One kosher meal, two security checkpoints, and fourteen hours of travel later, we have arrived in Naples. Margaret and I stumble through the customs line and watch as the agent carelessly waves through everyone with a red passport. Then he gets to us. We wait awkwardly as he enters our information into a computer. A minute later he ushers us through. Just like that, we are allowed to enter Italy.
It takes us ten minutes to figure out how to use the pay phone. The whole time we are trying desperately not to look desperate. Finally we get ahold of Federico, the only person we "know" in Naples. Through Craig's list, we will be renting two rooms from him for one month. On the phone, he seems nice. Standing outside waiting for the taxi, I wonder how many serial killers in the history of serial killers have seemed nice. I wonder how fast I can run with my luggage. I wonder if Margaret still remembers the judo she learned in elementary school.
In the cab, the driver motions for us to roll down our windows. A photo of Pope John Paul II hangs from his rear-view window, and I see him flash me a smile. He says, very slowly, " Perche siete a Napoli?". Margaret and I both attempt to answer; its the first time either of us have had to use Italian since our arrival. After two or three tries I finally say, "Studero alla scuola di pizza." Taking his hands from the steering wheel, he gestures to me, "bravissimo!" he says. I smile back at him, my mind still on the mysterious Federico. Who trusts Craig's list anyways?
So now I am here on the fourth floor of a very historic apartment (okay, it seems very historic to me). We have two high-ceilinged, red tiled bedrooms that each have balconies that overlook the city. Last night around four in the morning, Margaret dragged me from my bed to watch an impromptu fireworks party on the roof of a building catty-corner us. Federico, who turned out not to be a serial killer and is instead a twenty something year old italian sculptor, gives us our first lesson on neapolitan culture. "Some member of the Camorra got out of jail, most likely. Some parents are probably celebrating the release of their son. It happens most nights." he says nonchalantly.
So far, not too much trash. There are small piles and heaps up and down the street; a mattress or two here. A toilet seat there. Nothing too worrisome. Compared to what I have been reading about for months, Naples appears to be little more than your typical, dirty city. In case you didn't know, Naples has been the center of European news lately due to a huge trash crisis or "la emergenza dei rifiuti". For more info, check out this.
As of now, I'm less worried about who's going to pick up my trash and more worried about the crime. Federico warns us about going out at night (and during the day). "It is Naples, afterall" he says. "Some students who rented the apartment before you had troubles" he tells us, but doesn't go into what those "troubles" actually were. If we are to go out with more than twenty euro on us, he says, we should stick it in our shoes. Listening to him talk about the crime, I can't help but notice a smile appear on Federico's face. It's not so much that he is proud of the purse snatching and the pit-pocketing, but it's as if he understands that Naples' worst attributes are intricately tied with its best attributes.
Enough of the city. Onto the food. Last night Margaret and I made salami and buffalo mozzarella sandwiches, our first official italian meals. The mozzarella, which the man at the cheese store poured directly from what looked like a huge vase, came to us in a sack filled with water. The cheese wasn't creamy. It was really just milk, slightly tart milk, in sold form. Spread out over freshly made dough and cooked for sixty seconds in a 900 degree oven, this cheese will literally melt in your mouth. Last night we ate it raw. But that didn't stop us from having seconds and thirds.
I can't wait to start blogging about all the different types of pizza I am going to eat and (hopefully) create while I'm staying here in Naples. My school doesn't start for another two weeks- the perfect amount of time to explore the city and all pizzerias it has to offer. I will carry a small notebook and a camera with me wherever I go and take notes and photos of each pie I eat. If anyone out there has any advice on where to eat and what to do, I'd love to hear from you. This week I'll start writing reviews on some of Naples' more famous pizzerias, and after that, I'll probably move on to some its lesser known spots. Until then,