Friday, October 3, 2008

How NOT to do Rome in only One day.....

Abbyonthetrain

 

     When my husband and I decided to head up to Rome for a day of sight-seeing and history walking, we thought we had things planned out pretty well. We went to bed early the night before, pre-booked our train tickets for the 6am train (34 euros/ $46 US) the next morning, and packed a bag full of snacks and water for the kiddos. At 5:30am, we woke up and headed for the train station. Unfortunately, I found once we were on the train that I forgot one of the lenses for my camera, and the only lens I did have, was my telephoto lens. Which meant the only pics I would be able to take would have to be close-up. Dargh!!!   Trying to be even more prepared, I brought my make-up with me to do on the train. Let me tell you, although it saved time getting out the door, trying to do your makeup on a shaky train.... hmmmmmm.  

Makeponthetrain The train was awesome. It took us approx. 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to the main station in Rome. The whole trip was full of views of the country and the coast. My girls loved the train and asked if the train was going to last the whole day. Or oldest daughter, Ms. A, was glued the window the entire ride.  Although the ride was fun, there were some funny European eccentricities that went along with the fun. The bathroom was your typical train bathroom, all except for the toilet. Once we (my daughters and I) lifted the lid, we realized that the hole in the bottom of the toilet was opened....to the tracks below. This gave my youngest daughter sort of a pause on the whole "potty" process. After some coaxing and promising that she would not fall onto the tracks below...we finally got to leave the bathroom sans any pee-pee dancing. (Note to parents wanting to travel by train: bring hand sanitizer!! The bathrooms are usually pretty filthy, and they are almost always empty of hand towels and tissue. Be prepared!!)  cafeandcroissant

     Once we finally reached our destination, we were off and running to the nearest bus stop, where we hopped on the #40 Express. It was a quick 10 minute ride to Vatican City where we disembarked, and made a little time for a chocolate croissant and a cafe.  I have to say, I was a little hesitant to stop, especially so soon into our arrival, but the amount of chocolate pastries available at only 8am was pretty tempting. Besides, what's wrong with attacking Rome's monuments with a serious sugar high? Well....

  After we left our pretty cafe with all the lovely chocolate yummies, we headed towards the Vatican and St. Peter's Square. Unfortunately for us, we didn't plan well enough in advance for a trip to the Vatican. vatican1We had hoped to see the Sistine Chapel, the museums, and the inside of the Basilica itself. Except, once we reached the Square we were met with a line that was long enough to wrap around the Vatican itself.....twice. And it was only 8:30am! So, in true "keeping an upbeat outlook", we let the kids chase the crap out of the pigeons around us. The kids had a blast, the pigeons got a work-out, and I got some great pictures. abbyandthepigeons  chasingpigeons

 After we let the kiddos run off their chocolate breakfasts, we headed back to the bus stop and only waited 5 minutes before another #40 squealed to a halt and opened its doors for us to enter. We boarded, and headed toward the Coliseum in hopes that we would be able to see the inside of this next monument. We were warned beforehand of the so-called 'actors' who pose as Gladiators and Roman soldiers in front of the Coliseum who ask if you want your picture taken with them. If you agree, they smile willingly enough and as soon as your picture is taken and you say, "Thank you," They demand payment for their "services." They have even gone so far as to threaten calling the police if you refuse to pay. Some tourists give in to bypass the scene being caused, and smart people ignore them all together. I, however, caught a few pictures of the shake-downs we saw taking place around us.....gladiatorshakedown 

This unfortunate man in blue (seen here in this picture) asked for a photo of himself and his girlfriend with the finger pointing Gladiator in red. Once the picture was taken, the gallant Gladiator demanded 10euro for EACH person in the photo! 20 euro?! C'mon! He wasn't even wearing a helmet, nor did he have any props on his person. How's that for being screwed 'cause you're a tourist? gladiatorshakedown2

    These lovely men in red pictured here, were telling the lady in the green shirt that she should take lots of pictures with them because her camera was good quality and would make for fine portraits. The lady said, "thanks, but I'll pass. I can't afford your fees." The Gladiators quickly walked to a new area and tried again with different, less knowledgeable folks....

