Sunday, April 23, 2017

La Città di Echi – The City of Echoes

Rome Diary III
Sunday April 23, 2017
Sunny 64°F/18°C in Roma EUR, Italia
Cloudy 65°F/18°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Buongiorno amici miei!

"Roma è la città di echi, la città delle illusioni e la città di desiderio".  “Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of desire.”

Giotto di Bondone, the great Renaissance painter and architect said that about Rome back in 1337. Giotto was from Firenze, or Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance. And, in 1297, was seeing
The Forum - Rome
Roma for the very first time. 700 years after Giotto observed thusly, I find myself in complete agreement. The city celebrates its birthday every April 21
st. So, this marks Rome’s 2,770th anniversary. According to the legend, Rome was founded by the brothers Romulus and Remus in 753 BC following their rescue from the wilderness by a she-wolf who nursed the tykes and kept them safe. The date was set arbitrarily in 1 BC by the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro. Considering the amount of time passed and the volume of Tiber River water that has flowed under its bridges, Rome is carrying its years very well.
      Contrary to what you may have heard about Italian drivers, Romans DO occasionally stop when the traffic light turns red. As Laura drove along via Cristoforo Colombo toward Roma Centro, the historic center of Rome one evening, the traffic light changed from verde to giallo and finally all the way to rosso. Thus, was presented a business opportunity for the local street people, which might help to explain why Rome drivers don’t like to stop for traffic lights or stop signs. To the right of our car, Squeegee Man approached us gesturing to our crystal-clear windshield. He was followed by Tissue Guy with his bundles of Kleenex. Meanwhile on our left side l’uomo di fiori (Flower Guy) approached the car. Instead of waving him off, like Michael and I had done with Squeegee Man and Tissue Guy, Laura engaged in a rather animated conversation with Flower Guy in sign language. The moment took me back to my student days in New York’s Greenwich Village when the occasional vendors would come into the tavern and pass out trinkets and pens and notes explaining that they were deaf-mutes trying to earn a living. As the light turned green, Laura signed Ciao! and gave him a coin before driving on. He’s one of our neighbors, Laura explained, I’ve been talking to him since I was a little girl. Suddenly, I began to see my new neighbors in a new light.
      The next day, as I walked toward the intersection of Viale dell’Oceano Atlantico and Via Laurentina, on my way to meet Monica for our twice-weekly language exchange, I spotted the old man with his tin cup approaching the stopped cars in the intersection hoping that the passersby would drop a coin in his cup. The elderly fellow was neatly dressed and he displayed a big smile as he approached the cars. On previous occasions, I had been a passenger in Mike or Laura’s car, so it was easier to send the beggar on his way. But now, I was a pedestrian and an easy mark for the panhandler. Recalling the conversation between Laura and the flower vendor the previous evening, I thought, Okay, this guy is my neighbor. I can’t be rude. He’s got me! With that, I reached into my pocket, fished out a coin, and dropped a Euro into his cup. You would have thought he had just won the lottery. Grazie, mille! Signore! Grazie mille! This was followed up by a steady stream of Italian that I could not understand. But, my take-away was that I had just made the old guy’s day. I wished him a good day and went on my way to meet Monica for lunch.
      Two hours later as I returned to my apartment, the old fellow was still there with his little tin cup walking through the stopped cars at the intersection. Instinctively, I reached into my pocket as I approached him. Ciao! Come va! I greeted him. Hi, how’s it going. Seeing me reach into my pocket, he waved me off, indicating that my previous contribution was sufficient. That’s when I realized that he considered me one of HIS neighbors, and was not going to wear out his welcome. And so, it went, until the day I left Rome to return to the States. I would pass through that intersection on my way to the Metro, or to meet Monica for our language exchange, or to meet Michael at the Falafel place for lunch. It was part of my neighborhood routine to drop a coin in the little tin cup on my way out, and receive a greeting and a Grazie on my way home.
       On the Saturday before I left to return to Texas, I passed him on my way to the Laurentina Metro station on my way to Piazza Barberini to meet my friend Alba for lunch. Following our usual ritual, I greeted him and dropped some coins in his cup to a flurry of Ciao’s and Grazie mille’s, and walked along to catch the Metro for the subway trip downtown. A few hours later, I took the Metro back to the Laurentina station, which is at one end of the Metro “B” line. As I walked up the long hill along Via Laurentina, I saw a familiar fellow approaching. It was the elderly panhandler. He was on his way home after a successful day on his chosen corner. So many Romans travel the Metro to work. Panhandlers, it seems are no exception.  

