My Voyage to Italy

I just got back from a short vacation in Italy. The Firecracker and I were visiting friends in Napoli, home of the Camorra crime syndicate and the world’s greatest pizza. We took day trips to Pompeii, Rome and Capri and tried to smuggle home a water buffalo so we could make our own mozzarella di bufala, but customs wouldn’t allow it. We stayed in the suburb of Pozzuoli, where Sophia Loren was born and where St. Paul first arrived in Italy. I haven’t read or seen Gomorrah yet, but we were not robbed, molested or frightened. It’s a nice town with a lot of character and I suggest you visit.

The Blue Grotto, Capri

Vesuvius from Pompei

The prostitutes in Pompei had picture menus.

 Pompei is enormous and daunting and impossible to capture the scale of from the ground. It was amazing, and walking there all day whet the appetite for…

Pizza at Cipster in Pozzuoli.

 Local pizza joint in Pozzuoli run by a guy named Mario, they make a great pizza. I liked the one at Acqua e Farina as well.

Movie poster – a comedy about the “Malavita” or mob life

 Napoli has a reputation of being a rough criminal hell hole but we ran into no trouble. Cars get broken into a lot and the Camorra crime syndicate skims everywhere with a street tax, but you get that in Chicago too. Pozzuoli is where Sophia Loren was born. It has a sulphur smell from a vent of Vesuvius nearby but it was a charming tough locale that I enjoyed… but I didn’t have to drive!

 Random Capri photo. This guy is in a film by Michelangelo Antonioni, he just doesn’t know it yet.

The Green Grotto, Capri

The Love Hole, Capri

Looking down on the peons from Capri

 The Coliseum is amazing and enormous, even when crammed with tourists. We rebuild stadiums every 15 years. This one is 2000 years old and show me a bad seat.

One of the Four Fountains of Rome

The extent of the ruins in the Roman Forums

Detail of the Trevi Fountain. 

 The Trevi fountain at night is a madhouse. We dined at a lovely restaurant called That’s Amore, and despite the name, Italians eat there and the food is excellent. The best mozzarella di bufala of the trip, and I had an excellent linguini with tuna, capers, tomatoes. The pizza in Rome sucks compared to Napoli.

 The Pantheon was retooled by the Catholic church and they hold mass there. One day Athena will strike down the interlopers and Pluto will swallow them in the Underworld.

 The Fabricius bridge was built in A.D. 62 and still stands over the revolting green waters of the Tiber.

Trajan had a little winky.

An attempt at capturing the extent of Pompei

A white dog in Pompei. They are wild but friendly. I let one sniff my hand, pet his bony back and he licked my hand, for the salt I am sure. They look hungry. They manage to funnel thousands of tourists through here and protect things just enough. It is more important to let the world see the past than to protect it. Compared to American sacred sites they do a much better job of making you feel welcome instead of an escaped prisoner.

Italy was fine to travel to. The trains ran on time from Rome. In Pozzuoli, they were like New York in the ’70s, without Snake Plissken to save you. Okay, not that bad, but very old, slow, noisy. The airport was excellent in both Rome and Napoli and takes a big dump on Charles de Gaulle in Paris, where we nearly missed our flight due to their disorder. When the Italians are more organized than you, you have a problem, France. How do you tell when a French airport worker is on strike? They aren’t smoking. The French people are very friendly and helpful, however. My short visit to Paris years ago was delightful, and a smile and a little bon jour (or bon giorno in Italy) gets you a long way.

I can’t wait to go back. I want to visit the north, Venice, and the south, Calabria and Bari where my family came from. But if I don’t, Napoli is close enough. I’ve been to my grandfather’s house in Bray, Ireland. In Italy I would just look at the little town of Acri and wonder where they might have lived.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck