Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Walk This Way

For my first day on my own in Italy, I got a home-cooked meal.

Gabriella, a woman who lives in the apartments over our hotel, invited me up to her bay-view apartment for lunch.

I arrived to find an open front door, a baby in a carrier on the kitchen table and Gabriella bustling about.

The only problem is that she knows as much English as I know Italian.

Fortunately, the 4-month old Martina and I communicate with no problem. I have her smiling in no time.

Gabriella asks if I like ravioli ("duh" seems to translate well) and pulls out a plate of it that she had made the day before and sets water to boil.

As we attempt conversation, she is interrupted endlessly.

A white-haired friend stops by (walking right in the open door as I had) and explains she once knew much English but no longer because she doesn't "experience" it much now.

There is a ring from below and Gabriella lowers a basket four floors to the street and pulls up eight or nine very ripe tomatoes.

Soon she is boiling ravioli and warming sauce for my first course.

She spreads a fruit-decorated tablecloth on half the table (the baby occupying the other half) and sets a place for me.

After the generous and excellent ravioli, she serves me a salad of butter lettuces dressed only in olive oil and a huge lemon.

Cutting the lemon, she sticks a piece under my nose, much to my confusion.

One sniff, though, and I get it. These are not like any lemons I know.

Huge, sometimes lumpy, they are the world-renowned Sorrento lemons and they smell like lemons on steroids.

They are the starting point for Limoncello and the scent is intoxicating.

After the salad, I have a breaded chicken cutlet, perfectly seasoned, the size of my plate.

The bell rings again and the basket is lowered again, this time for clementines.

By this time, Gabriella's husband Enzo has come in and is appalled there is no wine in front of me.

Pulling out a glass water bottle, he pours homemade wine of a brownish-orange color into a tumbler for me.

Although the hue is not the most appealing, its taste is.

By now I am far too stuffed for 1:30 in the afternoon.

The baby's mother arrives and luckily she speaks a little English, facilitating an easier conversation.

When Gabriella insists I have a fruit course before leaving, I demur, eventually grabbing a massive banana so she won't worry that I'll starve to death on my way out.

I take the archaic elevator (3 person limit and they'd better not be 3 large people) downstairs, determined to explore Vico Equense this afternoon.

It's not hard.

The town is small, with one main drag and many small streets coming off of it, offering restaurants, shops and the other businesses of life,

On a scenic overlook, I find a monument to the town's World War I dead consisting of two bronze figures holding a small figure on a stone base.

Old men sit on benches and ogle women as they pass by.

I am getting used to men's eyes sweeping my body everywhere I go. I can't imagine how much worse it is for a young woman.

Going down a tiny alley, I hear house music blaring only to find it is a small gym with half a dozen sweaty men working out inside.

Even with all its windows wide open, I can tell it is very warm place to be exercising.

Further along, I stop at Gelateria Gabriele, the place our waiter had recommended last night.

Besides gelato, they have an impressive array of pastries and cheeses.

I have chocolate gelato in a cone (they have no cups) and the waiter insists I have whipped cream on it.

It's my first ice cream cone with whipped cream but I don't want to disappoint him.

An alley leads me past an old church covered in graffiti to another overlook, this one with a stellar view of the sunset over the bay.

I am at a cliff's edge and the beach is directly below, so this is the first time I have heard the sound of the water here.

I listen to it lapping at the shore, making a mental note of where I am so I can get back again.

Wherever I am, it is far enough around the peninsula that I can see other islands instead of just Vesuvius.

Heading away from the water towards the hills, I pass an empty storefront where four men are huddled around a card table enjoying a little early evening gambling.

The fading light of the sunset is now reflecting off the cliff side houses, turning them a softer, warmer shade of their original color.

I stop and buy peaches and clementines from an old Italian fruit seller.

Rounding the fountain in the town square, I see Gabriella's son Lucio near the WWI statue.

He is just back from the groceria for his wife and he introduces me to his handsome Italian friend, Michael.

They give me recommendations on beaches, both bayside and not, and when to go where.

I tell them about my bountiful lunch at Gabriella's and how stuffed I still am.

"Oh, well," Lucio shrugs.

I know, that's just the Italian way, I say.

"That's the Neapolitan way!" Michael corrects me.

From what I can tell so far, it's a colorful and filling way.

And don't even get me started on how bold the men are here.

Apparently, it's just the Neapolitan way, too.

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