©Mike Botula 2017

[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target!  (Amazon Books)  MikeBo’s Blog is a wholly owned subsidiary of his web site , and is linked to FacebookTwitter and Google Plus!]

Friday, April 14, 2017

Siamo arrivati a casa mia!

Rome Diary III
Friday April 14, 2017
Partly Cloudy 70°F/21°C in Roma, EUR, Italy 00144
Partly Cloudy 80°F/27°C in Cedar Park, Texas 78613
Buongiorno amici miei!
Or to put my tortured Italian grammar another way – We’re back home! Dang, the month flew by and before I knew it, I was back on another Delta flight trekking eastward, following the sun
Final Approach to NYC
home to Texas. Although, truth be known, I’ve begun to think of Rome as my true home. That’s where my heart is! But, reality being what IT is, home is really the place where I happen to be at the moment. I quit acting like a tourist after my first trip to Italy. At the time, I had a two-week vacation in which to see the world, and I was going to see as much of it as I possibly could. My wish list for that trip included Rome and Pompeii. Maybe Naples. Oh, and Florence for a couple of days, and of course Venice, with a side trip to Pisa, to see the leaning tower. And, then, during any left-over time, I’d plunge on to Paris and fly back to San Francisco from London. So, guess what happened? I never left Rome! Since that first trip, it has taken the ensuing twelve years just to cover Italy. Paris and London are still unexplored.

