, an old man in a pinstripe suit approached me at the bar. “I saw you buying groceries yesterday. Gatorade and cookies and chips. Why?”

This particular old woman, Maria, looked kind; her inspection of me was not malicious, but gentle, almost thoughtful. I sat down on the chair next to hers.

In a matter of minutes, she became an old friend. Maria was an eighty-three-year-old, born-and-raised napolitana, currently living with her youngest (and unmarried) grandson, Antonio, a wild-eyed, perpetually shirtless man in his early forties, who ran outside to offer me a beer the moment I sat down. I sipped my Peroni as Maria told me about her eight children, reminding me, again, that Antonio was not married. She’d periodically interrupt her anecdotes to grab my hand and insist I drink faster. “With this sun, the beer will get hot.”

The beer was still cold, and Antonio, still shirtless, clutched his stomach and stuck his head outside. “Quick, quick!”

The faux urgency rolled over me, as intended, and I sat with Maria, for hours. And Maria would continue sitting for hours after I left. All the while, there was noise. Screaming and vrooming and meowing and sizzling and taunting and singing. If you sit for long enough, the noise seeps in through your pores and becomes you. Your insides are Naples, and Naples’ insides are you.

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Though reluctant to exaggerate, I’m very comfortable with the following declaration: there is no silence in Naples. Not in churches, not in alleys, and especially not at six in the morning, when garbage trucks make their rounds and dogs settle their scores. The first night I attempted sleep in my apartment, an array of noises wafted through my window: shrieking cats, shrieking vespas, a pack of middle-aged men singing “Summer of 69,” a family washing dishes, and at least four distinct heated arguments, all concerning food.

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I stepped onto my tiny balcony, resisting the urge to scream “BASTA!” and throw clothespins at the sound offenders. Instead, I made an important decision: I chose to sit. Just as I had with my old friend Maria earlier in the day.

The streets are so narrow in the quartieri spagnoli that from my balcony, I could see into six different homes spanning three floors. Due of the ruthless Neapolitan heat, residents keep their windows and balconies open, so not only can you see other people’s business, you hear and smell it, too. (And on unlucky days, you step in it.)

You will find no notions of outside or inside. Here, the concept of privacy falls somewhere on the spectrum between nonexistent and joke. Napolitani bring their living rooms to the streets. They assemble tables and chairs outside of their homes, where they’ll sit amidst swarms of swerving Vespas and agitated children. When you walk through the cobblestone streets, you weave in and out of dogs, babies, chairs, motorcycles. When you sit in the cobblestone streets, you both see and are everything. Clothespins will fall on your head, from high, high above you. Strangers will offer you sfogliatelle. A dog will eat the sfogliatelle out of your hand.

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I sat with Maria the next day, and then the next, and for weeks after that. I explored the city through stoops, lawn chairs, benches; I made my friends, and I sat with them, for hours, because the day is hot and long, and I had nowhere to be but everywhere.

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Naples’ Garbage Problem Problem

(Here’s another old journal entry, from when I was living in Naples last August.)

Naples has a garbage problem problem.

That is, Neopolitans are not addressing their garbage problem, and that is a problem.

Any tourist guide, travel magazine, or native Neapolitan will tell you that Naples is filled with trash. Indeed, there is garbage everywhere: overflowing from rusty dumpsters in plastic bags, spread on the narrow cobblestone streets, floating in the Mediterranean, and piling up on the side of the highway. Yet Neapolitans always make a point of telling me that the trash situation was worse ten years ago, and that it’s not so bad now.

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“Here’s the thing about Naples and garbage,” my friend and Naples-native Biagio told me. “It’s not that we’re inherently dirty. It’s just that if you lived in a city where people put their trash out and no one picked it up, your city would be filled with trash, too! No one’s just throwing trash around.”

But people are just throwing trash around. While the Neapolitan garbage system is clearly flawed, individuals are responsible, too. Perhaps because they’ve lost faith in the mafia-run trash system, or perhaps because everywhere they look there’s garbage and what’s one more pizza box? I, for one, know that I’m complicit.

Every other morning, I leave my Naples apartment with a plastic bag filled with old soda cans, parts of sandwiches I didn’t finish, receipts, empty bottles, and more plastic bags. I walk to the main road, Via Toledo, where there are public trashcans, and I, as discretely as possible, stuff my bag inside the can and speed walk away.

If the public cans are full, I find an overflowing dumpster. I hold my breath, lift the top, drop my bag, and briskly walk away. An old woman follows suit behind me.