     After a few laughs and seeing the outside of the majestic Coliseum in all its Wonder, we decided that people watching was a little more fun. We saw a so many different things around the Coliseum itself, not to mention the wait to get in was around 45 minutes to an hour, we decided to people watch and planned our next bus ride and area to visit.  One thing I will never understand about Europe though, and maybe someone can someday explain this to me, but what is the deal with wearing high heels and stilettos in the most unconventional of settings? I wore athletic shoes to walk around Rome all day. But while I was checking my cameras lens, I caught a glimpse of a lady's foot in my viewfinder and had to snap away. shoesoncobblestone

 

I have no idea what would drive someone to want to wear fish nets and platform like shoes on cobblestone streets, but who am I to judge? I'm not part of the fashion police, and I would hate for someone to judge my fashion faux-pas days, but fish nets? Seriously?

Oh! Speaking of fashion and police, but in a different context: We spotted the "Bag Guys". The guys who can sell you a great looking knock-off for around 15-25 euro depending on the fake make of the bag you want. I spotted a Chanel handbag laying on a sheet, and realized piled around it were Prada, Fendi, and Gucci. I will in no way deny that I am always looking for a good bargain, especially in the area of overpriced fashion items. Note the Chanel handbag? The seller only wanted 20 euro for it. Not a bad price when you consider the real deal would most likely set you back an easy $1000 or more.

Bags4sale   Right about the time I was seriously considering buying the beautiful chocolate brown Chanel in the back, a yell rang out through the crowd. Apparently the Polizia had shown up and a scout was yelling for everyone to make a run for it. One by one vendors hawking their wears began to scatter like crazy, throwing all their goods in garbage bags and taking off. The Bag Guys we were next to decided just to wrap up their sheet and make a run for it. They were pretty quick too...bagvendorsrunningaway

(The Vendors making a run for it through the crowd with their goodies all wrapped up in a sheet. If caught, they could face complete confiscation of their goods and jail time. No thanks, I'll pass on the Chanel this time guys.....)

     By now, the family was ready to move on. So we got out our trusty map of the city and began our walk towards the Palazzo Venezia. On the way there we passed a very interesting statue of Julius Caesar. So mighty and majestic. CeasarsRome2

  'Vini, Vedi, Vici' indeed..... 

 

   All along both sides of the road leading to the Palazzo, we passed ruins and columns, statues and ancient marble slabs. Churches straddled each street corner, and vendors who were selling overpriced bottles of water and food stared dispassionately at all the passing tourists. Once we hit the major intersections it became a crushing throng of tour groups, commuters, photographers, and wandering tourists all crowding the streets with their mixture of noise and chaos. It was a beautiful and crazy clash of culture, history, and learning to say 'excuse me' in 4 different languages.  By the time we exited the crowd and the smoke cleared a little, we were able to see the Palazzo. We snapped some quick pictures and headed in the direction of a sign that pointed the way to the Trevi Fountain. PiazzaVenezia2

when-in-rome piazzaveneziaThe Palazzo was beautiful, but the stairs leading up to the main building looked daunting and my husband and I were excited to see the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon. What we didn't know at the time (because the map was visually deceptive!) Was how far apart these great things were. We followed the map, and the signs on street posts towards the Trevi fountain from the Palazzo, only to find 15 minutes into the walk that we were still a good 15 minutes more away. So, we all agreed it was time for lunch. Which is exactly what we stopped for at a little place we found in a small 'pedestrian only' alley. The kids were happy to be eating pasta, hubby and I were happy to be escaping the prices of the restaurants on the main street, and all of us were happy to be giving our poor feet a rest.   familyatcafe

For lunch, hubby and I had the typical Italian pizza. Mine was with red sauce, mozzarella, oregano, artichokes, and mushrooms. Hubby had the same. You can't go wrong with a pizza that can feed 2 people, but is all yours for only 5 euro. The girls ate their happy fill of tomato pasta. Everyone left that table well fed and happy for around 25 euro. (For a family of 4 in Rome, that is AWESOME!) The only hardship faced at that table, was having to leave. We heaved ourselves out of the chairs, and began the rest of our walk towards the Trevi....

      I will say, I was slightly (and I mean VERY slightly) disappointed by the Trevi Fountain. Every postcard, poster, calendar, movie screen, etc. that I had seen the Trevi featured on made it appear as this massive mountain-like fountain. When we arrived, we had to wade through all the 'kitsch' vendors trying to sell bubble blowing guns, stress balls, flowers, laser guns with their annoying alarm noises, watches, and of all things, scarves with pictures of famous statues' private parts....

