expr:class='"loading" + data:blog.mobileClass'>

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Thin Line Between Heaven and Hell

The last thing I remember seeing before my helmet hit the pavement was my husband's profile superimposed against a backdrop of black roadway as we fell. The last thing I remember hearing was his voice shouting, "We've hit oil, we're going down!"

My first reaction was disbelief.

We'd ridden our Harley Davidson 20,000 miles safely in the United States - from California to Washington D.C. and up the West Coast to Seattle without so much as a close call. We had ridden 600 miles across Texas in one day enduring 110 degree temperatures with nothing more than a sunburn.

Now we were living in Italy. We brought our bike. Our friends envy us. We're supposed to be living the dream. It's supposed to be Heaven here, dammit.

We're going down.

When the sound of your own head cracking on asphalt is something you actually hear and remember afterward, it's a good thing. As I looked up from my prone position on the A-1 Autostrada, I knew I had survived, and thankfully, had not lost consciousness. I could feel my helmet was intact but blood was dripping down my nose.

I wasn't dead. I was awake and could see everything around me. But what I saw were the blurred images of cars headed right toward me.

Facing on-coming traffic, I had landed on my back, then bounced onto my face on the oily surface where our bike had pitched out from underneath us. Lying on my stomach on the center line, my mind quickly went to the irony of surviving only to be hit by a traffic, and it was the first time I felt fear.

I heard my husband yell somewhere behind me, asking if I was alright. That meant he was alive and conscious. Relief washed over me. We were both alive.
I yelled back that I was OK, but couldn't move, and honey, get us out of the road. I was like Bambi looking up at the headlights coming toward me, frozen.

Scott drug me under the arms across the pavement. He propped me up against a rock wall and begged me to tell him that I was OK. A Navy Corpsman with medical training to handle injuries on the battlefield, he had seen far worse, but the shock of my bloody face was jarring him.

We had gone down at 65 to 75 miles per hour, and we were staring at each other incredulous that one or both of us wasn't dead. Looking around in a daze, I saw the bike on its side far down the Autostrada on the right shoulder. Scott ran to it for the first aide kit and I yelled after him to retrieve my camera.

We would need pictures.

motorcycle accident, italy, autostrada

harley davidson, motorcycle, accident, italy

Pictures of  a moment-in-life hell where a journalist on assignment is sitting on the side of the road with blood and oil on her face, barely digesting that everything has just changed in a flash of bad luck.

Our accident caused a traffic jam on two lanes of the A-1 Autostrada northbound at Florence. Our destination had been Brescia, Italy, the starting line for the historic Mille Miglia race. For five days and four nights we were slated to be the first Americans on a Harley Davidson, working as a press bike following and photographing the race for American publications.

It had been a dream for years to see the Mille Miglia - covering it for clients was an added bonus and riding it on our Harley was the dream. My version of Heaven. Not a bucket list item for many people - but certainly near the top of mine. So what the hell had just happened?

Setting my camera down next to me, my husband was dabbing at my wounds, eyes wide with fear. An Italian woman in a black Mercedes stopped and was calling the Italian version of 911. Cars were still roaring by us, but the police had also arrived and were keeping traffic away from me on the shoulder.

It was chaotic.

Reassuring my husband that I was OK, I asked him to do what I knew he didn't want to do - leave me and photograph the scene. Never try to dissuade a reporter when they want information. Reluctantly he walked back down the Autostrada where we had crashed, and was shocked to find an entire lane and half of another covered with black oil.

Sitting on the shoulder, I felt gratitude for the kind woman who had stopped. While she spoke rapidly in Italian on her cell phone, I looked down the road at our bike still lying on its side far down from me on the shoulder, and up the road where we had gone down.

It was a long distance. I guessed a football field.

The ambulance arrived and four Italians tried to load me into it and head off to an Italian hospital where I knew what awaited. I knew I'd arrive taped to a backboard only to wait and wait some more. There would be confusion, delays and frustration. I would be in a hospital in a foreign country that moves slow.

I wouldn't go with them until everything important was retrieved and came with us in the ambulance. It was all still on the bike, way down the road. My passport, my phone with the translation app. They were frustrated, but arguing with them took time, which is good. Italians like to argue, and they like to take their time.

During our debate in the ambulance, the Polizia joined Scott and began photographing the oil spill. Suddenly a road construction worker in an orange vest appeared and confided to the officer that the oil is a product they put down first when resurfacing the road with asphalt. A large truck full of it was bumped and spilled dozens of gallons on the roadway earlier that day.