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5 am

Here’s a journal entry from last summer, when I was living in the small town of Guardia Sanframondi.

This morning I woke up at 5:00am. My schedule is disrupted because of the week-long wine festival, Vinalia — I sleep on-and-off during the day and re-emerge at night, to dance and drink wine in the piazza mercato.

There is a certain peace about 5:00 am. I am not suggesting it’s worth waking up for (unless breakfast meats are involved), but it’s nice. Cool. Quiet. Still. I read my New Yorkers in bed for an hour and, after an unsuccessful attempt at falling back asleep, I put on my sneakers and stepped outside, prepared to go for a short passagiata and profit from the fleeting coolness.

I was not the only one awake. Stray dogs, old women in shift dresses sweeping their front steps, and men delivering pastries to bars. The embraced the new day with varying degrees of vigor.

I stopped by a fountain on the side of the road to fill up my water bottle. I heard someone scream my name.

“Maria!”

I resented this disturbance from my solitude. But  if you walk anywhere in Guardia, you must first accept the impossibility of remaining alone.

I made eye contact with Michele, a white haired man in his mid sixties, who is across the street, dressed in a tight pink T-shirt with a blue kerchief tied around his neck. Some evenings Michele can be found singing and playing guitar at Pizzaland, the fun-themed pizzeria where he performs alongside his smoke machine, that he owns, because he owns a smoke machine. More often than not he’s strolling around Corso Umberto, Guardia’s main road, popping in and out of bars and waving to acquaintances across the street. He seems to be perpetually making the rounds, overseeing the general order of Guardia, not unlike the town’s stray dogs.

“What are you doing up this early?” he asked me.

“Una passagiata.”

“Alone? Why are you alone?”

“I like being alone.”

“Listen,” he said, “The water fountain down the hill is much better. This one is no good. The water is hot.”

I put my hand under the running water. It was cool.

“This is fine.”

Michele spent the next five minutes trying to explain to me that the fountain a half a mile down the hill, in the opposite direction, is much, much better.

I asked him if this water, from this fountain here, where we were already standing, was drinkable, and he said yes, and I said it was good enough for me, as my only demand of water is that it doesn’t give me diarrhea.

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Important Lessons: Italian Man Edition

(NOTE: The following is a tale of a certain man-sperience I had while living in a small town in southern Italy. Names have been changed, facts have not.)

“Watching Armageddon… and crying :( :( :( !!”

Tommaso sent me this text the morning after I met him. Having moved from New York—the world’s capital of textual duplicity—to a town in southern Italy, I was initially refreshed by his total lack of game. But instincts are hard to shake. I got out of bed and paced around my room. I made pasta. I nibbled on a wedge of Parmesan cheese. What’s his angle? I thought. Three frowny faces…ironic or sincere? Before I could commit to more nervous speculation, my phone lit up.

“What are you doing now???”

The night before, my friend Andrea introduced me to Tommaso, who wanted to practice his English. Andrea lurked slyly away, and Tommaso and I discussed Berlusconi, Italy’s educational system, the mafia, and white wine. An hour later, Andrea popped back in between us.

“Would you like to get cigarettes with my friend?” He gestured to Tommaso, with whom I was mid-conversation.

Amused by this clunky and transparent wing-manning, I finished my beer and turned to Tommaso. “Si, andiamo.”

Exiting any public establishment in Italy can take several minutes, usually hours. As Tommaso and I were leaving the bar, my friend leaned towards me and winked. “Brava, Maria.”

“Brava, Maria,” another echoed, and clapped. “He’s a nice guy. Good work.”

Tommaso and Andrea exchanged parting whispers, and I followed Tommaso to his (father’s) car. We drove a few blocks down the road to the vending machine that sold cigarettes. I waited in the car as Tommaso bought his cigarettes, and he offered to drive me back to the old, crumbling part of town where I lived. He walked me down the narrow, cobble-stoned streets to my door. We sat on the stoop, my knee touching his.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked.

“No.”

“Do you like Italian boys?”

“The ones who don’t wax their eyebrows.”

“Do you like me?”

“You’re not so bad.”

Encouraged, he leaned in for a kiss. We made out against my door, then against the other side of my door, then on my bed.

I asked him if he had condoms.

“This is a small village,” he said. “If I went to the pharmacy to buy condoms, everyone would know. I’m very timid.”

“This is a small village,” I said. “If I went to the pharmacy to buy condoms—as a foreign woman—everyone would not only know, but shun me forever as a whore or a witch. This is a rural town. People legitimately own pitchforks and torches.”

