Thursday, October 18, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
The best part is all the fear and terror are still there. You know you're doing it right when Karen starts hyperventilating. But more important is the Italian driving ethos. You see, the Italians can smell fear. Driving with them is like those animal training shows: you are the alpha dog or someone's going to eat your slippers and soil your rug, in an automotive sense. Whatever that means.
So establishing control is important. But so is folding in your mirrors. Along the coast, some stretches are literally so narrow that cars can't get past each other any other way. Of course, those are also the stretches where three peds, two scooters and a tour bus magically appear, the rules of physics bend to the same fluctuations that give rise to Italian time, and multiple bodies simultaneously occupy a single point in the space-time continuum.
Is it fun? Absolutely! Though maybe not so much for Karen...
Just remember: pacing! Tomorrow's another day.
And so, like anyone new to a community, we sampled the local sermons to seek out the right high priest, gorging ourselves on scripture written in dough and anointed with sauce. It should be noted that the local manna is one-pie-per-paisan, and at 3-6 Euro per, it's considered unorthodox to split (though sharing is okay). It should also be noted that toppings are limited and predetermined; no such thing as build-your-own. And it's probably better that way. Three pizzerias in three days; here's what we found:
Veri: strong local following, good range, thicker crust than others. Karen, cheese addict that she is, devoured the Quattro Formaggio. I, heretic that I am, order smoked mozz, mushrooms and speck (similar to prosciutto, but instead of salt cured leg, it's smoke cured jowl). It didn't work out so well. The shrooms were canned and the cheese coagulated too quickly, resulting in a rubbery mess. I resolved that cheese had no place in my pantheon.
Il Presidente (pictured): packed, attentive and delicious. There's a school thought among some that pizza comes in two varieties: Marinara (sauce, garlic, oregano, basil) and Margharita (sauce, mozz, basil). There is no third. I can see their point. Sauce this good really is the main event.
Sobrillo: lines out the door, faster than a rocket-powered popemobile. This is the sanctum sanctorum. Pillowy crusts so ethereal the cherubim would find themselves at home. A marinara so luminous you would not be judged harshly for confusing it with the works of the old masters. Simply unearthly.
Kneel before the magnificent oven. Offer alms to the benighted monks of bread and marinara. This is the one true religion.
Monday, October 15, 2012
As the primary passenger,my experience of driving has been less active, but perhaps more stressful. I would say that driving in Italy has been very much akin to a grief process. First: denial. So what if everyone (including the sage Rick Steeves) says that it is unrecommended (on the more neutral side) or insane (on the more extreme end) to drive in this country, we can do it! Then, anger. How could they rent us this car without showing us the very non-intuitive way to get into reverse? Don't these people know how to merge? Who walks into the middle of a busy street like that? Why on earth did they put a metal gargoyle there (more on that later). Now, finally, acceptance. Yes, driving here is crazy, but it will give us the most outstanding access to the Amalfi Coast. The key is trying to reduce our exposure (let's drop the car off in Naples on our way back from Amalfi so we can avoid driving in Rome, for example). Let the adventure continue!
Meanwhile, for your viewing pleasure I submit this picture of a woman with 16 boobies. That should clear up any misunderstandings.
Mexico is widely regarded to be one of the best cafes in Naples, and it didn't disappoint. My morning cappuccino was the strongest I've ever had, and fueled me through both Pompei and Herculaneum.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
The weather doesn't hurt, either. It poured last night and today was forecast to be thunderstorms throughout. Instead, it's sunny and breezy with big puffy clouds building then ebbing around Vesuvius.
We were warned about Naples, but I question that wisdom. Rick Steves advises not to stay here, but we've got one of the best rooms I've ever seen in Europe. Someone else described it as the Detroit of Italy; it's anything but. Strolling down Via Toledo this morning (walking would be too violent a word), past all the shops and patisseries, banks and basilicas, syncopated with the strollers and the seniors, one has to ask could anything be better?
Yes. My Italian could be better. Put that on the resolution list.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
This is Naples, and it is going to be interesting.
Thanks to the Kienzle/Moon superpowers, we rapidly figured out an alternative. A quick call to the US hone base of Europecar and we switched our car pick up location to Naples. And within the hour, we were on a high-speed train to Naples in business class enjoying complimentary wine and views of the stunning countryside.
Crisis averted. Go team.