They left it. No signs, no warning, no cones. Why? Because it was lunchtime.

italy, autostrada

italy, driving in italy, italian

Lunch time in Italy, or "Pausa Pranzo," starts at 1:00 and ends two or three hours later. It's an important meal, and shops close for it. Italians have their priorities, food and drink are high on the list, and efficiency is not one of them. It's "Va Bene" if you sideswipe a car and "Domani" if your basement is flooded and you need a plumber. It is the Italy of my dreams, but in this situation, the Italy of my nightmares. A country where people are passionate about many things, but live in a moment where lunch is more important than preventing a disaster.

Eventually, all our belongings were retrieved and piled into the ambulance that seemed to bounce over cobblestones for hours after exiting the Autostrada. Inside the hospital, it was everything I had anticipated it might be, and worse. Noisy, unorganized, inattentive, unsanitary, and in disarray.

But it didn't matter. We were grateful.

Sitting in our group hospital room that night, we thanked God and agreed that on this horrific day, we had, indeed, experienced both Heaven, and Hell.

A Heaven where adventurous angels live, some of whom must love to travel. Because two of them decided to ride shotgun on a motorcycle in Italy just for fun that day. We had unknowingly carried one on each shoulder. Their wings must have been beating pretty hard to keep us safe when we hit the ground.

It's rarely visited, but we've been right on that fine line between Heaven and Hell.

harley davidson, rent a motorcycle in italy, driving in italy

The End

Monday, May 28, 2012

Some Don't Like it Hot

There is was again. 

The loud, intrusive buzzer that made us jump each time it echoed through our concrete Italian villa. Someone was at our security gate, buzzing to come in.

An unfamiliar part of our new life in Naples included a security fence around our home. A button next to the pedestrian gate in the fence, allowed visitors to buzz the occupants, us, asking to be let in. 

Looking out the window I saw our Italian neighbor, Rita, smiling up at me with a plate in her hand. It was her sixth visit in the three days since we’d moved into this small Italian neighborhood, and I knew what the buzzer meant every time I heard it. 

Rita was delivering another plate of “welcome to our neighborhood.”

The first time Rita showed up the Italian movers were unloading our furniture. Delighted when she walked into the yard carrying a small metal pot of Italian coffee and several tiny plastic cups, the men eagerly swigged the potent little shots of coffee.

I politely sipped mine. The strong acid flavor of the thick, dark brew was a far cry from the milky lattes I was used to drinking at home in California, but I didn’t want to be rude, and that quickly became a pattern.

 I felt a twinge of guilt every time Rita appeared at our gate.  The Italian fare she made was pasta or starchy Gnocchi which I politely sampled in small bites.

My husband on the other hand, was thrilled when Rita appeared.

“We are lucky!” he exclaimed each time I passed him one of her culinary gifts, which he devoured with relish. Yes, we were lucky to have a beautiful villa next to a friendly Italian neighbor.

“What did she bring today?”

 He was already sniffing the plate I’d carried inside. “It’s all yours,” I said, feeling relieved that he was so delighted with Rita’s cooking.

I had caught a whiff of the strong seafood aroma coming from the plate, and it was too pungent for my taste on a lazy Sunday morning when all I could think about was pancakes and eggs.

“OK, well, I’m eating it.”

 We sat on the back veranda gazing out at our view of the Mediterranean.
“Honey, this is wonderful, are you sure you don’t want some?”

 I was sure. Watching him pick up the tiny shells scattered atop the pasta to suck out the meat inside wasn’t stirring my appetite in the least.

“I wonder what kind of seafood this is?” he said, studying the shells on his plate. That’s when it occurred to me my husband did not know he was eating snails for breakfast.

“That is not seafood, those are baby snails.”

 I felt a little wicked. Despite being self-described “foodies” who often experimented with different cuisines, I knew my husband was no more a fan of Escargot than myself.

“Ack! Why would you ruin it for me?!” he exclaimed, setting the plate down and swigging his mimosa. “I don’t like snails! Why didn't you tell me?!” 

Chuckling at the reaction, I knew that despite my reluctance to partake of the pasta and snails, Rita had made something very special for us. Her consistent giving from her kitchen was a gracious Italian welcome, and it was time for us to reciprocate.  

But what does an American cook for an Italian?  

My specialties were international dishes – Thai and Mexican. They wouldn’t adequately represent traditional American cuisine at all.  

