Monday, December 12, 2005

Napoli, Rain and Rough Seas (3 & 4 December, 05)

Down the road we went, headed for Napoli. After three days of sunshine, the rain returned and did not stop the entire next day. We had hoped to do a bit of sightseeing in Naples since our ferry did not leave until the evening but the rain was so heavy we decided to have some lunch and see what happened. I had seen what looked like the perfect place earlier as we drove by it, Antonio e Antonio, right across from the Bay of Naples and so after we found the port, parked our car in the secure lot and picked up our tickets, we walked back there. It actually turned out to be further than we remembered and windy as well as rainy and I was glad I had my warm coat with the hood because umbrellas proved useless against the strong winds. But it was worth the walk. The place was wonderful. The pizza was true Napolitano style cooked in a wood-burning oven and had a delightful crust. The wine was terrific. The waiter was friendly and helpful and we tried the dessert he recommended (the name of which escapes me. I blame the wine) and then he offered a glass of limoncello that we could not refuse. We left the restaurant with a definite buzz on and had fun exploring the castle nearby on the shore, making a drunken phone call to my brother Fred and his wife Elaine, giddy as kids at a carnival. The sight of the Bay of Naples brought me to tears.

Wedecided since we still had a few hours to kill and it was raining heavily, to take one of the city bus tours and just ride around the city. It was getting dark and probably not the best light to see the city in, but still we enjoyed getting an overview of Naples, which we hope to return to later in this adventure. It's a very large city and there are many areas we want to see.

The tour ended right about the time we needed to get on the ferry and it dropped us off just up the street. By now the rain was coming down in sheets and we weren't really sure where to go to drive onto our ferry and the signs were not particularly helpful. Those that were there were so obscured by the storm they were hard to read and after yelling out the car window to some men nearby we found the right dock and were able to embark. We drove the car onto the ferry, parked in the place designated and gathered our overnight bags. We had reserved a cabin, which we thought would be a fun way to make the journey south. Originally we had considered driving all the way down through Calabria and taking the short ferry ride across the Straits of Messina to Sicily. But the weather reports were not promising and, not wanting to get caught in snow, the ferry from Naples was our best bet. We talked with Agostino and his son Emilio about it and they connected us to the Internet to look at our options. Even in this tiny village of 300 people, they are connected to the Internet! For some reason we could not complete the transaction online and the next day Emilio came with us to navigate our way to a nearby village where there was a travel agent who helped us reserve the tickets. We weren't too happy that we had to return the next day to actually pick up the voucher for the tickets but there was nothing to be done about that.

While we waited for the young lady to return the next day (she was not exactly punctual and we waited for about 2 hours!) there was a funeral. Practically the entire town showed up. We got to see the last part of it where they carried the casket from the church around the corner to the waiting car and everyone in the town followed and gathered around it as the priest said a few prayers and they put the casket in the waiting car for the drive to the cemetery. It was very solemn and serious. Some of the people where dressed formally, others, wore jeans, definitely a clothing style of choice here in Italy as far as we have seen. We have been struck that earlier in our stay here we saw many weddings but it is only recently that we have seen several funerals. I took it as a sign in Perugia that our time there was symbolically at an end.

The ferry that goes from Naples to Catania takes about 8 hours. It is like a mini cruise ship without all the glamour and the games. And no swimming pool. There is however a bar/TV lounge for coffee and pastries (and for watching "Calcio" that is, soccer) and a buffet for dinner and snacks. The sleeping cabins are like the ones on the train we took years ago from Naples to Venice but that's a whole other story! This cabin was equipped with 4 beds, two sets of bunk beds (the top bunks were folded up and out of the way) and a bathroom with a shower. Not too bad. Ours was an external cabin so that meant we were on the outside and had a round window we could look out. Everything was hunky dory until we settled down to go to sleep. Earlier we had fun standing on the deck watching the lights of Naples fade into the distance. Walking back to our cabin was hilarious. We were totally sober by this time and still we were walking like drunken sailors across the floor, so rocky was the boat. Lying in bed I started to feel queasy and tried to think of everything else I could to stop from feeling seasick. The seas were so rough we felt like we were in a giant washing machine! I usually like the feeling of rocking on a porch swing and tried to think of it that way, but this was beyond any kind of rocking I had ever experienced! I will not gross you out with any further details, but suffice to say it was not a fun, romantic evening we spent in our little cabin. Finally hours later we fell asleep and awoke to the realization that we had already passed through the Straits and were heading for Catania. The giant shape of Mt Etna, Sicily's volcano was well into view. It was amazing to know that we were actually going to live in Sicily.

We received a cell phone call from Elio, our new landlord, welcoming us and telling us that he and his wife Giovanna would be waiting for us in Marina di Ragusa, our new home for the next six months. The roads were clearly marked and the trip around the southeastern tip of the island did not take more than a few hours before we found ourselves here, staring out at the sea!

Elio and Giovanna have been so warm, welcoming and helpful to us. On that first day, they had prepared a little feast for us of cheeses and snacks, fresh fruit and a bottle of wine to welcome us. They took us on a little tour of the town and showed us some of their favorite places. I was delighted to see that there actually was a little old part of town, including a bakery, a grocery store, a gelateria, a few bars for coffee and pastries, a fish market or two and many little shops. This was Sunday when we arrived and we were surprised to see all the shops open, as I mentioned before. Elio and Giovanna left us and we shared a bit of the food they had left and went out to explore on our own, joining in the passeggiata and soaking in the sea.

Now it is the end of our first week in Sicily. I have a lot to tell you still, so I hope you will keep reading.

Buona giornata,
Rosamaria e Roberto

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