Remembering: Day 10 of 28

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DAY 10 in Naples, Italy:

Miriam and I had set aside 4 days for Naples because we initially planned for Herculaneum on one day and Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii on another. But… life had other plans for us.

“Sometimes we let life guide us, and other times we take life by the horns. But one thing is for sure: no matter how organised we are, or how well we plan, we can always expect the unexpected.” — Brandon Jenner

Life led us to Giovanni’s Home. Life led us to undertaking Giovanni’s suggestion of a day trip including Herculaneum, Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii. Life led us to the wealth of time and possibilities on our last day in Naples — Visiting the Flavian Amphitheater in Pozzuoli? Day trip to Sorrento? Scuba diving at the sunken city of Baia?

The day before, we asked Giovanni for his opinion on where we should have gone out of the three choices from above, but he was visibly disappointed and slightly worked up at our decision to travel to some place out of Naples. He loved Naples so much, he wanted us to experience as much as we possibly could.

Waking up on the last day in Naples, we felt tired after a night of terror. We both woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of a roommate gagging and puking onto the floor. I was worried about her, but I couldn’t help but worry for our chargers and opened luggages which were on the floor too. It would have been a disaster if any of them were puked on. We found out later (from her friend who was cleaning things up for her) that she had an upset tummy, didn’t have anything to eat the whole day and then had too much to drink with the German guys that night.

We were weak and achy after the past few really active days and the only thing that sounded good was staying in Naples that day… taking it slow, and going where the wind would take us. Miriam told Giovanni our final decision and he had the biggest smile on his face. “Oh bella bella,” he said as he rubbed Miriam’s head.

We ended up walking to the bay area and back to Giovanni’s, making a final survey of the city we have grown to love and unfortunately had to leave soon.

Naples is absolutely real-life, historic Italy — it could easily be considered something of a museum piece. But it’s not a museum piece — far from it. It’s a living, breathing place where modern-day Neapolitans live, work, and shop. The tiny lanes bustle not with throngs of tourists but with locals picking up the ingredients for dinner among other daily necessities. There are touristy shops tucked here and there, but for the most part, the shops don’t cater to visitors. I read somewhere that ‘This is a city that doesn’t slow down for anything or anyone. Most of the locals in Naples aren’t in the tourism industry and they can seem like they couldn’t care less whether tourists are there to spend money. There is no red carpet laid out for outsiders.’

Naples turns up the volume on everything. It is noisy – the cacophony can be jarring. Cars and scooters honk their horns all the time, people yell to one another across streets and from window to window… With all this chaos, all the noise, all the decay, and all the people, Naples is an assault on the senses. It’s easy to understand why tourists feel unprepared, bombarded, and ill-at-ease.

The city is intensely real, which can be a challenge. I think that’s why most tourists probably won’t spend more than a day in Naples or would simply use it as a base from which to explore Pompeii, just like what Miriam and I had initially planned. One guidebook I read even recommended using nearby Sorrento as a homebase and visiting Naples just for the day. But if You ask me, Naples offers extremely nice rewards to those who take the time to get to know her. Miriam and I definitely had a great time in Naples. 🙂

We got back to Giovanni’s around half 2 and were introduced to new guests — a not-so-friendly guy from Canada and two ladies from Finland — while Giovanni cooked us Penne Arrabiatta (tomato-based oh yeaaa!!), which was, by the way, just as if not more delicious as the aglio olio from day 1. I couldn’t believe how simple it was to make it.

We spent the rest of the day catching up with our families over Whatsapp/ Skype/ FaceTime, catching up with journalling, catching up with uploading pictures onto Flickr and pretty much just relaxing as our time in Naples came to an end.

Realising that our banana stash was diminishing, we asked Giovanni if any grocery shops were still open (we were doubtful as it was a Sunday and everything is usually closed on Sundays). He advised us to go to Carrefour a few blocks down, but we came ran back empty-handed after having missed a corner and effectively the entrance to the store. We also tried another nearby store for bananas but 4 bananas for 3,50€? No way.

We returned just in time to bid our goodbyes to the German guys before we once again had cereal dinners. We were due to leave soon too, so Miriam and I wrote a card a card for Giovanni, which he thoroughly enjoyed reading. I just found it amazing how Miriam and I drafted our letters separately to put together, and as we read them out to each other, we realised that they pieced together perfectly. We thanked him and suggested a few songs for him to add to his collection of Singapore songs, which right there and then grew from the lone ‘Singapore‘ by I Nuovi Angeli (which he first introduced to us with an over-the-top demonstration of the songs intro: “da dun da dun da dun da dun!”) to a collection of our favourite Singapore’s National Day songs. He began tearing, hugged us and told us that we should come back one day… with our babies. He’s such a sweetheart. 🙂

We then had müsli and cornflakes for dinner and we did something which brought us to another laughing fit. At one point of all the munching, we looked up at each other, I raised my right hand while Miriam raised her left hand, both of us made a ‘thumbs up’, and grinned. None of it was rehearsed, hey! The telepathic mimicking of each other shocked us both, needless to say! Giovanni then came by, played around with my bun and said, “You have a garlic here!”

Just as we were about to call it a day in the dorm, we heard a kind Giovanni say, “Can I come in?” before proceeding to make “ooh oooh ah ah!” monkey noises and passing us a packet of 4 bananas. We couldn’t believe our eyes. We had been missing home so much and to experience this much kindness and love from someone away from home was just about the best way to cure our homesickness, even if just for a bit.

“Thank You so much, Giovanni,” we said.
“Prego so much,” he said.

Thank You for the best time in Naples, Giovanni.
We were honoured to be Your ‘spice girls’ and ‘angels’.
You really were the best.

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