 “Why don’t we make something special for Rita?”

He must have been reading my mind. Scott was back to eating the plate of pasta, but I could see the snails had been carefully set to one side. “I’m thinking maybe I’ll deep fry a turkey for her” he said. A deepfried turkey? For an Italian?

Leave it to a boy from North Carolina to come up with fried poultry. Next he’d be suggesting corn fritters and collard greens. But who was I to judge? At least it was traditional food from our country. 
Two weeks later in our back yard at dusk, Scott looked like the culinary equivalent of a coal miner’s daughter.

Decked out with a head lamp against the dimming light and clad in denim coveralls, he brandished a cigar in one hand and Kentucky bourbon in the other. My husband was boldly displaying his southern roots, gesturing proudly at the turkey fryer and 14-pound bird, waiting to be dipped.

 "Why don’t you go get Rita so she can watch?” He asked.  

When Rita arrived, we stood together on the terrace above the yard and watched Scott dip her turkey into the pot on stilts. Amazed at the bubbling oil and mouth-watering aroma emitting from the smoke, Rita was fascinated.

We watched for several minutes, sipping the homemade wine she had brought and letting the moment bridge the language barrier.

An hour later, the crispy bird arranged on a platter, Scott offered to carry it across the street. The look on Rita’s face spoke volumes, and strangely, I recognized her expression. 

It mirrored mine the morning the snail dish had arrived. Oblivious to the nuance and reading it as reluctance to accept his grand gift, Scott carved off a piece of breast meat and held out to Rita on a fork. The steaming bite had an unmistakably spicy Cajun aroma to it.

  He had injected it. I should have known.

Reluctantly, Rita took the large bite in her mouth then frantically began waving her hands in front of her face. Gulping her wine, her eyes were wide and watering.

Troppo caldo! Troppo caldo! Molto Spezia!” She exclaimed. I rushed to get her water as my mortified husband stood by, unsure what to do.
Snails came to mind.

Consistent in her graciousness, Rita took the offending Cajun turkey home. We later learned the bird had been passed to the homes of three of Rita’s relatives – none of whom could eat the spicy fowl.

Two weeks went by with no more gifts from Rita, and we started to wonder if we had seriously offended our Italian neighbors and broken the chain of food gifts with our Cajun turkey.

One day two bottles of homemade champagne showed up outside the gate and I knew that the mistake was forgiven. Maybe my list of things to do while I live in Italy should include learning to cook snails. 

The End

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mine is Bigger Than Yours

Rita started it.

The day we moved into our villa in Naples she was at our front gate. A small dark Italian woman with laughing brown eyes, she came to our house the first time with Italian coffee

The following week, the button on our security gate was pushed a dozen times by Rita. Buzz, Italian coffee. Buzz, pasta. Buzz, homemade wine. Buzz, Limoncello. Rita was a machine of giving.

After two weeks, I started to dread the sound. Not used to such an enthusiasm, I was anxious to reciprocate but not sure how. It was clear my spicy cooking wasn't going to be appealing to Rita. My specialties were Thai and Mexican. In fact giving her food at all didn't seem right. She was welcoming us to Italy with authentic Italian fare. I didn't want to take away from that. 

So what would be right?  

Maybe flowers would be a simple and adequate gesture. 

"Who are these for? The British woman working behind the counter at the flower shop was skeptical. Startled, I paused. "My very kind Italian neighbor who keeps bringing me food, why?" 

"I was afraid you'd say that," said the woman who later introduced herself as Maggie. "I've been married to an Italian for 15 years. Don't give her those," she warned, pointing at the bouquet of roses in my hand. "Roses signify secrecy to Italians and don't give her Chrysanthemums or carnations - they are only used at funerals. Don't use gold or black ribbon - or anything purple!" 

A sinking feeling ensued. Guided in the right direction I left the flower shop with a medium size bouquet of Lilies and Gerber Daisies. That night, buzzing Rita's gate for the first time, it surprised me to see embarrassment on her face when I handed the blooms to her. 

Rita wasn't used to receiving. 

The next day the annoying buzz I was finally becoming accustomed to echoed through the house again, and there was Rita. Opening the front door, I watched her walk toward me carrying an bouquet of yellow flowers so enormous I couldn't see her head. Shoving them into my arms, she smiled gleefully and with a "Ciao!" skipped back across the street.

Putting the huge stems into my largest vase, I wondered if my bouquet had seemed small.  