I sent Tommaso home, where his mother was surely waiting for him, wondering where he was.

***

There is no healthy Italian hook-up culture.

Here’s another bold statement I’m only able to support by anecdotal experience: Italian men lack game, causing them to overcompensate with cartoonish forwardness or, typically, to shy away from contact entirely, staring at women but never striking up conversation. The very courageous, moderately respectful ones might approach you and ask questions to your boobs, like, “Where are you from?” or “Do you know Obama?” But that’s pretty much the extent of it.

A healthy Italian hook-up culture is further impeded by the reality that men aged twenty to thirty five typically live at home. Yet for men in their late thirties who have yet to start lives independent of their mothers’, the level of confidence can be striking.

One afternoon, I was relaxing at a bar with my friend Mario, a 70-year-old retired sports coach. A man in his late 40’s, also named Mario, entered the bar, wearing a purple polo with the collar pulled up and his thinning hair pulled up, too, with cheap hair gel. The older Mario introduced me, and the younger, but by no means young, Mario began asking me questions, before pleasantries or even names were exchanged. “Are you alone?” “Where do you live?” “What are you doing tonight?” Are you single?”

These men always ask if I’m single, as if that’s the only barrier between us being together.

One waiter at a Naples pizzeria asked me if I had a boyfriend even before I ordered my pizza, which I found completely unfair.

“No,” I said.

“Why not?”

“Uhhh…I’m really independent?”

“Same! I’m really independent, too!”

Sometimes, this lack of smoothness is charming. In New York, where I lived for a year prior to moving to Italy, men pride themselves on concealing all interest, or doling out just enough to coax you into sleeping with them. Texts are cryptic. Even when they’re not, you must read them as cryptic. I’ll never be able to return to the era of not analyzing each word and punctuation mark in texts—because, tragically, once one person plays the game, everyone must play the game. A good analogy here might be steroids and baseball. Something about a level playing field.

And as I’ve always struggled to be coy or elusive or dismissive, the game never got easier for me. I failed the New York dating scene, hard, because I couldn’t stop caring, even about men I didn’t care about. Yeah, I’ve sent more than one Facebook message after 3 am.

***

That afternoon, my phone lit up again. It was Tommaso. “Are you going out tonight?” I realized I hadn’t responded to his initial Armageddon text. Look at me, I thought. Accidentally playing it cool.

“Yeah, I think so,” I texted back.

Five seconds later, he responded with “:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :).”

I have the power. I thought, gleefully. As a rule, whoever texts a series of repeating emoticons relinquishes all power.

That night we met up at the bar. He was wearing sweats and drinking an iced tea. Clearly, he knew he’d be getting some—he hadn’t even bothered to not wear pajamas. I downed a few glasses of white wine, and we eventually walked back to my place. No one pretended to need cigarettes.

After we had sex, he immediately began dressing himself. “I’m so tired,” he said, and scurried on home. I lay on my bed, naked, flipping through an old New Yorker. I made myself some frozen French fries on the stove.

The following day was text-free. That night at the bar, I saw Tommaso out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look at him—to say hi—but he turned away immediately. An hour later, I approached the group he was huddled in, and said, “Hey, how’s it going?”

“Good, good,” he said, to the ground. He took a nervous sip of his drink. Bored by the unoriginality of sleeping with someone who can’t look at you the next day, I rejoined my girlfriends, who decided to teach me some of the town’s dialect.

Qualquequerà,” Chiara said, “Can either mean an orange slice or a good-for-nothing man, depending on the context.” I tried to imagine a situation in which the context left the word’s meaning ambiguous. I came up with, “A qualquequerà isn’t enough for me, which could be followed by, depending on the intended meaning of qualquequerà, “I want the whole orange, not just a slice” or, “I want a whole man, God damnit.”

It occurred to me that my problem with men wasn’t a New York problem or an Italy problem. It wasn’t an issue of game, or lack of game, an issue of ironic texts or sincere texts. It was an asshole issue. I needed to change my narrative, the narrative I’d constructed to make sense of my frustrating dealings with men. What I really needed was to eliminate narratives all together.

