Napoli: a place in which Murphy’s Law is very, very present. Sunday started off well. I woke up to find out that Matt had baked chocolate chip muffins for breakfast, then got ready to head into the city…
on Matt’s BMW.
Now, here in Naples Matt has two motorcycles and car (and a few bicycles but those really aren’t relevant to the story). The car is the little Renault Clio we drove around in on Saturday: it does a good job of getting from point A to point B and a great job keeping us dry in the rain. We debated about taking the car, but parking in the city is super difficult to find, so settled on the bigger bike.
Now, I don’t know much about motorcycles, but I know this BMW is nice. Like, seat heaters, radio, lots of nifty saddlebags nice. The fact that it’s roughly the size of a Harley kept my internal freaking out in check a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I was really excited about riding a motorcycle for the first time, but I was still pretty nervous. Matt showed me how to put the helmet on and talked me through getting on the bike, and I don’t think I’ve had as big of a death-grip on anyone as I did on the initial drive into the city. Once we got off the highway and were searching for a parking lot, Matt was able to talk me into loosening up a little bit (ie. He said it was virtually impossible for me to fly off the back like I thought I might), and I relaxed enough to lean on the back rest and release my death grip.
We parked and headed into the Archaeological Museum – thanks for the tip, Maddy! – and wandered around looking at statues and sculptures and all sorts of awesomeness. Well, I wandered and stared. Matt took lots of pictures on his giant fancy camera (they look awesome, by the way, and I’ll put some up soon). We didn’t do all of the museum – we got hungry – but are planning to go back to catch the top floor. Matt wasn’t satisfied with the pizza we had the night before so we wandered around downtown and searched for a place he said would have true Neapolitan pizza.
On the way, of course, we stopped in multiple cafes; one for espresso, another for pastries (I tried baba this time, which is essentially cake soaked in rum); and a super nice little place for chocolate & tiramisu gelato. All of this while meandering down Neapolitan sidestreets and taking pictures. I got the stereotypical “Ciao, bella,” from Italian men, which we had a good laugh about. I also tried to convince Matt to adopt this adorable springer spaniel we saw trotting around, but no bueno. Matt and I ended up in this cool restaurant on the waterfront for lunch, but were so full of sweets that we ended up splitting a pizza and some grilled eggplant. Also learned how good Matt’s Neapolitan Italian is because the waiter stopped mid-sentence and asked if he was Italian. Highest compliment you can get when speaking another language.
I wish I could send everyone at home a taste of the fantastic food here! Alas, I’m pretty sure customs doesn’t allow for that.
Matt called one of his Navy buddies here, Anthony, and Anthony’s girlfriend decided to cook us a Ukrainian dinner. We still had a few hours to kill and had walked three miles downhill away from where we parked the BMW, so that trek back up took a little longer on such a full stomach! Back on the bike (which by now I was thoroughly enjoying) we drove around the city for a while before heading to Carney Park, this park the Navy made inside of a dormant volcano. It was like being in a miniature valley! One that, you know, used to be full of molten lava.
After that, we headed to the Mare di Varcatoro, a beach near Lago Patria, and watched the sunset. We stopped at a cafe close to Anthony’s house for another espresso, to which the very nice, very stylish Italian barrista added Baileys “on the house.” Oh, and then it gets better: Matt decided I needed to try different Italian liqueurs, so we had four different shot-glasses full of limoncello, grappa (a grape liqueur), sambuca, and a mint-flavored something. THEN, right as we were about to pull our helmets back on and Matt was making fun of me for the difficulty I was having with it, he happened to remark to the Italian guy how I had just tried my first baba and discovered it was wonderful. The lovely Italian barrista then pulled out a plate of five different mini-pastries and baba and gave them to us, again on the house! It was wonderful, and I’m getting the knack of saying a very heartfelt “Grazie a mile.” I love Italians!
