I woke up to Margaret and her friend packing their bags for the airport. We said goodbye again and they left. I rolled over and slept for another half hour before waking up and going downstairs. I looked for Chris at breakfast but he was nowhere to be found. Instead, Jerome and I made plans to visit the Vatican Museum that morning and wander through Rome.
We took the metro over to the museum and waited in line for about 30 minutes. Inside, the museum was packed. We spent the entire 1.5 hours in the museum standing shoulder to shoulder struggling to stay afloat amid a sea of tourists. I felt like a Sardine in heaven or at least a very nice Sardine church. The museum, like the Louvre, was impressive both for its architecture and for the many pieces of art inside it. There were whole rooms devoted to animal sculptures and other rooms with dozens of sculptures of people. In one room sat a giant purple marble bathtub that at one time had belonged to Nero. The world’s supply of this kind of purple marble has been entirely mined out and its valued at 10,000 euro a cubic centimeter.
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The Sistine Chapel was a couple of rooms away and very beautiful. We walked through and admired the many paintings and details on the ceiling and walls. It was neat.
We left the museum thankful to be out of the crowd. Down the road, Jerome and I stopped for pizza and gnocchi at a small shop before exploring a market and making our way across town. On our way, I stopped for water at a fountain. In front of me, several Russian students filled their water bottles as a corpulent Italian woman waited impatiently to fill hers. Finally, she snapped and yelled something in Italian that none of us understood and pushed the Russians out of the way to fill her water bottle. An argument began, one of the Russian guys yelled in English “don’t touch me” and put his finger in her face while trying to push his water bottle back under the faucet. The woman yelled back in Italian. Still, no one understood what she was saying. She pushed her bottle back under the faucet and the Russians resigned themselves to making fun of her in Russian while she made fun of them in Italian. No one understood each other and it didn’t make much sense to me.
With my water bottle full, Jerome and I walked back to the hostel and I collected my things to go to the train station. The ride to Naples was cathartic as usual. I listened to my iPod and stared out the window.
Bam, we reach Naples an hour later. Fast train ride. Naples is a shitshow. I regret using my Thunder Dome on meth comparison already as this is much better for Naples. In the station everything was good. It was big, modern, and clean by Italian standards. Outside was another story. There was trash everywhere. I’m not being figurative and saying the city was dirty. There were literally piles of trash in the streets every thirty feet or so. The roads made Rome seem like Switzerland. In Rome, people had heard of crosswalks and pedestrians, probably as a legend passed down from their grandparents, but still. In Naples, the few crosswalks that existed were interpreted as target practice for motorists. I held my breath and walked into traffic, trying to stick together with the other nervous pedestrians who had, moments before, said their final prayers on the sidewalk and kissed their loved ones goodbye. I could feel the wind rush past my head every time a motorist came within inches of using me as a speedbump.
Walking to Marianna’s apartment, I stuck to the sidewalk and avoided intersections like my life depended on it, and it probably did. By the time I reached Marianna’s street I was accustomed to this daredevil pedestrian lifestyle. I could slow down to bullet time and dodge cars, scooters, and overly aggressive bus drivers. I had become Neo and I was the One.
When I reached Marianna’s apartment, her name was not on the buzzer out front. This was unfortunate, very unfortunate. I decided to search the neighborhood for somewhere with wifi so I could contact Marianna. Stop number one was a video game store, where the Johnny Depp lookalike behind the counter said there was no wifi anywhere nearby. I was disappointed but also optimistic that I had met Johnny Depp researching the role of an Italian video game salesman. Dejectedly I returned to Marianna’s apartment building.
I looked at the list of tenants again, still no Marianna. I looked to the heavens, searching for an answer from a higher power or at least an upstairs neighbor. Luck was on my side and I saw the eyes and forehead of a brunette peering over the top floor balcony at me. I yelled to her.
She yelled back.
Then disappeared…rats. Things were going so well. What had I done? Perhaps I was too forward. Then I heard the buzzer at the front door. Marianna had let me in. I walked inside and she yelled down from the top of the stairwell.
“I am Marianna, but you are not looking for me. I think there is a Marianna on………zero floor.”
I said Gratzi, one of three Italian words I know, none of which I can spell.
Apparently, there were two Marianna’s in the building and luckily one of them had answered my prayers. I knocked on the only apartment door on the first floor and Marianna’s roommate, Stephanie, answered the door and let me in. Neither of them spoke much English, and I spoke no Italian, but fortunately for us, pantomime is universal. The three of us ate chips, cherries, olives, and coffee while listening to Reggae. Marianna explained in broken English that the Mafia had put trash everywhere in Naples because they wanted the Italian government to release some people from prison and everyone was afraid to clean the trash up…I think.
I took a shower and cleaned myself up. When I got out, Marianna’s friends, Frederico from Frankfurt and Irene, Frederico’s girlfriend, were sitting in the kitchen smoking. I introduced myself and we talked about the party we were going to that night. It was at a local university and Marianna’s brother’s reggae band would be playing there. After Frederico and Irene left, we ordered three Pizza Margherita for 9 euro total. Things were crazy in Naples, but at least they weren’t expensive. After dinner I took a nap in the room I would be staying in, and didn’t wake up until the next morning.