I looked at Tommaso, who was recreationally throwing rocks at a bush. “Qualquaquerà,” I said. And then I laughed.

kickin it southern italian style

kickin it southern italian style

the travel gods

the god damn adriatic

the god damn adriatic

I arrived in Ancona at 7:00am, greasy and red-eyed. I stumbled off the overnight ferry I’d taken from Croatia to Italy. I had only managed to sleep two hours, curled over two chairs with my overstuffed, burlap backpack as a blanket, in a cold room filled with highly talkative, middle-aged Brazilian tourists who were on some sort of religious field trip. I took the bus to the Ancona train station, where I asked for a ticket to Rome. The woman behind the window told me there was a train in 20 minutes, but if left from Falconara, a neighboring town just a short bus ride away. She printed me off a ticket and I lugged my suitcase, backpack, and tote on to the cramped bus. Ten minutes along the Adriatic, we stopped right by a sign that said “Falconara.” It’s my stop! I bashed my way towards the doors—the straps of my military backpack swinging furiously—but they closed before I could exit.

“I need to get off here!” I yelled. “Devo scendere qui!” The bus driver opened the doors, and I plopped down on the side of the street. The bus drove away. I soon saw there was no station; I had gotten off prematurely. Confused and belligerent from lack of sleep, I ran down the road after the bus, dragging my suitcase as my toddler-sized backpack bounced up and down on my back, in what proved to be the most physically exhausting activity of my life. I trotted until I reached the next bus stop, where an old man was reading the newspaper.

“Excuse me, sir. How far away is the station?”

“About three kilometers.”

I couldn’t even run that far without carrying five months worth of clothing and impulse buys.

There was six minutes to make my train. If I missed it, I would have to buy a new ticket (fifty dollars I could not afford) and wait in Falconara, my new least favorite town, for an undetermined amount of time.

A bus turned around the corner and drove towards us.

“Does this one go to the station?” I asked him.

The man nodded, so I approached the bus cautiously, one more misstep away from lying down in the middle of the road.

I schlepped my stuff onto the bus. I asked the bus driver and three different passengers whether the vehicle would take me to the Falconara station—all parties confirmed it would. Unfortunately, I had only zero minutes left to make my train.

As we finally approached what appeared to be a train station, I looked at my fellow passengers and before I could ask again, a woman said, “Yes, this is the station.”

I leaped off the bus and ran towards the first track, where there was a train. A man in a conductor’s uniform smoking a cigarette sat on the stairs to one of the cars.

“Will. This. Take. Me. To Rome?” My ticket fluttered between my hands as I tried to show it to him. He grabbed the ticket and inspected it silently, as if swept up in the drama.

Si, va bene.

The train, like me, must have been running ten minutes late. I boarded the train and walked through the aisle down to car eight, once again slapping everyone with my rusty backpack buckles. (I’d turn to apologize to an elderly woman, only to whack the six-year-old on the other side of the aisle.) I found my seat and put my luggage in the overhead compartment. I sat down and laughed manically for five minutes. Then I fell asleep.

I should have missed that train, but for some reason, having nothing to do with my level of planning or running speed or merits as a human, I made it. That’s the magnificent, often terrifying thing about travel—it giveth and it taketh away. On some journeys—even the meticulously planned ones—every single logistical element goes terribly wrong. As a traveler, you must accept that you have a limited amount of agency; you must surrender yourself to the transportation gods, the not-getting-mugged gods, the weather gods, and many more deities who have no invested interest in you making your trains or eating a sandwich that doesn’t give you diarrhea for three days. Traveling had made me more humble, more equipped to deal with the inevitable disappointments and disasters that fill a life.

If I had missed that train, maybe I would have cried. But in five minutes or fifteen, after indulging in my frustration and exhaustion, I would have shrugged. I would have gone to the café and ordered a cappuccino. Maybe I’d have read a book, or begun recounting the tale in my notebook.

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dear croatia: a young girl’s voyage over the adriatic

Remember those historical fiction books about girls making all sorts of journeys / having all sorts of era-specific struggles? I believe the series was called Dear America, because that’s what comes up when I Google “girls America historical fiction journeys.” Think of this blog post—in which I recount my 12 hour voyage from Italy to Croatia on a peculiar budget ferry—as an extension of that series. (While I was too busy playing Pokémon and watching its corresponding television show, my sister read these books, and from time to time I would look at the covers, or flip through them looking for pictures. There were no pictures.)

