At the suggestion of Shelly, my AirBnB host in Rome I left for a few days and went to Naples. After reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante earlier this year I was curious as to what Naples was like. My Brilliant Friend is part of the Neapolitan Novels, but I’ve only read the first one in the series. I have a problem committing to series of books. I blame Harry Potter.
I think when I imagined what Italy was like, I think I was thinking of Naples. Really narrow streets, laundry hanging across from building to building, street vendors selling produce and fish, and all types of food to eat while standing on the street. Naples also reminds me a little of LA, just the business of it. There are people everywhere just hanging out in the streets. There was a group of kids, maybe in middle school, just hanging out, no phones, actually interacting with each other. I can’t remember the last time I saw this. It’s a little bit grittier than Rome, noticeably more political and is overrun with people on scooters.
Who are either fearless, or don’t care, or are both. They drive through the middle of crowded streets filled with pedestrians
Airbnb has these experiences that you can do, like make gnocchi with an Italian grandma, or go on a kayak tour of the Amalfi coast. I found a street food tour of Naples with five other people, for a reasonable price. I ate things I wouldn’t know to eat by myself like a tarallo, which is the texture of a bread stick , circular in shape. And made with pig fat and almonds and left over dough, it’s salty and crunchy. It would be really good with beer. We also ate fritto misto, which was a cone filled with various fried seafood. And it was 5 euro! So cheap and I love tiny fried fish that I can eat like a potato chip.
One last street food, is pizza fritta, which is pizza that’s baked and then folded over and fried. It’s the size of a football, and filled with cheese and meat and when I got I thought I would never finish it, but I did.
I am pretty comfortable doing a lot of things by myself. While traveling, when it comes to eating dinner it feels a little more lonely, then anything else I do. I‘ve taken to pulling out my Kindle to read, while eating. My first night in Naples I went to eat, pizza of course, and there was this other woman sitting by herself diagonal to me. And we both smiled at each other like “Yeah I’m here by myself too.“
While on the street tour, I was talking to this other woman who was also traveling by herself. And before she could finish, I just blurted out and asked if she had any interest in wanting to get dinner. I explained that getting dinner, or a meal was just more enjoyable when eaten with another person. This woman, Marie, understood and agreed and said it felt a little sad, eating by herself. I don’t know if I would describe it as sad but we agreed to meet for dinner the next night.
Marie lives in Moscow and works for government as a translator, and while it took everything I had to not ask about anything political, we kept a pretty surface level conversation. We talked about food and traveling , and things to do in Naples. And while it wasn’t a deep friendship that I’d have forever, for a few hours , in a city where I knew nobody, it was really nice. We went and got coffee, because the restaurant we were at didn’t serve coffee, which seemed unItalian.
At the coffee bar this song was playing, actually they were playing a bunch of cool things. But I know nothing about them.