Last night I wanted to head into Rome and see what it was like after dark. I got a restaurant suggestion from Rick Steve's Best of Europe guide and hopped on the metro towards the Pantheon. At Osteria da Mario I ordered prosciutto and mozzarella to start, a rigatoni alla carbonara, some house wine, and a bottle of water. It was actually a half-liter carafe of red and a full liter of water. Needless to say, I was super full after the meal. But I had to try some gelato. I walked over to the Pantheon for a moment for some people watching first. That's where I spotted my buddy with the fish friends above. The half-liter had me feeling silly so I moved on to Giolitti's for some gelato. I don't know why but I ordered a medium which is three scoops. I chose chocolate, cinnamon, and rice. Yup, rice. Anyhow, you can see the mess melting in the video below.
I walked around the dark streets and somehow ended up on the river, staring at the Vatican in the distance. When I found the closest metro stop, it was closed! Using my uncanny sense of direction (if you know me, you know I have a poor sense of direction), I jumped on a couple of random buses and found my way back to the hostel.
I had a hard time getting to sleep. I just hadn't had a very good time in Rome, not only because of the luggage fiasco, but also because of some unresolved garbage still floating around in my head from over a year ago. Inner turmoil man. It creeps up on you. It was like the issues that had bothered me in LA had somehow found me all the way across the planet. I eventually tossed and turned myself to sleep.
Today, I hopped a train for Naples. While I was waiting for my train I actually spotted someone I knew from California. It was my ex-girlfriend's parents oddly enough. It was semi-surreal so I had to creep up and take a closer look to be sure. Then I walked up and said hello. It was completely random... perhaps.
Naples is worlds different from Rome. The first thing I noticed was that the city is covered in graffiti. From love notes scribbled on the walls to full pieces on the sides of trains. On the train, the Neapolitans seemed a bit rough around the edges. My hostel is in an area called Portici, on the southern end. It too seemed grittier than anything I'd encountered so far. After checking in, I took a nap before heading back downtown in search of the best pizza. Naples is said to be the birthplace of pizza.
When I arrived in Portici, the streets were sunny and quiet. By the time I left in the evening, everyone was out and about. Old men sat around tables playing cards in the piazza, storefronts were open and selling clothes and housewares. Traffic jammed up Via Libertia as far as you could see.
They say downtown Naples gets pretty seedy at night. When I got out of the central station, I could see the transformation. The street peddlers were putting away their merchandise and the locals were starting to come out to the streets to hang out. Garbage was strewn along curbs. Rats dashed out of holes. Crossing streets were an adventure as scooters and motorcycles raced in different directions. At one point I was almost being circled by them. Through the chaos I finally found Da Micheles, an establishment making pies since 1870, reputed to serve up some of Naples best. I was seated with three Italian men who were also dining solo. One of them seemed pleased that he'd guessed I was part Asian. I sat quietly listening to them discuss food in Italian until the pizza arrived. Then, there was silence. We ate the pizza non-stop. Maybe we were trying to finish it before the cheese got cold. Or maybe it was just too delicious. Seriously, as I ate it, I could hear myself making "mmm" sounds as I chewed. You know it's good when you're audibly "mmming".
The pizza put me in a much better mood and I was feeling happy again. And fortunately, I scrammed out of there fast enough to catch the last train back to Portici. And now, a shower, and some sleep.