Hour 1:

After the most chaotic, physically-taxing schlep of my life, I’ve finally boarded the Blue Line ferry in Ancona, which I’ll be taking to Split, Croatia. I’m sitting in a strange yellow indoor deck room that looks like the audience at a low budget “Honey I Shrunk The Kids”-type production. This is where they pack the commoners, like myself, who chose not to purchase an individual cabin. I knew I wouldn’t sleep on this 11 hour voyage, so I didn’t see the point in the charade of booking a bedroom. What concerns me the most about these next 11 hours (as well as all hours) is the eating situation. I’ve packed a huge amount of snacking materials—two sandwiches, a large bag of popcorn, two peaches, a diet coke and water. Over the course of waiting at passport control and settling into the on-board peasant quarters (one hour, total), I’ve eaten two sandwiches, a large bag of popcorn, one peach, and a diet coke, leaving me with only a water and a peach for the following 11 hours. Of course, there is food offered on the ship. You can go to the wildly expensive restaurant/grill, in which all entrées begin plastic wrapped. Or, you can head to the “Nightclub/Casino” and buy a two euro bag of peanuts OR four euro orange juice.  When I checked out da club a few minutes ago, a really rough acoustic cover of Katy Perry’s Hot & Cold played over the speakers. The chairs and tables were covered in blue carpet, as was the “the dance floor.” (Aside: I apologize for all of the snarky quotation marks, but really all features of this boat merit snarky quotation marks.) Oh dear. I think the mere act of disparaging the boat food has made me hungry, which is unfortunate because, as I mentioned, I am left with only a diet coke and a peach, which I must ration. Maybe I’ll hit up the club later and flirt with an older Frenchman and ask him to buy me some peanuts and/or nachos.

I can’t believe these will be my last moments in Italy. On this weird ship. At least I made the most of today. This morning, after five minutes of deliberating between eating McDonald’s for breakfast or enjoying a day free of self-loathing, I chose the latter. Instead of a McMuffin, I ate a classic Neopolitan breakfast: one sfogliatelle (a crispy, phylo-dough pastry stuffed with sweet ricotta) and a frothy cappuccino.

Hour 2:

Ok, that peach I had is gone. Now all I have left is water, also known as clear bath juice. I’m doomed.

 Hour 3:

It’s freezing. I haven’t been this cold since I tried making a snowman with my bare hands. I bet the crew is blasting the air conditioning so we’ll rent one of their five euro blankets. But I refuse. I’ll wear this mini skirt as a neck warmer and use my towel as a blanket.

 Hour 6:

I just woke up because some young Germans are running around and screaming. Why. If that were my language I would be as quiet as possible.  I survey the peasant quarters: everyone is shivering and wearing all the clothes they’ve packed for their Croatian vacation. I decide to walk around. The bastards got me—I think I’ll rent a blanket and a pillow.

I see a sign at the front “reception” desk that says “Concierge is on a tour boat and will return in 15 minutes.” Huh. I wait 15 minutes, but no one returns. I do find a black wool cardigan on the desk, which I grab and put on. I start flipping through a book on the desk that looks like a guest book, except it’s meant exclusively for complaints. I flip through months and months of gripes—people paying for air conditioning and not receiving it, unhelpful and mean-spirited staff, disgusting food (“were the French fries 12 years old??”), and the fact that there’s a church on-board (“I find it offensive that there is any religious activity on a boat I am paying to be on. I am disgusted by this. I don’t love Jesus”)

I return to my seat—I don’t remember it being this covered in popcorn—and I feel slightly warmer in my stolen sweater, but now I’m nervous about fleas.

Hour 10

Everyone is waking up around me, shivering and sniffling from the unbearable cold. The yellow-shirted staff (the first I’ve really seen of them) comes by to turn on the lights in our room, so as to signal it is morning-time. I feel helpless and devoid of agency; even the time of day is controlled by these monsters. People are beginning to gather their belongings. I notice that I’ve drooled on just about everything I own.

Hour 11

We are approaching Split. I see land! Fuck it, I think. I run to the café (which had been da club just a few hours prior) and treat myself to a stale pastry and cappuccino.

Hour 12

I have arrived! I have arrived!  I run off the boat with my bags, still wearing some poor old man’s sweater and a hot pink mini skirt around my neck.

glamour shot with some garbage

so glamorous, in fact, that im spelling 'glamour' the british way

so glamorous, in fact, that im spelling ‘glamour’ the british way

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pizzeria vecchia napoli

I know it’s ridiculous to declare the best pizzeria in Naples. If you ask around on the street, people will tell you, with 100% certainty, a bunch of different spots: “Sorbillo.” “22!” “Da Michele, certo!” I also know that I, personally—a 22 year old American who has mild to severe indigestion upon eating cheese—am in no position to make any bold pizza-related claims.

However, I really, really need to spread the gospel of Vecchia Napoli, a hole in the wall pizzeria right off of Piazza Montesanto, easily missed because an awning obscures the signage. (Address: Piazza Montesanto, 23).