Once through all those vendors, we were able to see what we were hearing over the voices around us: the rush of water descending from the fountain. TreviFountain1 It was beautiful, truly magnificent. After taking pictures for other couples and tourists who asked us nicely to be a spot photographer, we snapped our own.  Ms. A was given a rose by a vendor while my husband took a picture of me in front of the fountain. Before she could say thank you, he turned and demanded my husband give him money for it. Of course by now Ms. A was happy to have a flower all her own, and my hubby being the softy he is, let the manipulating vendor take him for 2 euro. abbysrose 

You gotta give it to 'em, they know their game well.

  (Here's Ms. A showing her pretty "free" rose, the beautiful grace of the Trevi, and me in front of the fountain right before my husband was tapped on the shoulder for payment for said rose....)

Dominfrontoftrevi1   Due to the 'incidente de Rosa', we forgot to toss our good luck coins into the fountain. So, I suppose when and if we go back, we'll be throwing in double the amount of coins... One thing that was good to know as well? No matter where you are in the world, you will never fail to find a place that sells a good kung-pao chicken: chineserest

  Our next stop, which unfortunately I have no pictures of, was the Spanish steps. The steps are famous for leading up to what was once the Spanish ambassador's residence. The palace was converted into a museum, and now the steps are the real draw to the place. Surrounding the steps are awesome gelato shops, the Shelly-Keats house/museum, and boutique shops. For about 8 euro, we all indulged in a heaping scoop of chocolate gelato in a cone. Sitting on the Spanish steps while you eat is actually against the law. (We found that fact out by being asked to leave the steps, along with every other person sitting and enjoying an afternoon snack.) Although the steps were amazing and full of history, they were also full of pushy tourists. Its one thing to enjoy sitting on a stone stair case and people watching, and its another while your attempting to do that wedged in between about 1500 other people trying to do the same thing. I finally had had enough when a lady decided to push my 3 year old out of her way, just so she could wedge herself into a tighter spot than her body was meant for. Instead of sticking around and causing an international incident (I seriously wanted to slap her!) we took out our map again and plotted our next course.  On to the Pantheon!

Pantheon

  I only wish that I had a better picture of this massive giant. Columns loomed over our heads to hold up their marble and stone burdens with care. Colors, that at one time must have made the sun bounce off their glittering surfaces, now stood dark gray and brown. It was a testament to how time passes. 'I might be older than anyone can imagine,' it seemed to say, 'But I'm still here.'

   Nothing instills more awe in me than the ability to walk around and touch antiquity that is so intact, it feels as if men in red togas, and priests and priestesses would be coming around the pillars of these buildings at any moment. The inside is free to enter, but it is still considered very sacred ground (as it is a Catholic church and cathedral now) Sacred relics line the circular interior, along with signs asking for respect of the sacred space in which you were standing written in 5 different languages. parthenon2 A quick walk around the inside, and we were back outside admiring the wonderful surroundings. My suggestion is this when traveling with children through the pantheon, take turns. One parent inside while the other watches the kiddos outside. Small children of walking age (3-6) will feel completely helpless due to the amount of bodies trying to cram into the area. My poor daughters experienced half of the Pantheon staring at nothing but the backs of people's legs. Strollers were not allowed, and many carried their babies inside. Even they were being shoved and pushed up against. I know it sounds like I am complaining a lot about the other people around us, but its mostly their behavior I was shocked at. Usually we have no problems going anywhere in Italy. People are very accommodating because we have our daughters with us, but the attitudes and downright rude "me first" mentality we witnessed from ALL language speaking tourists around us, made our trip begin to turn negative. Hubby and I decided that it would be better to just keep going and enjoy the day, than worry about what other people were doing. But I do have to say, after watching my daughter get used as bait for money, my other daughter pushed with no regard to her safety by a complete stranger, and being herded like cattle through a monument that was supposed to be a place of peace and worship (especially to us Catholics) I was losing patience.

