My wife and I used to quarrel about Italian food. I would argue that Italian is the best cuisine in the world, she would disagree.
I would cry out that mozzarella is not a cheese but just mozzarella, she would laugh.
I loved pasta, she barely ate it, and she called it boring. It would confuse her if I said that Italians were not all the same and that every region had its own life.
My wife is Spanish/American, and I had to do something. So we decided to embark on a journey. Last October, we took some time off, bought a plane ticket destination Italia, rented a car and travelled Italy bottom up.
It was time to Italianize her.
In this and the posts that will follow, I will walk you through our trip. Places, eateries and emotions we felt throughout our journey.
Our first stop was Napoli: My birthplace. The city I grew up in. I left when I was just nineteen years old.
In recent years, the world discovered a side of Napoli so far hidden. Through the book Gomorrah: Italy’s Other Mafia, Roberto Saviano uncovered to the world Napoli’s worse wound: the Camorra (Neapolitan organized crime). Today people ask me whether Napoli is really the way he described it. Unfortunately, it is. Yet, Napoli and the region Campania are also places with warm people, a great past, and a sublime cuisine. As for Saviano, I greatly admire his courage in writing that book.
As you land in Napoli, there is a metamorphosis of time. Its perception is very different from London and New York. There is no sense of immediacy. So reach out to that little button on the back of your head, which says “hurry”, and turn it off. It does not work in Napoli.
As you get off the plane, get ready for the passport control experience. Remember Neapolitan never fully embraced the principle of queuing. I have argued about queuing in the past, and I have reached a simple conclusion: as Neapolitans, we were not taught the art of queuing.
I strongly encourage the Italian Ministry of Education to introduce “Queuing” as a study subject from elementary school all the way to University – it would serve well the Italians as a whole not only the Neapolitans.
As we get to baggage claim, I would like to kill a metropolitan legend. It has been told that luggage goes missing in Napoli. I can personally say that mine was never lost. On the contrary, I once took someone else’s bag by mistake. As I arrived home, the mix-up was clear when my mum shouted from the other room “Gianluca since when you wear G-strings?”
As you exit the terminal, do not worry if you hear yelling, it’s not a riot, it is just the way we communicate. Remember, if a Neapolitan whispers, he is about to offer you a dodgy affair, so as long as he yells you should be fine….
To be continued in our next issue….