I’m going to get right to the heart of the matter: the crust. This particular crust is what God would be were S/He to manifest as a bread product. It’s thick in the right spots and thin in the right spots (ugh my dream), chewy, slightly charred, and the perfect vehicle for high quality toppings. You can go with the classic, margherita—just oil tomatoes, and mozzarella—but I’m wild about their rucola pizza, which is topped with mozzarella, prosciutto crudo, and lots and lots of arugula, which, according to my research, counteracts the calories of anything it touches.

You can also enjoy tasty fried things, like arancini (rice balls) or fiori di zucchi fritti (fried zucchini flowers), all of which I recommend whole-heartedly. The waiter, a downward-curved man in his late sixties, is a gem and actually pays a significant amount of attention to you, which is a rarity in Naples.

Ok, there, I said it. I hope I don’t get roughed up by Sorbillo or Da Michele loyalists!

there it is, all obscured and what not

there it is, all obscured and what not

voila, the rucola pizza. its like eating a salad, right?!?!?! note: under leaves there is a massive amount of cheese, oil, and prosciutto crudo

voila, the rucola pizza. its like eating a salad, right?!?!?! note: under leaves there is a massive amount of cheese, oil, and prosciutto crudo

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vinalia has begun!!

It. is. finally. here.

Vinalia is an epic, seven day wine festival in Guardia Sanframondi, a small mountain town in Italy’s Benevento region. Founded in 1993, the week-long bacchanalian extravaganza sprawls through the town’s centro storico up to the piazza mercato, where you can enjoy a bowl of pasta e fagiole, live music, and of course, an unlimited supply of vino produced in neighboring villages and vineyards. Festivities begin around 8pm, though if you did the previous night correctly, you may still be in bed or schlepping yourself to the shower. Cantinas open in the centro storico—the town’s winding, hilly medieval portion—where you can taste wines from different local producers (poured right into your wine glass necklace, which is a fashion must) and munch on cheese and salumi.

Pictures of festivities to come.

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italian fellas: a report

I’ve been living in Italy for over a month now, which in this day and age, gives me the authority to make sweeping generalizations about Italian men. That’s the unfortunate thing about blogs and modernity and being an unemployed 22-year-old; there’s no one to really hold me accountable (besides God, duh, and possible future employers) for my crass, un-nuanced remarks.

OK, so now I’ll proceed with my verdict on an entire country’s male population: Italian fellas are weak, man. I’m unimpressed for many reasons, ranging from the superficial to the slightly less superficial to the fundamental to the eyebrows.

Where better to start than with eyebrows? Eye(brow)s are the window into a man’s soul. In Italy, men think it’s acceptable to wax their eyebrows to be sleak, arched, dramatic. I want to smash a bottle over the head of whoever told them this was a good look. Because it’s not. If you’re going to put a lot of effort in to your appearance—which they do, much more effort than me—choose one thing. Like, you can’t have super manicured eyebrows AND a knock-off Dolce and Gabana man purse AND gelled hair AND tight, knee-length shorts AND effeminite jewelry. I’m not asking you to not be yourself, I’m just asking you to choose just one, if not none, of these things, and if that means not being yourself, please don’t be yourself.

I promise I also have legitimate concerns. For one, Italian men are scared of women, particularly foreign women, particularly American women with a propensity for short-shorts and drinking and breaking it down in empty, over-lit bars (guilty, guilty, guilty).

Italian men will friend you on Facebook; Italian men will drive by in a car and scream unintelligable but certainly derogatory things at you; Italian men, ones who are your waitors and thirty years your senior and one hundred pounds your larger, might leave you a slip of paper with “CALL ME!!!” and their phone number alongside your bill.

But Italian men will not strike up a conversation with you in a friendly, humane way. They won’t ask about your day. The courageous ones might ask to your boobs, “Where are you from?” But that’s pretty much the extent of it.

Now, like most things I write, this isn’t fair. I’ve made plenty of well-adjusted male Italian friends, and I’m sure I’ll make more.

But come on, ragazzi, get it together. I don’t ask for a lot in life. I don’t ask for jewels or nice furs or diamond rings or even basic things, like a job or ambition. But I do ask for just ONE MAN, just ONE MAN, to maybe spend a little less time in the shower than me, to talk to me with real interest and respect, and to take me out to the cornfields (because he still lives with his mama) and have his way with me.

Until then…I’ll be stewing in frustration. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss American men. Dangggggg.

 

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