This time I had ambitions to visit the Czech Republic in an attempt to explore the Botula family tree, and return to Amsterdam to see an old flame. But, reality and budgets being what they are, I never left Italy. Oh, we did go to Naples and ancient Ercolano. And we did get out of the city on two exciting outings, both hosted by Rebecca Bright, my other favorite City Wonders tour guide. (The first being my son, Michael). Rebecca took us on a tour of Imperial Rome’s equivalent of Mar-a-Lago, the Emperor Hadrian’s personal Camp David, now known as La Villa Adriana. Located near Tivoli, less than an hour’s drive from the Capitoline Hill and the Forum, Hadrian’s power center occupies nearly 350 acres of prime Italian real estate. According to Rebecca, the ruins were still so grand in scale that early archaeologists thought they were unearthing Rome itself.
       With my book about WW2, LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! prodding me forward, I set out to visit some of the great battlefields of la seconda guerra mondiale, as the Italians call World War 2. The liberation of Rome, on June 5th, 1944, was quickly overshadowed by the massive Allied invasion at Normandy, which began on June 6th, 1944. The commander of the
Mike Botula, Polish Cemetery
at Montecassino
Italian invasion, General Mark Clark, was eclipsed in the history books by General Dwight Eisenhower, commander of
Operation Overlord and future U.S. President. My own family ties to the liberation of Rome are rooted in the knowledge that friends of my parents lost their lives at places like Anzio, and classmates of mine from my hometown on eastern Long Island had family members who fought and died at Montecassino, 30 miles south of Rome. Indeed, as I looked at the roster of the honored dead at the Polish military cemetery at Montecassino, I saw many familiar family names enshrined there. As we looked at the gravestones, I remarked to my son. I see a lot of names here that I know, Michael. In fact, it’s like reading the pages of the Riverhead telephone book. Polish names ending in -ski and -wicz and -ska. I grew up with kids with the same names as these soldiers! A number of my childhood friends and classmates belong to families who came to the United States after the war as refugees. My new classmates didn’t even speak English when they started going to school in Riverhead. They were D.P.’s, I told my son and his wife. Displaced Persons. That was the official Red Cross designation for refugees who had lost everything in the war, and came to the U.S. as refugees. The green hills of Italy are drenched in the blood of people who have fought and died here for thousands of years.
       History! If you live in Rome, history is all around you, and beneath your feet. Modern Romans travel along streets designed and built in ancient times. The world’s first paved road, La via Appia, still runs, straight as a die from Rome to Naples. Parts of it are still in use. The grooves worn in the black basalt paving stones by wagons and chariots so long ago are still visible. The ancient aqueducts still slake the thirst of modern day Romans, and the offal of society is still carried away by the ancient sewer system. The expansion of Rome’s subway system, the Metro, has been stymied time and again by the discovery of ancient ruins and artifacts now in the path of Linea “C”, the “C” line. With each discovery, archaeologists are called in to consult with the engineers, and the new path of the Metro will hinge on their assessment.
       I stayed in a small apartment in the EUR district, a ten-minute walk from the Laurentina Metro station. EUR stands for Esposizione Universale Roma, an area of Rome developed by
EUR a Roma
