Monday, August 24, 2015

Coming Back ...

I left off before in a pretty low spot. Living in California again was not a terrific situation for a number of reasons, and it's hard to think about the fun times of the past when you aren't having fun times in the present.

Now things have changed: Morgan got a year-long position at the University of Padova, which means we packed up our lives into a few suitcases again and flew off around the world. We have an apartment here now, and we have our dog here with us as well. We've been here since the beginning of May, and I am finally feeling a little settled.
The view from our balcony
But before I get anywhere near talking about what life is like now that we're living in Italy, I want to revisit some of the old stories that I never told. It's been a ridiculously long time since we went to Naples (2 years, nearly!), but as I've finally been processing more and more of the photos, I realized that I want to explain some of them more than a blurb on Flickr or Facebook really can. I guess I'm just a sucker for telling stories.

So, my first foray into southern Italy. I remember coming out of the subway station and being a little overwhelmed at how it was going to be possible to cross the street - we were facing onto a small traffic circle, which sounds like it shouldn't be much of a problem, but it was really essentially circular mayhem. Scooters, taxis, regular cars, all creating multiple lanes and swerving around each other with no discernable pattern. We managed to get across, but it was a good glimpse at what it would be like the rest of the time. We arrived at night so I didn't get to see much right away, but in the morning I set out to explore.

This is Naples
First off, standing outside the hotel, I looked up ... and up ... and up. Naples is a hilly city, and it seems like the buildings are just stuck everywhere to the hills. They seem almost like they must be flat - how can so many of them fit one behind the other? It's a crazy quilt of colors. Then I headed down toward the water, the Gulf of Naples.
This is Vesuvius
Vesuvius is really omnipresent. It seems like every time you turn around, it's there, with a slightly different aspect presented to you. You wouldn't think that a mountain which isn't really all that tall or all that close would dominate the landscape the way it does. But it does, and it seems to have moods all its own.

On this first day, the weather was really changeable. Sometimes the sun would beat down and it would become quite warm, then the sky would be full of giant, fast-moving clouds, then it would turn dark and rain would move through. But that also traveled fast.
The leading edge of rain blowing through
Forty-five minutes later
 As a result, I saw a lot of people buying cheap umbrellas at the metro stations and later, a lot of abandoned umbrellas laying on the sidewalks. This is one thing about Naples, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it - it's dirty. Discarded umbrellas, bags of trash piled high, paper and all kinds of other garbage are just part of the landscape. And let's just say there doesn't seem to be a culture of picking up after your dog. But you quickly get used to watching where you step and don't think about it much, or at least I didn't. Naples is full of contradictions, and you can see many different faces of it just by keeping your eyes open and wandering. More on that later!