07 June 2008

A few bits and pieces about Naples

• In the basilica (courthouse) of Pompeii, they painted stone to make fake marble. Ha.

• Naples street vocabulary is a little different: [Note: this section is dripping with sarcasm]
- what I would call "crosswalk" is a place for cars to zoom through, or park
- what I would call "intersection" is the part of the street where pedestrians cross to the other side
- then there's the street art, which are decorative luminescent art installations on many corners which alternately show red, orange and green male stick figures. Since they have no discernable purpose, they must be modern art.

• I haven't seen "Neapolitan" ice cream, but I have tried a few of Naples' specialties. One is pizza: modern pizza is most closely related to Naples' invention. Neapolitan pizza is large and has a very thin, moist crust. You have to eat it with a knife and fork or fold it, since it's too floppy to eat like American pizza. Two pastry classics are babà and sfogliatelle: babà is a sponge cake soaked in rum, and I didn't like it too much-- possibly because I don't like rum :) Sfogliatelle is a filled pastry, and has a vaguely orange flavored paste inside filo-type pastry (the type used in baklava).

• You may have heard about the trash situation in Naples... basically, what happened is that all of the dumps for the Campania region filled. There's only one open dump, and it's not enough. There are several incinerators in construction, but since the mafia has indirect (or even direct) control and the government isn't efficient enough, they're not yet completed. The mafia makes a lot of money from illegal dumping, so they're in no hurry to finish the incinerators. There have been some particularly bad times (like in December) when there was no trash collection and piles of rubbish lay in the streets, but it's not usually that bad: you see more cigarette butts, napkins, and empty cups blowing around than in the average city, and the occasional very full dumpster, but that's the extent of the trash problem. The EU and the Italian government are cracking down on the situation, and there is progress.

• Counterfeits are everywhere, mostly sold by...

• African immigrants. Naples has ferry connections to Tunisia and Morocco, and seems to be a "first destination" for a lot of immigrants. They seem to be trying to integrate and be productive, although the new populations do change the "feel" of the city. One of the reasons people want to go to Europe is to see different, distinct cultures with that old world charm. However, now that they're all becoming more multicultural, it feels more homogenized. Strange paradox, isn't it! (Please don't read any racist or otherwise close-minded tendencies in my comments... I feel that change is inevitable and neither positive nor negative, I just like to try to figure out why that change happens.)

• I've often wondered, over the course of the year, what would happen to the pigeons if nobody dropped cigarette butts on the ground anymore. Can pigeons develop a nicotine dependency? They certainly eat a lot of it...

• Sirens are common, since it's a big city. However, traffic doesn't cede much to ambulances or police cars. Some cars may aim for the edges of the street and slow down, but others will take advantage of the newly open space in front of the ambulance to zoom ahead in traffic. Those lucky cars who are right in front of or behind the siren get to go faster than other traffic. All in all, ambulances and such don't go much faster than the general flow of traffic.

A few of my recent adventures:
• I went to the gelateria which is supposed to have the best gelato, and has won several contests. I actually wasn't very impressed: it was a lot creamier and less refreshing than I like my ice cream... just too heavy for my taste. And most of their flavors had dark chocolate in them, which I avoid.

• I did laundry at the hostel, which was nice because it was convenient. Italy has a nice enough climate that people don't use dryers, so I hung everything out on lines on the balcony to dry. Naturally, it then rained overnight, so my clothes were wetter in the morning than they had been at night.Another girl had the same problem, but she had to leave that morning: the closest laundromat with a dryer was a bus trip plus a ten-minute walk away.

• I went to Naples' best pizzeria with a couple of American girls staying at the hostel, and it was incredible. The crust was the best I've ever had, the toppings were perfect, the sauce was delicious... it was wonderful. I will probably go back today, on my way to the contemporary art museum (I was going to go climb Vesuvius, but for the third day in a row this plan has been put off because of rain).

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