Mussolini back in the 1930s as the site for the 1942 World’s Fair. But, the 1939 New York World’s Fair was the last such event before WW2 interrupted such international events. EUR is one of the more newer areas of the ancient city. I was closer to Fiumicino International Airport than the Coliseum, about a 45-minute
Metro ride to Roma Centro. So, I was more like an ex-pat, another foreigner living in Rome, rather than a typical tourist. Daily life in Rome reminded a lot of my days living in New York City or San Francisco. Within a short walk of my sixth floor flat on Viale dell’Oceano Atlantico was the Elite Supermercato, where I did my grocery shopping. A little farther down Viale Cesare Pavese was another shopping center which housed the UniCredit Bancomat, where I used my debit card to tap into my own bank account to obtain the Euros I needed to live on. Along the way to the Metro, I could shop at the convenience store run by a Chinese family, snack at a falafel stand, visit a Pharmacia for all of my medicines, or mail a letter or visit the bancomat at Poste Italiane. It was also in this neighborhood where I would meet my new friend, Monica for our twice weekly language exchange.
       Michael, who teaches business English at a Rome school which serves multinational companies, had arranged for a language class for me. The other student is an Italian lady who is
La Lezione di Lingua!
learning English, while I am the typical American trying to learn Italian. Language exchanges are very popular in Rome, and they are usually held at no cost to either party. It’s like a college study group, but with just two people.
  I had been taking an Italian class through Austin Community College near my home in Texas. But those classes numbered more than a dozen students. Meeting Monica for lunch was a lot more personal. After our first meeting, with Michael present to help us better communicate, we were on our own. Every Tuesday and Thursday we would meet at the little bar near my son’s school, have lunch and then, over caffé, dive into our language studies. I brought some of my lessons from Texas, along with my IPad with my Kindle app, with the Italian text book and English/Italian dictionary. I gave Monica my other Kindle reader with the same resources. And for back-up we both had an IPhone with the Google Translator app. As time drew near for my return to the U.S., we agreed to continue our language classes via Skype and Facetime. Sometimes we would skip lunch to hold our midday language exchange at the gelatería across the street.
        Another highlight of my stay was hanging with my son and his buddies from their band, No
No Funny Stuff at Aperitivo!
Funny Stuff!
I had barely unpacked from my transatlantic flight when we headed off to a club called Biff! They played several other gigs during my time in Rome. Michael even brought the band along on a family outing in Sabina, at Laura’s parents place in Selci. Giuseppe Cassa, the guitarist-mandoline-watering can and musical saw virtuoso and Giuseppe Petti, the washboard percussionist-drummer are the mainstays along with Michael, the lead vocalist-kazoo playing-ukulele virtuoso. During my recent stay their bass player was Fabio, although Leonardo sat in with them in Selci. A down-home jug band in Italy! They’re the toast of Roma! Check ‘em out on Facebook and You Tube. No Funny Stuff!
       Now, I’m trying to reacclimate myself to the domestic life, coming up for air after four days
of catching up on sleep, grocery shopping, getting my truck washed and all the other little chores that come up after a month away. Lola remembered me. Next time, I may take her to Italy with me, but she enjoyed her time with the grandkids, so that’s undecided. I seem to be bi-polar in my old-age. Half of my life is in Texas with my daughter and grandkids, and the other half is in Roma, with my son and his bride and her family and a lot of my friends. So, there will be a next trip to Italy. I don’t even have to toss another coin into Trevi Fountain.