     Walking back to the Metro Stop to catch the #40, once again, to the train terminal, we entered a Palazzo that we hadn't thought about visiting but we were so thankful we did. Palazzo Nuovo was a breath of fresh air. It was an artists and art lover's paradise. Painters, sketch artists, caricature artists, and even puppeteers were all lined up in neat rows to sell their works, perform, or sketch your portrait. PiazzaNuovoThe artists were so talented and spanned a vast area of interests. Don't like oil paintings? Then shop from the guy next to him and buy a watercolor. Don't like watercolors? Purchase a photograph in black and white from the guy next to him. We were even being serenaded by a lovely woman playing the accordion. Accordianplayer1 

She was amazing. She played a traditional Italian song, and when my girls placed a coin in her accordion case, she smiled warmly and switched the song to the theme from 'Lady and the Tramp'. ("Bella Notte") It was such a serene scene, and so calming. Hubby and I were able to finally breathe and  relax. Although there was quite a few people around us, none of them were in the hurried frenzy we had been experiencing for most of the day. My girls even noticeably relaxed and strolled alongside us, humming the accordion player's tunes. Ms. A was watching a woman being drawn in charcoal by a portraitist, when a song made her look around for its source. There, not even 10 feet away from us was a man doing the oddest thing. He was making his fingers dance, and attracting quite a crowd....  fingerdancers

The amazing man behind these "dancing" fingers was named Marcel. He was a master at setting a mini-stage of dancing can-can girls, a charlie chaplin homage, and a hilarious take on Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal". Not only did "Michael Jackson" dance for the crowd, he also came with his signature smoke screen and yell of "Hoooooooooooooo!!!!" It made the entire crowd  roll with laughter. Thank you Marcel, you made the day end on a very happy note...fingerdancingman

And because it was just that funny, here's a picture of his Michael Jackson smoke screen: smokescreen

  1.    Once the sun began to set, we headed towards our metro stop and boarded our #40 back to the train terminal. All of us were tired, happy, and ready to get back home. Lessons learned: #1. Never accept anything free, even a flower from someone at a major tourist attraction. It will end up costing you anyway.
  2. #2. Always bring your own bottled water. It will end up costing you more in on the spot purchases than a pack of postcards, a souvenir snow globe, and a key chain put together!

                        #3. Learn the words "Excuse me", "No, I don't want to buy your bubble blowing laser gun", and "Don't push my kid you (expletive)!" in at least 3 different languages. You never know when those phrases will come in handy.

                     #4 DO bring hand sanitizer! One city, thousands of people from around the world with germs from around the world. Enough said.

                   #5. Don't fear the alley restaurants! Better deals, meals, and service than what you would get at the more prominent restaurants lining the main streets, are to be had by diving off the main thoroughfares.

                 #6. Plan for the unexpected. Our train was supposed to depart at 5:40pm but was delayed till 7:20pm. Thankfully, there was a very big McDonald's at the train station.

                      #7. Just because a guide book says something is worth seeing, most of the time it's the outside of said 'must-see' that's the main draw. Why pay some exorbitant amount of money to look at caved in ruins, when the outside is still intact and beautiful? Choose what you pay to see wisely....but do take the train wherever you go. It will save you parking nightmares and headaches.

#8. Always remember that, just like you, people are there to see as much as they can in only in day. People will get pushy, aggressive, and nasty. Its okay to occasionally jab a little too hard when trying to make your way past extremely stubborn and impolite people. Besides, they did it first!! But, being in the land of the Vatican and the Pope, maybe it would be better to turn the other cheek.

Other than the pitfalls tourists inevitably fall into once in awhile, we had a great time. We saw some amazing sights, took great pictures, and will always refer to the rose debacle as "Incidente de Rosa". When we returned home, our landlords asked us why we didn't stay in Rome for 2 days instead of just one. Well, you see....

  

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh they Say Back in Ol' Napoli.....

