Sunday, September 9, 2007


Last night, for the Piedigrotta Festival, Naples set off fireworks over the sea for an hour, from midnight to 1 a.m. It looked and sounded like war footage. It woke up La Bimba, who then had to sleep with us, her heels digging into my ribs all night. She likes to form the letter H with us.

I woke up, blew my nose, and got a nosebleed. The only downside to less humidity.

Later, La Bimba, The Husband and I went for a walk in the Villa Comunale. Packed with kids and dogs, it was hard to navigate, so we walked along the sea instead, pausing to let La Bimba have her weekly pony ride.

Then we went to The Husband's ex-girlfriend Barbara's house for lunch. On the way, The Husband found some keys sitting in a potted plant on the street. He took them because it brings good luck, finding keys. We found our friend Fanta at Barbara's (that's a direct translation from the Italian, "Abbiamo trovato Fanta da Barbara"). Fanta is from Ethiopia. La Bimba always cries when she first sees him, and The Husband jokes about Fanta being the scary Uomo Nero.

On our way home, we needed a one-euro coin to get a ticket from the machines for the funicolare. The newsstands were closed and we only had a two-euro coin, which the machines do not accept. The Husband went into the bar on the corner and asked for change, but the guy said he didn't have any. Then I went in and he told me the same thing, adding that it was off-hour for change, whatever the cazzo that means. I stormed out and then stormed back in and asked to buy a coffee. He looked at me with scorn and said, "This is absurd." And I said, "No, what's absurd is a bar not having change in its register. And what's also absurd is a bar refusing to sell someone an espresso." He took my 2 euro coin and begrudgingly gave me the euro coin change. The espresso was nasty.

I was livid. I had arrived at my limit. I scowled for about an hour afterwards. Who the fuck do these people think they are? The lying, the miserliness, the rudeness. I lost all cultural sensitivity in that one moment. The man called me absurd!

I don't like when smoke comes out of my ears, when venom threatens to spew forth from my unforked tongue, when I want to cry from frustration. It reminds me of the road rage I used to experience in the Bay Area. I would pound the steering wheel and curse the gods and all the people in their SUVs and I would cry real tears. Not worth it.

I have been thinking a lot about how to live a sane life. With all the fast pace, the technology, the crowds, the fumes, the's too much. I know a life in the country or in a small town would provide its challenges, but I don't think I can do this big city thing anymore. Is there somewhere I can turn in my Urban Girl card? I want to denounce my cosmopolitan, metropolitan citizenship and become a bumpkin.

It wouldn't be too hard. There's always the internet.


Kataroma said...

Ok - can I just say that you happen to live in a particularly challenging city as cities go? It kind of reminds me of NYC when I was a kid there in the 70s (NYC now is a fluffy disneyfied paradise in comparison.)

Last time I was in Naples, I was just taking the taxi from Napoil Centrale to Molo Beverello. I knew it was a flat rate (something ridiculous like E9.50 plus 50 cents a bag.) The card with the rates was right there in the cab. The driver tried to charge me E20. Having been born in NY, I went nuts and started yelling at him. I'm slightly ashamed but I even said "so that's why Naples has a reputation for being full of thieves!" When I said that, boyfried turned white as a sheet - probably certain that this taxi driver's camorra buddies were about to come round the corner and shoot us. Anyway I threw the E10 inside his cab, grabbed my suitcase and went. But I was shaking for another hour after that.

OK - taxi drivers are bad here in Rome too but as soon as they ascertain that you speak Italian and know what the fare is they stop trying that stuff on you.

So, in other words, you have every right to be upset.

Marmite Breath said...

Move just outside Naples to Gricignano di Aversa! Wait, no, same Neapolitan mindset, crazier shop hours, less parking. Oh, but you could make friends with some Americans and get to use the commissary! :)

Ambra Celeste said...

I completely can commiserate with you on this one. I would like to check out of the city too. Sigh. I haven't been to Naples yet, but I have been there, to the frustration and angst that you expressed so well. I am never proud of myself when I lose it and cry over something "not worth it" like the last time I cried... it was over baking soda (the lack thereof) and the ridiculousness of baking with Italian yeast which must be cursed! For me, what makes it so difficult sometimes, living here, isn't just the rudeness and downright unhelpfulness, but it is the little things like trying to bake something for your family following an American recipe with Italian ingredients and failing miserably and then crying over baking soda. Now I can laugh at my silliness, and am telling you all this to hopefully give you laugh too. Anyway, I hope you have a better day tomorrow but I can sure see why you were upset today!

Italiana Americana said...

aw hang in there! As my mom always least it created a memory!!! :D

mimitabby said...

don't let that guy get you down. If anything is absurd, it was him.

KC said...

I hate to say this, but Naples is uncivil at best and dehumanizing at its worst. When I go there, I do try to appreciate its more positive aspects, but the Neapolitans don't make it easy.

We live in a small town (about 25,000 inhabitants) about an hour from Naples, and I can't say the mindset is all that much different. If anything, people are even more provincial and backwards. It's marginally more livable here because it's quieter, there's more fresh air and better produce, and there's less traffic. But that's about it. I don't think you'd be much better off if you turned in your urban girl card.

Anonymous said...

So, the appeal of Svizzera Italia is that you get a lot of the nice stuff about Italy but helpful people in shops, real baking powder,and in general, more open mindedness. Of course, then you also have to live by certain rules...

Anonymous said...

Hi l had a chance to read some of your posts. Very enjoyable blog. Firstly, l think you are extremely brave living in Naples. l was living on the amalfi coast and sometimes needed to get back to the city so l would make trips to Naples every now and then. My guy friends thought l was crazy going on my own. Then one day l had a bad experience on the tram. l never went back. l know some people who live in Naples (locals) and tell me how wonderful and beautiful it is. And l always wonder if lm going to the wrong places? Anyway, reading your blog is giving me some insight. l dont want to ride it off because l havent explored it enough. Its great to be able to have a peak through the eyes of an expat living there. Ps. Hope you are feeling better.