[Mike Botula is the author of the wannabe best-seller LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target!  (Amazon Books)  MikeBo’s Blog is a wholly owned subsidiary of his web site , and is linked to FacebookTwitter and Google Plus!]
©Mike Botula-2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Now, THAT is the Way to Learn Italian!

Diario di Roma Tre
Saturday April 8, 2017
Mostly Sunny 60°F/16°C in Roma, EUR, Italia 00144
Partly Cloudy 80°F/27°C in Cedar Park, Texas 78613
       Fluency in a language not my own has always been an elusive goal for me! I took two years of Latin and one year of French at dear old Riverhead High before I graduated back in 1958. I also
Learning the Language!
MikeBo and Monica
took a year of Spanish in college, and I picked up some random words and phrases of German on several trips to Deutschland. Then there were the Czech words and sentences that I picked up during our family visits to Pittsburgh and listening to my dad talk to his parents in Bohemian. Add to that the fact that a lot of the last names in my home town end in
ski, or wicz or even ska, and you can figure that I also got started on Polish!   So while I can dine in most any European restaurant and order anything from les legumes, pommes de terre, kielbasa, schnitzel mit sauerkraut, spaghetti Bolognese or huevos rancheros, I am hard pressed to be able to hold a conversation in any of the French, Spanish, German, Polish or Czech that I’ve picked up over the years. So, when my son Michael met his future wife, Laura in London (where another foreign language is spoken) and eventually followed her back to her native Rome, I finally had all the incentive to learn another foreign language - ITALIAN.
       So now, after about half a dozen trips to Italy, I am mulling over a retirement plan that involves living part of the year in Texas where I am already near my daughter and my five grandchildren, AND, spending part of the year near my son and his family.  If that happens I will need to be more conversant in Italian than I am now. I do possess a nodding acquaintance with some of the basics. At least I can say hello and goodbye, which is Caio! either way, and grazie! (Thank you), and the all-important Dove il bagno? (Where is the bathroom?) I even signed up for a class in Conversational Italian at Austin Community College.  At least, I’ve gotten started. But, Cara mia, I have a long way to go before I’m taken as a real Italiano!
      When I arrived back in Rome last month, Michael told me that he had arranged to pair me up with a local student who is trying to learn English. We would be able to help each other learn the other’s language. Michael, who teaches Business English to Italian business people professionally at a Rome school, explained the process to me. It’s the least expensive way to learn the language, he told me. The two of you schedule a time during several days a week and you teach your partner English for half an hour. Then, the other person teaches you Italian for half an hour. It’s a language exchange. And, in Roma, it’s a popular and inexpensive way to learn another language. And so, two days later Michael and I met a Rome career woman named Monica Manganiello for lunch at a local Trattoria. Interpreting for both of us, Michael walked us both through the first lesson and gave us each some written material to work with, and then told us, I will be present only for the first lesson to get you started. Then, you will be on your own. Monica and I looked at each other, panicked. Then we persuaded him to help us out at least once more.
        By the next lesson, we were better organized. Michael had given us a lesson plan, and I had given Monica my Kindle reader with a phrase book and an Italian-English dictionary to match the ones I had on my IPad. In addition, we both had a Google Translator on each of our IPhones.  Then, it was sink or swim. We were to meet for our luncheon lessons by ourselves. That we did the following Tuesday at the trattoria near Michael’s school. Over the next several lessons we became better acaquainted. Using my dictionary and translator I was able to tell her that – Sono nato a New York. Io sono di California. Abita in Texas. ( I was born in New York, from California and now living in Texas). She in turn told me that she lived in Rome and worked for a Chinese owned company and had been to New York on a vacation. Ah! I exclaimed. Since we were both thinking of Manhattan when we mentioned New York, I asked her, Dove hai alloggiato a New York, (where did you stay in New York?) She replied, Ho alloggiato in una zona chiamata “cucina dell’inferno.” (I stayed in an area called Hell’s Kitchen!) I laughed out loud at that. Hell’s Kitchen is a gentrified former slum area on Manhattan’s west side that was once the fiefdom of Irish gangs. I asked her what street her hotel had been on. It was in the west 50s and she could see the Hudson River. I told her that when Mike and Laura came to New York to get married, I had rented an apartment just ten blocks north of where she was. From that experience Monica learned she needed to learn better English for her next vacation in America. Dove vuoi visitare durante la vostra prossima vacazione gli Stati Uniti, I asked. (Where will you visit on your next vacation in the U.S.?) Without hesitation, she replied, Mi piacerebbe visitare in California! I don’t think that needs a translation.  
      After our lunch time lessons we both check in with our instructor, Michael, via the chat room he has set up for our little class. We have agreed to continue this after my return to the states via Skype or Facetime or one of the other internet services and we can stay in touch with our teacher. I plan on returning to Austin Community College in the Fall, so I will have new lessons to share with Monica. For our last lesson, we shifted our class across the street to the gelateria across from the trattoria where we had met the  previous time. Do you like ice cream? She asked. When I said yes, she pointed to the Gelateria across the street across the street. I don’t feel like lunch. I would just like an ice cream. Would you like one? And, that, gentle reader is how my Italian class came to be located where it is now.          