Fighting traffic and streets still made of cobblestone is enough to rattle anyone's teeth. When my husband and I decided to drag the kids into Downtown Naples for some history and people watching, we knew it would be crazy and hectic but we were really underestimating what was in store. While flipping through one of our many, many "Travel Italy" books, we discovered that downtown alone there were three different castles, a ton of museums, and more stuff to see than one could possible accomplish in one day. We hit the road and landed downtown approximately 20 minutes later. Now, I must interject here on just how hectic Italian driving in major cities actually is. Anyone who has ever driven in a major European country knows something or two about the crazy merging practices, the non-compliance with road signs or traffic signals, and the crazy bastards who just outright cut in front of you......or is that just Naples? Throw in insane mopeds, window washers who catapult themselves at your car, and the bus drivers who don't break, EVER, yes it can raise your blood pressure. Did I mention that some streets downtown are still made of cobblestone from around the 1600's? Yeah, your car's radiator and shocks will begin to hate you. Here you can see some of the chaos and the ratio of mopeds to cars in Naples:

video
(I grabbed my camera when we parked and filmed this)

When we officially landed in the middle of the city, we decided to park our car along a sea wall. There we were able to walk along the water and enjoy the view of sail boats drifting dreamily along the water. It felt like it was seeing a movie turn into reality in front of my eyes. The boats, the water, the atmosphere.....the men walking around in speedos without shame.......yeah, we were in Europe.
While we walked, we watched people dive into the water from the sea wall while men fishing looked on cooly from their own spots on the rocks. Signs everywhere pointed out that, for a small fee (approx. 10 euro a person) you could take a quick tour of the bay in one of the many mini boats lined up at make shift docks along the sea wall. Although the thought of being able to drift on the ocean and see the sights from the water sounded tempting.....10 euro a person times 4 was a bit steep. Thankfully, our children forgave us quickly when we pointed to the castle that was now visible from where we now stood. Our oldest daughter, Ms. A, was excited at being able to see "a for real castle with real princesses and Queens." I asked, "what about the Kings?" She shook her head and said, "Nahhhh, just princesses and Queens live there."

Ahhhh, so young and already a feminist......



Looming over the small part of the bay on which we stood, was Castle dell'Ovo. (The Egg Castle) This castle has its own inlet and a road that takes you onto the ocean. Walking up the road, we passed more sunbathers and when we got up to the castle itself, we realized that there were people were swimming in what was once the castles moat and landing. Kinda cool, you know, swimming in history....(yeah, i came up with that all on my own.)


The whole time we walked towards the entrance to the castle our dear little girls begged to be let in the water. It was about 90 degrees outside that day, but in no way was I about to let my little girls go tredging through that water. It was filthy! Trash, debris, sand muck, and seaweed all drifted freely in that water among those sunbathers. As well as the cigarette butts that some people carelessly tossed in the water. Save your surroundings people!! (alright, rant is done)

Entering the castle, we immediately began looking for the rooms to see how history had been preserved. All along the walls leading up to reception, were poster boards describing the many leaders who had once lived within its walls, the way it was used in strategic positions during battles, the religious temples that once stood there before it was a castle, and about the excavations currently going on. When we got to the reception area, we were handed an iPod touch and told that the poster boards were it. No open rooms, no exhibits, 'but there was a lovely view from the top of the castle'.....whaaaaaaaat? But, on a positive side, there was a great view. The iPod touch they gave us explained in even more detail (in Italian) the history of the castle and its surroundings. It aslo had some pretty nifty music from Naples in the '30s. Here's me and my gals at the top of Castle Dell'Ouvo:

(note to self: Burn red tube top)


(Our Posing petunias)



After going through a roomless castle (well, a closed room castle) we decided to head back into town to see some more sites. I handed over the iPod to the receptionist, and we departed through the exit. 10 minutes and some cranky and hungry kiddos later, we found a pizzeria right smack dab in the middle of a large piazza that straddled not one, but five mojor historical buildings. Palazzo Reale, which holds the Museo del Palazzo Reale (a collection of museum pieces from when the Museo was actually a set of royal apartments),




(The Museo: In the niches of the museum are 8 of the most important Kings of Naples)








Biblioteca Nazionale (a treasure trove of ancient papyruses from Herculaneum),
and the Chiesa di San Francesco di Paola (a church built in 1817 by Ferdinand the 1st) . Next to this Palazzo is the beautiful Teatro San Carlo (an opera house built in 1737 and still in use today), and the Galleria Umberto (a large shopping gallery built to look like a magnificent glass atrium, which was opened in 1900).