The following day Rita's husband, Franco, was out working in their yard. Like most Italian men, Franco made his own wine at home, and I'd been thinking of asking him about the large glass "demijohns" in his driveway. I knew Italians used for wine making. The giant light bulb shaped vessels of thick green glass were like the art pieces - but Italians view as them as strictly functional. I thought Franco might have some good intelligence for me on where to find them.

Translating the question from English to Italian on my iPad, I walked across the street and noticed an unfamiliar face peeking out of their garage interior.

"Ciao! I am Franco's daughter - my name is Simona. I'm visiting from Rome. You must be Laura? I'm down here sorting things in the basement to take home." Her English was perfect and after our introduction Rita and Franco joined us in the dark basement which clearly served more as a wine cellar.

I explained to Simone that I wanted to ask Franco where to buy demijohns - that I had been unable to find them. Franco responded by immediately pointing at one empty, medium sized demijohn sitting among many others full of wine. Then he pointed at me.

"Oh no, I didn't come to ask for one of yours!" Horrified that Rita and Franco might think I was there to request one of their beautiful glass globes for free, I turned to Franco's daughter. "Please explain to them that I cannot take this unless they allow me to pay for it."

"They will not take money from you," Simona explained, and they want to know which size you like. Maybe next time my father goes to buy some, he will get you another one."

Embarrassed but thrilled by the offer, I pointed to one of the largest demijohns in the garage, corked with Franco's latest wine harvest.

"Those, the 54 liter bottles are the most beautiful," I said. "I will give him the money in advance to buy one of those for me, but he must also let me pay him for this one he is giving me now."

The largest demijohns would cost 24 euros each and Rita agreed she would let me know when Franco was on a buying trip. But both refused to take cash for the demijohn gifted out of Franco's collection.

Walking across the street with my green globe, accompanied by Simona, she said in a conspiratorial tone, "you know, if you would like to do something nice for them, they like that fruity body cleaner sold in the American stores. If you could just buy a bottle, they would love that."

Fruity body wash?  Now I knew how to adequately thank my new neighbors. Not knowing which fruit was the best, I'd have to wing that part. So it was off to the American military base to find the sweet smelling bath products that would adequately express gratitude to our Italian friends.

Later that night, I proudly showed my husband the four bottles of strawberry and kiwi liquid neatly packed in a wine sack. A thank you card was tucked inside with them - written from an ipad translation like all of my communications with Rita. Walking across the street feeling triumphant, I hoped I was about to hit a home run with the neighbors.

Rita answered the door and gushed over the first bottle. "Grazia! grazia!"

I felt myself glowing with her appreciation and watched as she read the card giggling at my attempt to translate a simple thank you. Back at home, I was relieved. Finally, we were on an even playing field with our new neighbors. Now hopefully they were aware of how much we appreciated their largess. Maybe now we were all evenly settled with gifts.

I wasn't prepared when the security buzzer blared loudly the next morning. It must be a solicitor. They were frequent here, and the last one, selling seafood from his truck, had waved a fish at me over the fence. I ignored the buzz and continued with my work.

Buzz, buuuzzz, buuuuuzzzz. Whoever this was, ignoring them wasn't working. I looked out the window and there stood Rita. But instead of standing at the pedestrian gate where visitors on foot entered, she was peering through the bars of our large driveway gate.

Baffled, I scrambled for the remote that would open the big iron gate. As it rolled away,  I could see tiny Rita clutching two enormous demijohns. Bolting up the driveway and up onto my porch, barely able to hold the heavy globes by the neck, she carefully set them down at my feet then ran back to Franco who was waiting with two more. I could feel my jaw drop.

Depositing the next pair on my front step, Rita said something in Italian, gave me a hug and a kiss on both cheeks, then darted home. Overwhelmed by the display of green glass on my front porch, I pondered the math. If Franco had purchased these four demijohns, that was almost 100 euro. My fruity gift to them had cost less than five dollars. This wasn't even close to equitable.

I couldn't accept this. It was too much.

That's when it hit me. Italians are passionate about many things. They love big, fight big, yell big, laugh big and eat big. Birthday parties are celebrated with fireworks. Trying to live like an Italian means doing everything with great appassionato! I was probably no match for that. My Italian neighbors have their own personal passion and there was nothing we could do but accept that they give Big and Rita's gifts would always be bigger than mine.

Italian, Italy, Wine, wine trips, wine regions, demijohns,

The End

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Shrimp on the Boot

The man in front of me is smiling broadly and I can't help but think how many of my female friends would enjoy this moment, walking past a handsome young Italian man so anxious to get my attention.