At Anthony’s the first and smallest of a series of disasters occurred: I nearly lost one of my pearl earring when pulling my helmet off. We found the earring but lost the back (oops). I finally tried to “pocket-coffees” that Matt’s been telling me so much about: they’re this treat you can only find in winter here and it’s literally chocolate with liquid espresso in the middle! We had a fantastic dinner cooked by Anthony’s girlfriend and tried the wine his landlords had made (again, yum). After chilling there for a while, we headed out because Matt wanted to take me to Formicola to stargaze, which really would have been the perfect end to such an awesome day.
But then, disaster. Whomp whomp whomp.
I thought the ride back to his place (we were going to have to bundle up some more) was great…and really, really fast. But fun! Unfortunately, after we got off the highway and were literally two minutes away from his place, a couple in a car flagged us down and pointed at one of the saddlebags…which was open. It happened to have had my hat and purse in it, as well as some of Matt’s stuff. I promptly began to freak out, but we weren’t home yet, and Matt thought he knew where it might have dropped so he told me to calm down and that he would put me in his apartment and then go looking for it.
ALSO unfortunately…thirty seconds after this the car driving in front of us hid a massive pothole, which we couldn’t avoid. Well, Matt later told me that we could have, but he would have to have thrown the bike and he wasn’t willing to do that with me on board. So that meant that we hit the thing head on (Naples is known for its awful streets, by the way), and immediately the dash starts going off. We started hearing this TIC TICK TIC sound and just knew something wasn’t right and, sure enough, the front wheel has a hole in it and the rim is badly damaged.
I can’t tell you how awesome Matt is because he swallowed just about everything he was feeling for his poor BMW and got on the other motorcycle, his trans-alp, to go look for my stuff on the highway. At this point, it was 10:45 at night and he said he’d be back in thirty minutes. Well, thirty minutes came and went, so I called him on Skype at midnight to see how the search was going. He’d found my hat – which is still wearable, strangely enough, and was EIGHT MILES AWAY from where he found my other stuff – and he’d also picked up my sunglasses case, which was sadly in two pieces. This meant that my purse had been hit hard enough to split open, so he was looking for all the little stuff in it: the sunglasses, my camera, my wallet, and my European cell phone being the main things. Since he didn’t really know what my stuff looked like, we agreed that it’d be best if he came back to get me so that I could help.
Back at the apartment, we talked about what all we were still looking for while I made tea to warm him up; temperatures were already below freezing, plus the wind chill on the bike. We were stuck nearly 2 AM because Matt said my stuff had to be in the center of the highway and he hadn’t had enough light on the trans-alp to see the center…and his flashlights were broken. Eventually some off-hand comment I made reminded him about a miner’s lamp he happened to have, so we bundled up and were off on the trans-alp to keep searching for my stuff.
Sidenote: knowing the outcome now, I’m a lot less freaked out. Saturday night I was essentially a wreck because I knew all my modes of transport essentially depended on us finding my wallet. Matt said I could borrow whatever I needed if we didn’t find it, but that would have been a colossal inconvenience for both of us and I was so worried my card was going to be stolen.
So, eventually we got back to the stretch of highway on which he’d found my Ray Bans case and got set up so he had light. Two minutes of driving and viola! had found something. Matt turned on the hazards and made me promise not to move while he went and walked in the middle of the Italian highway trying to find my things. He came back with my purse – very torn and very beat up, but my purse – and a piece of my digital camera. The purse had my pearl earrings in it still (score!) and my cell phone (clearly mauled by cars). By this point we’d accepted that my electronics were all permanently broken and that I’d be purchasing another pair of sunglasses, but were still holding out hope for my wallet. I thought I’d seen something by the white lines, so Matt went out again and, this time, came back with my wallet!!! My Oyster card and train tickets back to London were still intact. I’d lost both my FIE student IDs, both my Elon ID and my driver’s license are in three pieces, but my debit card only has a small crack on the non-important side!
At this point, we were both ridiculously tired and I wanted to do a happy dance but didn’t want to get off the bike, so we headed back to the apartment and went to sleep around quarter to four in the morning.
Like I said, long day, crazy bad ending. Thankfully we found the things most vital to my travel and comfortable stay here, but I was definitely more than a little sad about my sunglasses. And the fact that the BMW is officially out of commission until Matt can get a new wheel and rim.