[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target!  (Amazon Books)  MikeBo’s Blog is a wholly owned subsidiary of his web site

© By Mike Botula 2017

[1,136 words]

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Napoli e Ercolano!

Diario di Roma Tre
Tuesday April 4, 2017
Cloudy, chance of rain 59°F/15°C in Napoli, Italia
Cloudy and breezy 65°F/18°C in Roma, EUR, Italia 00144
Partly Cloudy, Tornado Alert 75°F/24°C in Cedar Park, Texas 78613
       With Mount Vesuvius’ ancient, truncated peak watching over us, we headed off the autostrada and merged into Naples’ maddening mish-mosh of very narrow city streets and a very special breed of crazed Italian drivers. Laura was driving, but Laura is a native Roman, and as zany as
MikeBo in Naples
Rome drivers  may seem to a tourist like me, Romans don’t have driver’s licenses – they are still using learner’s permits compared to their Neapolitan brothers and sisters. I Napolitani are the real rocket scientists among the legions of Italian drivers. As Laura negotiated Naples’ teeming, narrow streets, careening among throngs of tour buses, taxis, other auto drivers and scores of pedestrians with death wishes, I became convinced that Naples is host to all of Italy’s driving schools. And every Italian driver, be they Milanese, Genovese or Romani are all wanna-be Neapolitan taxi drivers. Laura was aiming us toward the bed and breakfast she had found for us on the internet. We were plunging onward through a neighborhood straight out of Godfather II and turn-of-the-century Little Italy in New York, and I was feeling as apprehensive as Sherman McCoy did in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities when he took the wrong turn that dropped him into the bowels of the post-nuclear South Bronx of the 1970s! Tall buildings lined the narrow street we careened along. Michael and Laura consulted their IPhone GPS screens and gave each other directions in Italian. I couldn’t see an inch of empty curb that might offer us a place to park. Finally, we screeched to a stop in front of a sign reading Parcheggio! It was the garage where our car would be safe for the night. But, what about us, I wondered.
        We grabbed our bags and headed off down the .narrow street, dodging cars and people until the street widened into a piazza in front of a church where a wedding was taking place. There were so many blue and white police cars jammed into the piazza that I thought for a moment that we had stumbled across a Neapolitan taxi stand. Then I saw all the police, and the soldiers who patrolled in  
Laura Waits for the Doorman
front of the church carrying assault rifles. Finally, we came to a boarded-up archway with a slab door in the center and a modest sign that read
Casa del Monacone, Bed and Breakfast. No doorman, no front entrance, just a sheet of paper with Laura’s name imprinted along with a telephone number for her to call. Laura dialed her phone, said a few words into it, and moments later, a plywood panel at the center of the archway opened up to reveal the smiling face of the manager. We stepped through the improvised entrance and back in time about a thousand years. Our hotel for the night was once the cloister for the immediately adjoining San Gennaro Church. As he escorted us to our newly renovated  rooms, we passed by a window that gave us a pigeon’s-eye view of the church sanctuary where the wedding was still underway.
      We settled in to our rooms to rest for a bit and freshen for the night’s adventure. Mine was a small room with twin beds, a window that overlooked the narrow, noisy street below. I had my own tiny bathroom with modern fixtures and a shower stall about the size of a coffin in the corner. The room did have a TV and an airconditioner, and it was cozy enough. But, as I took in my new surroundings, my first thought was, Well, Botula, it’s a first! You’ve NEVER spent the night in a church!
        At 5:30, Michael knocked at the door to say that he had a cab waiting down stairs to take to the inaugural City Wonders Walking Tour of the Heart of Naples. Not to worry about dinner, our
Naples Street
food would be served to us by local vendors as we walked along. This would be the tour’s kickoff and we had a total of ten people along with our guide. It was a Saturday night and the heart of Naples was jam-packed with a mixture of humanity and
motorini, the swarms of the ubiquitous motorscooters that make being a pedestrian such a hair-raising adventures. Add a few autos to this mix of people and machines on the ancient, narrow, cobblestone streets and you have all the elements of a life-hanging experience. The heart of this particular tour, apart from the colorful history of Naples is the Neapolitan street food, which has been eaten by generations of people over the centuries. Along our path and between the munching, our guide, Cesare, points out places of historical interest along the way and regales us with historical tidbits about a city that was founded by the Greeks hundreds of years before the she-wolf ever found Romulus and Remus wandering around in the hills and took them in so they could found Rome. Naples was Rome’s first colony in its rise to Imperial greatness, and the two cities have long enjoyed a special relationship. Naples, with its huge port complex was
Laura and Sylvia Munching
for a long time the gateway from the known world to the seat of Imperial power in Rome.