"Ciao signora giovane! Vi piacerebbe alcuni gamberetti oggi? O forse qualche formaggio?"

Unfortunately it's not because he is at all impressed by the American woman strolling along with a huge camera. He is asking me if I'd like to purchase some shrimp, or would I like some cheese?

A strikingly different experience than shopping at my neighborhood Costco in the United States, perusing the stalls at the Monteruscello street market is like walking onto a movie set, full of enthusiastic actors.

Some expats living in Italy call what I'm doing today "shopping on the boot" due to the country's boot shape. A 30-minute drive outside central Naples, Monteruscello is one of many small communities with a popular outdoor market. This one is very close to my home in Italy, and it is my first visit.

An Italian man is proudly gesturing at a plastic tub full of shrimp energetically swimming in circles, their transparent bodies busy with moving parts. It's a far cry from someone offering up a cooked sample on a toothpick in America.

Next to the tub of shrimp, giant wheels of hard cheese are split open and stacked on crates filled with more enormous wheels. This is cheese the deli of a supermarket in the United States would have to charge many more dollars a pound for, if they carried it at all. Here, it is not only better quality but far less expensive. Like everything at the market, items are either hours old or painstakingly aged for months and years.

italian cheese, italy, imported cheese, market, italian market

"Grazie!" I thank him in my best, albeit very bad, Italian.

"May I please just photograph the shrimp?

Amused, the man steps aside and watches me point my camera at the bucket of busy crustaceans. Most people would scoop up the fresh fare before other shoppers could, but I'm too distracted by their aliveness. Somehow the idea of carrying a plastic bag home with my dinner still swimming in it is too much for this squeamish American. Mentally I chastise myself. I love shrimp and they would probably be the best I have ever eaten. With time I promise myself, I'll loosen up.

italian seafood, shrimp, fresh seafood recipes, market, italy

The cheese, however, is a must have. Along with orchard fresh apples; tomatoes and lettuce culled from a local garden just this morning. The prices are so low I have to stifle a giggle when a dapper looking farmer dressed in a sweater hands me a head of Butter Lettuce the size of a basketball for one Euro.

The market is magical in a theatrical way. Unlike farmer's markets I've visited in France and other parts of Europe, the Italian markets are startling with their amplified volume and colorful characters.

Italians shout when they are happy, bellow when they are joyful, gesture wildly when trying to make a point, and get more indignant then angry. The market sounds are as much a part of the experience as the sights and smells.

"Benventuto! Buoni prezzi oggi! Grandi offerte! Come stai!"

Whirling around to the shout of someone just behind me, I'm greeted by another smiling face, inviting me to photograph him. The enthusiasm the vendors have for being photographed is surprising. It's as though I'm making each one of them a celebrity by snapping their images. Afterward they laugh and high five each other like I've handed them a winning lottery ticket.

The one exception is a tall, quiet man standing over a table of Mozzarella. He smiles shyly and turns away when I ask to photograph him, but quickly points to a round of soft cheese packaged in a plastic bag full of liquid to preserve it. Clearly he's been watching me navigate the market for pictures.

I accept his invitation and photograph the unremarkable package, then notice his table holds a variety of soft cheeses including the coveted Buffalo Mozzarella. A culinary staple of Naples, this particular cheese is moving the needle forward on my scale at a pound a month. Some people crave pizza, some pasta. For me, it's this particular cheese.

italian cheese, buffalo cheese

italian cheese, italy, italian market,

Unlike Mozzarella made from cow milk, "Mozzarella di Bufala" is somewhere between cheese and butter. Thickly sliced atop a vine-ripe tomato, crowned with fresh basil and parked on top of freshly baked olive bread, the Italian delicacy packs the calories of avocado without the benefit of healthy oils.

Regardless, it is winning a battle for priority in my kitchen. Every time I buy it I swear it's the last time for a while, but who can resist such a great deal? Resigned, I had him two euros and add the liquid-filled package to my booty.

Juggling multiple bags of market treasures, I readjust my camera case and begin the trek back to my car, reflecting on my expenditures. I've spent seven euros and enjoyed the lively scene for two hours.

Larger than many street markets in Italy, the Monteruscello market only happens on Wednesdays and there is much more to see than I've seen today. Next week I'll be back. Waving to the vendors with weighted down arms, I pass the shrimp swimming in the plastic bin and tell myself, next time, they come home too.

