Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Vacation From My Vacation

Almost misssing my train, falling on my butt on the platform and pretending I just wanted to sit on the ground, late trains, not being able to understand questions Italians were asking me, getting train-sick, sitting in the wrong class and getting told to move...all of the joys of traveling (alone this time). Oh, but I really do love long train rides!

I got into Naples and wished I could explore a bit (I've never actually had the chance to see the city, we've just always gone straight to Ischia), but I took a taxi to the Port (Molo Beverello). This Neopolitan taxi driver asked em about Obama (supposedly all of the Italians are paranoid that he's going to be assassinated) and talked about how people come to Napoli and ruin their diets because the food is so good. He also asked how many boyfriends I had (and when I awkwardly laughed he said it's because people on TV seem to have so many) and lectured me for not remembering that tomorrow was Valentine's Day but said that I'm going to be engaged tomorrow...I'm sure something got lost in translation.

I took a hydrofoil over to Forio, the second largest city on the island (which happens to be where my aunt lives). My "cool" Aunt Dani was there to greet me and it was so, so nice to see family again, plus to be back in a place I had been so many years ago. A lot of memories started coming back to me b ut it was so strange to be here during the off-season, where so many stores were closed down and so any people had left for their other homes.

My aunt went to Ishcia several times when she was a teenager/young adult (she talks about falling for a drummer when she was 16) and I know my grandparents rented a house here (which we saw again mom!) where my mom stayed when she was a little girl. My aunt came to Italy several times when she was younger but said tha she always found herself coming back here. It's her escape from the hustle and bustle of the stressful "real world" but ironically, with these crazy southern Italians, she laments that things are even more backwards here. From my perspective I am just very impressed with the life she has made for herself here. She has a faculty for language and siad she learned form popular music and films.

My aunt and I caught up a bit and then went out to an internet cafe, where she introduced me to the store owners she's friends with. I went for a bit of a walk while she was in there and then we reunited and looked for this pottery store that one of my other aunts loves (my mom's the youngest of 8!)! While I'm saving my money for Venetian glass (next weekend!!!!!!!) I was very tempted to buy some pottery here but the place was closed for the season (Aunt Felicia, she wasn't lying). Che peccato! We then went to a wine bar, where Aunt Dani is friends with the owner, Salvator, and we enjoyed some local white wine. The place was beautiful (the owner designed it with real volcanic rocks!) but we left early because this American "cowboy" and his "6 ft wife" [as Aunt D liked to call the pair] came into the bar and were being really embarrasing. Salvator couldn't understand their english so my aunt had to translate. We have no idea how they even found this wine bar, let alone Ischia (maybe they should have gone to Capri).

I was really tired after my day so was glad we had dinner early, by Italian standards. Mom, Dad, and Julie, we went to La Tinai! We each got delicious pizzas and ate them in front of a roaring fire (remember, I'm near Naples so the food is amazing [and they put salt in their bread!]).

The next morning Aunt D was going to take me around the island in a rented car (more like a car someone wasn't using and just rents out) but got a call that morning that they found out the car wasn't working (an example of how crazy they are here, she said). Instead, we took a bus around and saw Porto, the biggest city in Ischia. We then changed buses and then went to Ischia Ponte, where there was a big citadel build into the rocks (a lot of Pirates used to be in these waters) . I didn't realize that this is one of the areas we had hung out so many summers ago, and Aunt D treated me by takign me to an area where there's a good amount of sea glass and pieces of ceramics (I could have stayed there looking all day!).

That evening, Valentine's Day, we went out with Aunt Dani's friend, Maria. I thought so highly of her rasing three boys while her husband was in the states working . She said that it's hard to make girlfriends here (this is still a mostly patriarichal society where women tend to stay in). It's also hard with young boys during riposo (1-4/5pm) when they wan to be outside and play [supposedly there's a law here that you have to be quiet between 3-5pm]. It's much safer here to raise children with the lower crime rate than in the States, but I think they miss things from America, and it frustrates her that nothing gets done here (with half of the day spent resting).

We were going to go to a restaurant up in the hills (the contrast between this and the beach down below is stunning) but we didn't realize how many Valentine's would be be out when everything's usually dead. Maria and my aunt thought the owner was joking about needing a reservation, and I got confused with my poor Italian, but only in Italy would they put us in the kitchen and hand us pieces of salami, that were a bit too fresh for my liking, and a little glass of Prosecco. I felt so in the way but got a great look at how they prepared everything back there. It took us a little bit to realize that we'd have to wait at least an hour to be served so we went to look elsewhere. We drove up in the hills (I had absolutely no sense of direction) in the next town over, Panza, for over 1/2 hour trying to find thise other restaurant, with Maria and Aunt D cursing the poor signage here. We finally found it (closed) so we went to this other restaurant at about 11 o'clock (and could you believe people were still coming in? they eat so late here!). My aunt was a sweet Valentine, though,and gave me a little heart-shaped candle, and a kiss :).

Sunday is a day for family and they usually have big Sunday lunches. Aunt d's friend, Ilauria, took us over to her house (it was right across the street from the house grandma and grandpa rented, mom! and right near that little cove we swam around when we rented that boat that one time in San Francesco Forio!). They lived in a beautiful villa. It was truly a girl's day (all of their husbands were in Naples and they came to their house here for the weekend). They made us bucatini, which I think is fair to call my favorite pasta, and rabbit (like the last time we were here, dad!...don't tell mom) with something similar to broccoli rob and potatoes, which are much better here. Then we had a little cake for dessert (it was one of the woman's son's 2nd birthday yesterday and I have to say that Italian kids are so much cuter than American ones [especially when they speak], but wow, they are so loud and I'm told they all turn into little brats :-)).

We stayed there for over 4 hours and then had a nice walk back, where Aunt D found me some more ceramic pieces, and we saw the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen (I jokingly told Aunt D that this was more romantic than last night).

On the way back, two Neopolitan taxi drivers got into a fight over who was goin to give me a ride and I'm so afraid of their firely southern Italian temperaments here. Then, when I was buying a ticket to get back to Perugia, I had to repeat myself several times for the guy to understand what city I wanted to go to, and then he said "merci" to me as I was leaving. Really? Then I really must be awful with pronunciation. The dogs know italian better than I do!...

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