The family stopped and ate what can only be described as 'ginormous' pieces of Neapolitan pizza, and walked around the Palazzo. We admired the statues of the kings, the grandeur of the buildings, and reveled in the history of everything around us. When we came to the entrance of the Galleria Umberto, the family did a collective gasp. It was as if you were walking into the 19th century, and doing it in style. The Galleria itself is a shopping mall filled with boutiques, major world famous fashion stores (Coach, Gucci, Sephora) and small cafes serving espresso and capuccinos. The building itself is what was the draw, not the overpriced jeans or handbags. Imagine shopping in a place that looked like this:












(Everything in dark grey stone in the upper floors used to be luxury apartments when the galleria first opened. Now? Storage rooms and empty spaces.)



It was hard to concentrate on anything but the awesome ceiling and the architecture of our surroundings, not to mention the floors! They were mosiac tile with the astrological signs placed directly under the main Atrium window in the center of the Galleria. Simply amazing, but sadly I have no proof of it as the camera ate my exposure....(bad camera!)




Moving on down the street a bit, we decided to stop in at yet another pizzeria. (what can I say my kids have appetites!) This pizzeria was by far, my kids favorite. They had a pizza called "American Hot Dogs and Fries." And, funny enough, that's exactly what it was. A pizza topped with hot dogs and french fries:


(So much for the idea that not every country thinks Americans thrive on greasy, unhealthy food! But there is good news on the hot dog pizza.....we were told only olive oil was used to deep fry the fries, and coat the pizza crust, oh! and as a topping on top of the cheese. Oh goodie! It's a good cholesterol heart attack! Whew! Don't want to die in another country without the local oil congealed in my aortic valves as much as possible.....)






In just the central area we were located (Palazzo Reale) we were able to walk around and see even more than we thought would be possible in one day. The side-streets alone were great to gawk at.





Mini cars parked so close they almost share bumpers, people strolling around yelling up at others leaning over the railings of their balconies and smoking, laundry hanging from nearly every clothesline available, and mopeds. Every street was the same with little variations in each. One street would be strictly moped central, and others would be the land of laundry hanging out to dry.





We continued to walk past life in the deep city of Naples, noticing that people who lived here rarely got a break from the noise of car horns, people shouting, traffic, and the steady stream of mopeds. Why do I keep mentioning the mopeds?



BECAUSE THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!!













After my moped rage had passed, we found the Castle Nuovo. A slightly smaller castle than the 1st we had visited, we were able to see it from the outside. The day we went, it was closed. (I'm starting to think we have no luck with castles....)

Although the castle wasn't open, to the side of the castle along a small path were a few "purse vendors." Basically, a guy who throws down a sheet or blanket with an array of somewhat good quality knock-off handbags and belts. We saw Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton. Although it would have been great to have a Louis Vuitton bag that had XL printed on it instead of LV......I passed.

After all the walking around, lookie-looing, eating, people watching, and more eating, the family decided to call it a day. We headed back to the car exhausted but excited from seeing the many different places, buildings, and mopeds...... So our count at the end of the day came to this:

Number of Castles: 2 (well, 1 1/2 seeing as we only stood outside the 2nd, but at least we saw it!)

Number of Pizza eaten: 2 slices each! (compared to American pizza, that's a looooooooot!)

Number of Historical Sights: Approx. 12. (Driving into Naples we also passed some pretty ancient buildings and arches)

Number of mopeds: Still counting......

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Market day In Gricignano

I have a landlady, and friend, named Ana. She lives upstairs from my family and is always available for any of my questions, whether they be small or slightly pantomimed (She speaks no english, and I'm still in my early stages of Italian.) Ana has taken in my family as another branch on the tree of her own. With the dollar to euro conversion making our life a little interesting, I asked Ana where the best places to buy good quality fruit and vegetables for cheap were. She smiled and told me to wait till Thursday. When Thursday did come, I was summoned to the door bright and early at 8:30 by the doorbell. There Ana stood, ready to leave. "Vieni Dominique. Le Mercato!" (Come Dominique, the market!) I grabbed my purse and followed her to her Panda and climbed in. Down the road from where we lived was an entire market that had set up in the matter of hours.
The place was a maze of tables and tents, people, merchandise, smells, and a colorful array of voices shouting to the passing customers. No loudspeakers are allowed. Vendors must shout to get your attention, and yell over the other vendors. It gets heated, but usually ends in a laugh from the vendors and customers. Stalls are set up so that merchandise of the same kind are next to one another. Clothes down one row of tables, food and produce vendors down another.
With Ana leading the way, she headed straight for the produce vendors. She knew all of them by their first names, and even scolded a few for attempting to charge a little more than usual. I told Ana that I was a little worried because I only had 8 Euro in my purse. She snickered and waved her hand at me, as in, "Don't worry!" And pointed at the signs lining the table. ".80 euro 1 kilo" "4= 1 Euro" and so on. When I realized that it was extremely cheap she smiled and said, "Capito?" (understand?) I nodded and we shopped.



