Italy 3: Day 1, Naples, April 17, 2007

By Bob Corbett

Folks, after a long flight -- St. Louis to Dallas, Dallas (flying right back over St. Louis) to London, then on to Naples, we arrived here yesterday at 4 PM. Off we went in search of a hotel and after wandering around for a while, not finding the nice place I stayed at in 2001, we happened on what looked like a lovely place, but probably over our budget. I went in an asked, and the clerk quoted me 75 euros. I asked for a senior discount and he agreed on 65 a night for two nights and we took it. But, as we walked up the stairs to be shown our room, I said: Wait, I stayed here in 2001. The name was the same, but it had been significantly renovated. And I just CHANCED upon it. How is that for luck!

This is already a departure from my "tentative" schedule. We had planned to go on to Sicily last night, but we were simply exhausted. Now we will stay again tonight in Naples, and tomorrow night at 9 PM take the night train to Palermo, arriving in the early morning, and then taking a bus to Terrasini, the tiny town where we will do some research on the Sharamitaro family (spelled Ciaramitaro in Sicily). Sallyís former husbandís family was from there and we have some leads.

Last evening we had a MAJOR event, the sort of thing that makes traveling worth it to me. We found a tiny neighborhood place where I had eaten before. It is only about 3 doors from the hotel and has a bought 7 tables. As we went in there were 6-8 men watching a soccer match which was just beginning, it was exactly 6 PM. I was startled and delighted to see that 5 of the men were older Italians and two or three were black men, young guys from this lower class neighborhood.

Roma was playing Inter Milan, two of the best teams in the Italian league. However, in the European championships a few weeks ago Manchester United (MY TEAM) had roundly trounced Roma 7-1 and now will play Inter Milan in the semi-finals. So I couldnít resist. I went over and in English and sign language (informal) I introduced my self as a rabid Man U fan and hoped Man U would beat Inter in the semi-final. These men were great.. The cheered on Man U and allowed it was a great side, this because they were Roma fans!!!!

We ordered and while our anti-pasta was served (marvelous pruchiotto and mozzarella cheese) I noticed a guy looking at the menu in the window. He looked up, saw me and I gave him a hearty THUMBS UP signifying a good place. He came in and was the only dinner in the 3 hours we were there.

He sat across from us, closer to the TV and cluster of men watching. Our food came and we began to eat seriously (me the whole grilled fish and Sally veal marsala. Somehow we struck up a conversation with the guy across the way who spoke English but in a heavily broken accent. I invited him to bring his food to our table and he came over. Thus began one of the best conversations Iíve every run into on the road.

He is Tadeu Marques Filho and he is from Brazil. His girlfriend is in Germany and they are struggling to have this long-distance relationship and heís on his way to see her. He works for GM and is just a fascinating fellow.

After a few pleasantries he got serious when he discovered we were Americans. (I had thought he was actually Portuguese, but had settled in Brazil), so I had addressed him in German and he thought I was a German who spoke English, since he doesnít speak German, but does English. He told us he really likes the U-S and the American system, but said he was deeply troubled by what has happened to the US under George Bush, claiming that we seemed to have given up all the principles that made America great. He then launched into an informed celebration of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and the man he liked the best, Bill Clinton. He is hoping desperately for an elected Barak Obama. He is worried the U.S. is losing itís moral high ground in the world, and he so loved WHAT THE US WAS before Bush. He hopes we come back round.

Well he was with two fellow travelers there. And the conversation raged on, politics, culture, history.

In the meantime the food kept coming and the wine. Our waiter, a quite elderly man, was just great. Tadeu had a bottle of wine heíd carried over to the table with his food and Sally and I were sharing a bottle. But, later in the meal I ordered a second bottle of wine. However, there was still about 1/4 bottle left and the waiter said, ďDonít rush, you still have wine.Ē We had a great laugh over that, but soon I did get the second bottle.

We sat, ate, talked and drank for three solid hours. Roma pulled a surprise 2- 0 upset victory over Inter Milan and some of the soccer fans came to the table to wish "my" Manchester United good luck in the May 25th game with Milan.

In the end Sally and I picked up the check for the fairly surprised but appreciative Tadeu who accepted our hospitality.

I am extremely happy our hotel was only three doors away. Lots of wine had gone down and that was on top of our "Italian cocktail". Thatís a story in itself.

We were really tired after arriving in Naples and then getting the room. We then decided on staying here two nights to relax before going on to Sicily. We did go to the train station and got two lower bunks in those compartments with 6 beds. (We have first class train passes for all our travel on trains). We knew we couldnít get dinner until 6 PM and it was only 5. So we sat at an out door bar/coffee house. (Itís sunny and very warm). I tried to explain the bar keep we wanted some Italian drink, but nothing sweet. He finally just gave up and shrugged. I tried again. Finally I must have used a word he knew or he just remembered it from old Italian movies, and he broke into a great grin and says: "Italiano cocktail" I said, si, but, and in English, German and French said, NOT SWEET. He nodded. A bit later the wait came out with two Huge glasses filled with a reddish liquid (food color) and a STRAW. Sally and I were cracking up, and he gave us a lovely cup of crackers and pretzels. We were outside on the street, other tables had Italian men with coffees.

Our drinks were about 6 inches of liquid in a huge glass and so strong we both just were howling with laughter. After a while, when we had about drained these strong, but delicious drinks, he came out. I asked what it was. It is 1/3 each of white vermouth, red vermouth and gin. Well we really had a laugh at that one. So it was then 6 PM and we went off and had two bottles of wine with a DELICOUS dinner and three hours of awesome conversation with our Brazilian friend.

It was a glorious night, but we then slept until almost noon. Now, late afternoon and we have just finished our early main meal (another lovely little back alley find) and a bottle of red wine not nearly as good as last nightís.

We do have passes for the bus for the whole day, and have already walked nearly four miles. It is just 4:30 PM, so, back to walking and bussing....

We did have some lovely Italian gelato (soft ice-cream) at one place we stopped about noon.

Lovely time so far....

Best wishes from a very happy,

Bob Corbett




Bob Corbett