        Our final stop along the snack trail was the shop that specializes in the unique, citrus-based liqueur Limoncello, a beverage built around lemon rinds and clear grain, pure alcohol which is aged appropriately and served in tiny glasses lest it cause irreparable brain damage to the imbiber. At the end of our walk, Cesare, our guide continued to hold court for another half an hour continuing to chat about the history of the city and asking for input from his customers about future tours of this type. This was the inaugural  tour of this type for the Naples guides and City Wonders was keenly interested in the reaction to this type of tour. So our inaugural tour group included several company representatives, and within a few days, I received an email with a customer satisfaction attached. Personally, I think this type of tour is well worth the time and effort.
      After a restful night at our converted convent we indulged in la colazione (breakfast) and then checked out so we could retrieve our car from the garage and headed to Ercolano, the ancient
Old Waterfront, Herculaneum
city of Herculaneum, which was destroyed in the same volcanic eruption that buried Pompeii in 79 AD. Michael had hired a private guide named Marcello to show us
the OTHER Pompeii!  To show its appreciation of culture, the government of Italy has decreed that all state-run museums and historic sites will be open to the public at no charge on the first Sunday of every month. All other times, there is an admission charge. But not today. Marcello received his fee and a generous gratuity from us, but there was no charge for admission. I will just skim the highlights of our visit to Ercolano, and save the juicy details for another blog.
       Herculaneum was destroyed in the same eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that buried nearby Pompeii, but there are some significant differences in the fate of the two cities.  Archaeologists have made plaster casts of the victims of Pompeii, which were made by filling the gaps in the hardened volcanic ash. Today you can see ghostly forms of men, women, children and even the pets of Pompeii residents in museums and displayed at the site of the tragedy. At Herculaneum,
Herculaneum Volcano Victims
archaeologists have un oncovered hundreds of skeletons, some of which still occupy the places where people died along the wa terfront as they tried to escaped. The ancient dock area now faces a ninety foot cliff instead of the open sea. The city was buried under one hundred feet of lava and volcanic ash.
When I commented on Marcello’s love and enthusiasm for this ancient city, he told me that he is not only a native Napolitano, but his mother belonged to one of Naples oldest families. It is not unusual, he told me, to find Napolitani who are descended from families who perished here at Ercolano! At the end of our two hour tour we settled up with Marcello and, again bestowed a generous gratuity. The City Wonders guides are paid emplyees, but, many of the free-lance guide work only for the tips they receive at the end of their tours. As a one-time bartender, I know how much people in service industries depend on the tips they receive.
        Just as I was beginning to think that our weekend in Naples was at and end, Glauco Messina invited all of us to join him for lunch at his brother’s restaurant in the center of the city. So, with Laura still at the wheel we followed Glauco and Marcello along on another wild drive through the center of Napoli, ricocheting from side to side along the city’s narrow streets. Finally Glauco gestured for us to park in the garage of a Carrefour Supermercato, so we could make the short walk (he said) to il Ristorante. N
Michael, Guide Marcello, Laura and Guide Glauco
ow, if Rome is built on seven hills, Naples must be built on
  fifty. Our walk began with a descent down a long stairwell built right into the street, a not-uncommon sight in Napoli. But, as it turned out, this would be my shortest walk of the day. However, it was definitely worth the effort. As we entered the tiny establishment, the aroma of fresh seafood filled the room. Glauco  introduced us to his brother, who have each one of us a menu with pages of items to choose from. But, Glauco suggested that we pay particular attention to what his fratello described as his recommendation as the fresh food of the day. I chose a beef dish cooked in a sweet onions sauce over pasta a la Genovese! The antipasti was made up of deep-fried seafoods. Delizioso! After settling the bill for our Sunday repast, I really thought our weekend in Naples was over and we would be heading back to Rome, finally. But, NO! Glauco had one more thing for us to see – a view of the Bay of Naples from the highest point in the great port city, the top of Castel San Elmo, which has protected the port and the city for many long centuries. On this leg of our walk the long, upward staircases were augmented by a series of long escalators built into the streets. Finally, we reached the very top of the hill and entered the castle. Admission was free, in accordance with Italian custom. Another ride upward, this time in an elevator, brought us to the top of the citadel’s thick wall. What awaited us at our destinations was a breathtaking view of the Bay of Naples, and in the distance, at 4,400 feet, the truncated peak of Monte Vesuvius. In ancient times, Vesuvius  was three times as high, but it literally blew its stack in 79 AD when it buried Pompeii and Herculaneum under many feet of molten lava and superheated volcanic ash.
       Along the I way to this spectacular view I complimented Glauco on his consideration for older, arthritic clients like me. Many of our first-timer visitors to Italy tend to be older travelers, he
Naples and Mt. Vesuvius from Castel San Elmo
plus, I know that most Americans don’t walk as much as we Italians. So, I do my very best as a guide to show my customers the utmost consideration towards their mobility. Smart for business, as any first time traveler who is just back on his feet following a hip replacement can attest. Finally the long day and its dazzling sights were at an end and after a short walk back to the car (another considerate touch by Glauco Messina)  we said our arrivedercis and Caio’s, and headed back through the narrow, hyper-active streets of Naples to the autostrada and our ultimate destination – Roma! It had been una bella giornata, a beautiful day!

[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target!  (Amazon Books)  MikeBo’s Blog is a wholly owned subsidiary of his web site
© By Mike Botula 2017

[2,057 words]