For the equivalent of $4 (2.50 Euro) I bought 1 kilo (2 pounds) of plum tomatoes, 1 kilo of fresh green beans, and 5 bell peppers ranging in colors from green to red.
Highly impressed at the quality and amount that I got, I asked Ana what was next. She crooked her finger at me and took me across the way to the cheese and Salami vendor. Who didn't hesitate to smile for the camera.
After the Cheese Vendor (where Ana and I both passed on buying anything due to the lack of need for it) we moved on to the vendor next to him. The Olive Vendor.



In America, Olives are pretty costly. A pound will easily set you back about $10. Here that would be highway robbery. Olives are sold from gigantic buckets filled with all flavors, colors, varieties, and preference. Some are even marinated in garlic with hot pepper flakes for those more adventurous. For around 2 Euro, you can easily walk away with an entire pound. Which is exactly what Ana happily did.



Next, Ana decided that for her family's dinner she would make some fresh seafood (A staple in Neapolitan cooking). We perused the selection on a nearby table, but due to my squimishness on having to descale, debone, and gut my own fish.....I passed. Prawns are sold whole, as well as anchovies. The buckets that got my attention though were not the ones filled with finned things...

The buckets lining the table we were at held Octupi, baby octupi, whole squid, fresh mussels, and clams. I opted to buy 1 kilo of the mussels or 'Cozze' as they are called in Italy.






1 Kilo cost me only 2.50 euro, and I already had the makings of a great dinner in my shopping bags. With 3 euro still left in my pocket we walked around for a few more minutes, looked at fruit from a few other vendors, and I was asked many many times to take pictures of the vendors. Soon shouts of vendors prices turned into shouts for me to come take their photos.....



(Salami and Cheese Vendor):




Fruit Vendor:


Once Ana decided that she had purchased enough from the market, she decided that our next stop should be the Macelleria (Butcher). I nodded, but I was quite sure that 3 Euro wouldn't really purchase enough to make a meal out of. Especially when I'd seen meat at the local supermarkets reach upwards of 5 euro for a pound of meat and not a kilo. When we pulled up outside the shop, Ana quickly got out of the car and walked through the plastic beaded curtain (no doubt to keep the flies out) at the entrance of the shop.


Once inside, she pulled a number from the que and waited and watched as other Italian ladies told the three hardworking butchers inside their orders. Some of them were pretty specific about the cuts of meat, and Ana stood behind them curiously watching them, and then from time to time would sigh exasperated at their words. When Ana's number was called, she charged to the display case and looked at her choices....

I for one, have never been big on ordering straight from the butcher at the meat department in Grocery stores, or even gone to a specialty butcher. Here it's common place to order from the butcher rather than go to the Supermercato where the price can be doubled and sometimes tripled. Ana pointed out the different cuts of beef in the display case and ordered her family a set of thinly sliced steaks.
(American steaks are something of an oddity to Neapolitans. Meat is to be enjoyed, not gorged on! At least that's what she tells me...) I'll admit after standing in there, I could see why you would opt for the butcher store rather than the supermarket.




The butcher knew Ana by name, and even asked if she wanted her "Usual". Likewise, she called him by his first name, which is Vittorio, and even had him pose for me:By the time my number had been called, I asked about the abundant cuts of chicken in the display case. Vittorio told me in his best english that an entire hind leg section, including some of the chest was only 2.80 Euro. Perfecto! I asked him to wrap one up for me, and when we left he asked me to come back again, which I will most definitely do.
On the way home Ana asked me how I enjoyed myself. I began to tell her that in no way would I have ever been able to buy as much as I had for so little in the states. The chicken would have been around $7, the vegetables an easy $10 and the seafood? Who knows! So for the amount of 8 Euro I was able to buy a week's worth of vegetables, and two night's worth of meat and seafood. Not to mention the fun time I had just taking pictures and experiencing the culture. Next week I'll be going back to see what I can get for another 8 Euro...