Sunday, July 26, 2009

A fortnight in the Old Country

Earlier this month I visited Italy for two weeks, spending time in Naples, Rome and Florence, as well as a village in the mountains above the Mediterranean coast. It was a fantastic trip. Our hosts -- relatives of a friend of mine -- were wonderful, and we ate like kings.

The village is called San Mauro Cilento, and you can see in the photo what sunset looks like from the house where we stayed. It happened to be the weekend of a town festival, which provided the most bizarre moment of the trip: children dancing on a stage built in the village square to the songs of Grease while a band played the music, singers performed the songs in Italian, and clips of the film played on a screen behind them.

In Naples we ate some of the best pizza in the world and stood at coffee bars several times a day for expertly-pulled shots of espresso, but the real revelation in the densely-populated city was that there are virtually no traffic rules. Driving is seemingly an adventure everywhere in Italy, but hitting the road in Naples is well beyond anything I've seen in the United States.

I'd been to Rome before, a decade ago, so we didn't replicate the usual first-time must-see things: the Sistene Chapel, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter's. We did make a trip to see some a couple paintings by Caravaggio, a personal favorite since I saw a program about him on PBS. We also took part in a bit of Roman nightlife, visiting a wine bar and having a drink along the Tiber.

Florence was at the top of my list for places I wanted to see, so I spent four days there, visiting churches, checking out public art, and spending time in the Uffizi, one of the world's top museums, where I saw more of Caravaggio's work. I didn't see the actual David, as the line for that site was too long, but I saw the copy outside the Palazzo Vecchio, and I walked across the Ponte Vecchio as well. Florence was clean and calmer than its southern Italy counterparts, and the architecture and art are phenomenal.

After two weeks away, the nine-hour flight from Rome to New York was a chore, and I arrived to a nine-hour layover at JFK because of weather-related flight cancellations and delays. It was nice to be back, but the entire experience -- the people, the places, and the food -- will not easily be forgotten.


Anonymous said...

Great story, which part of italy does your anscestors come from correale that is an avellino surname very common throughout several villages in avellino, correale corre means run, reale means real. So its realrun

Jim said...

Actually, Avellino is correct. And Sicily as well. (My mother's maiden name is Gambino.)