Next time, I'm buying shrimp on the boot.

italian, fruit, market, italy, open air markets, europe
Add caption
Italy, market, outdoor market, Italian, peppers

The End

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Sitting here in my home office in Italy, I'm looking out at the Good.

The Good is the expanse of aqua blue Mediterranean stretched out in the distance. I can see miles of it from my desk. This is why we chose this villa.

coast of italy, naples, italian, ocean

It was selfish on my part - one look at the upstairs rooms facing the sun setting on an expanse of ocean and I knew this would be the perfect place to write.
Water has a way of inspiring most people.

Living on the West Coast in the United States, quality of  life was always about the water. Seeing it was a bonus if you could afford a view. Fortunately, here in Italy, the amazing view is not expensive. 

Which is Good.

But like with most things, there are trade-offs.

The Bad is the driving.

Italians are friendly, warm, engaging people who embrace you immediately. They ply you with homemade wine, shove dishes of pasta at you and kiss you on both cheeks. They are an enthusiastic and instant family.

Until they drive. Then they become evil. If you ask them, they'll gleefully admit it. It's almost a point of pride that driving is a game of survival.

The kind old man who offers you an extra handful of olives for free at the market will scare the hell out of you in his Fiat Punta. Your helpful neighbor who offers you bottles of his homemade wine will try to squeeze in-between you and the car in the next lane. Motorcycle riders call it splitting lanes. Italians call it "expressing themselves." 

Italian drivers don't drive. They go to war.

The way I will keep my weight in check eating all the bread and pasta we ingest in Italy is from the cardio exercise on the Autostrade. My heart never stops pumping double time as I watch the mirror - and I stay as far away from trouble as possible.

One day, headed for Rome and cruising calmly in the far right lane, my heart started pounding wildly when distinctive Audi LED lights behind me grew brighter by the second.

Unwilling to wait for the fast moving traffic in the left lane to pass traffic on the right, the Audi was coming right up between both lanes at high speed, pushing cars to the side like parting of the Red Sea.

My heart was beating double time as he swerved back and forth on my left bumper looking for an opening in-between my car and the left lanes.

He couldn't have been more than 10 inches off my bumper, so close I was frozen with indecision. Not easily rattled on any road in any country - I've test driven vehicles all over the world - I was scared.

Unless someone was bleeding to death in his car, this just made no sense. I moved over onto the shoulder and let him fly by me. Other drivers were also swerving aside ahead of me, cursing and making Italian hand gestures.

I was just glad to have survived the pass. It was Bad. 

But the most baffling, here in Naples, is the Ugly.

Native Italians who live here in Napoli don't talk about it, but many of the Americans who live here do. It bothers some of us more than others.

It bothers me so much, I'm going to break all the rules of expats and write about it. Much of what should be only a beautiful Naples is filthy. I would be remiss if I wasn't honest in saying not every single square foot of Italy is stunning.

Parts of Naples are dirty in a way that makes you wonder what the hell is wrong here. And it's not all of Naples, a lot of it is just the highways and back roads that connect communities. That, and parts of downtown.

There are piles of garbage that decorate the turnouts of major roads and shoulders of streets in and about Naples. It's frustrating to see, and the explanation - which is complicated, I won't offer here, but there are plenty of stories that explain how the garbage started.

It started with the Mafia. And yes, there has been a documentary

Between my desk and the beautiful ocean view in the distance is a road you can't see from our house, lined with piles of garbage as high as six feet. On that same road are two luxury hotels. Further down that road are oceanfront resorts.

Soon after moving here we rode our motorcycle to the beach, and experienced that road for the first time. The smell was nauseating. Passing the gated property of a high end hotel, we wondered how guests from outside Italy felt when their taxicabs from the airport drove past this enormous display of trash. It would have to be shocking.

It's the kind of waste you expect to see in a third world country. Rusty appliances, dirty mattresses, tires, rotting clothing and mounds of old food.
It's all piled in stinky heaps alongside a road to paradise.

It's too much to comprehend sometimes, and it's Ugly.

But other parts of Naples peg the meter for beautiful, charming and historical.

The neighborhoods of Vomero and Santa Lucia, the Lungomare and Castel Ovo, the Palazzo Reale, the Monastery of Santa Chiara, the National Archeological Museum and Capodimonte Royal Palace and Museum are some of many places in Naples well worth seeing, because there are endless places in Naples that represent the best of Italy.

And that is Good.

The End