Are we in charge?

Dear friends and family,

Have you ever made a decision that seemed to be your own and then later something caused you to wonder who's in charge here?

From the House of Augustales

Our good friend, Lewis deSoto, just sent us a beautiful poem he had written last month, in November, about Herculaneum; a dream-like poem which had to do with chariots and long-ago crowds and the House of Augustales. This was about the same time that we (Don and I) had decided to switch the first part of our trip from Northern Spain to the area around Naples, so that we could go to Herculaneum, back to Pompeii, and also return to the wonderful Archaeologic Museum in Naples. The reason, we told ourselves, was so that we could see and gather the rich imagery here. In fact, a couple days ago I told Don that it was such a good idea to come to Naples, but then neither of us could quite remember whose idea it was. And now Lewis has sent us his poem written at the time "we" had our idea.

It's changed a bit.

Anyway, we are having a wild and crazy time. Seeing amazingly beautiful things. It is so great that the Archaeologic Museum (where we have gone for 2 days in a row) allows photography. In fact, one of the museum guards opened up a closed-off room for us and allowed us to go in and photograph. It turns out that in that museum, at least, rooms and sections are often closed to the public not because they are being restored or reinstalled, but because there are not sufficient guards on hand.

Some interesting insight into noise and the Southern Italian mentality. The museum had an article on sex as talisman and noise as talisman in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The male organ was regarded as a talisman of fecundity and prosperity and also was thought to ward off evil influences, as was noise. Bells were often tied to babies and animals. I (Era) come from a culture where noise is often annoying and silence is prized. In Naples everything is loud, people talk loudly, cars honk their horns incessantly, but if it was historically thought to ward off evil influences, I guess that's where that derives. We used to snicker at Italian men touching their crotches as if to make certain the goods were still there, but these days our rappers and other entertainers grab their crotches in a much more emphatic way. 

Actually, maybe that crotch-grabbing behavior is going out of fashion. No regrets here.

                    Covering all bases, a phallus noisemaker.

We've had some requests for more food photos. Believe me, you will see plenty of those when we meet up with Michael, Jill and David Wild in Paris. But I do have some photos of some great food we've had at a restaurant next door to our wonderful hotel. The restaurant is L'Etto (you are charged by the weight of the food you serve yourself) and the hotel is Hotel Piazza Bellini, in an old palazzo which has been completely remodeled with wonderfully quiet rooms and radiant heating.

 As I mentioned, you serve yourself, so the food is not especially beautifully presented after we plonked it on our plates, but this is from L to R, and starting at 11:00 Risi e Bisi (risotto with peas), a salad with chick peas, roast potatoes, broccoli with pine nuts, Friarielli (a type of Broccoli Rabe, but more tender), chicken stuffed with something I can't remember, roasted eggplant, fried radicchio in the center, cauliflower dumplings, pasta with calamari. Everything was great. Maybe the pasta a tad too al dente for our taste, but that's so minor.

We went back a few days later, and I'll describe Don's plate, which is the closest: Starting at about 12:00 and going L to R: Fried radicchio, probably the best eggplant parmesan we've ever had (I took a larger portion), the broccoli rabe or Frarielli, pork in a very mild honey sauce, green beans, peas, gnocchi with pesto, pasta in tomato sauce, not sure what the salad is, broccoli. Again everything wonderful.

Seafood market; Napoli

Then Don read a very distressing article about how the Mafia has been dumping toxic waste on farmland all around Naples and Southern Italy. Factories, mostly in Northern Italy, have been paying the Mafia to take care of their toxic waste. The Mafia just dumps it and now it has poisoned the soil and ground water. There have been protests in the streets about this in Naples. The government is cracking down on them, so now they've been moving their dumping operation to Tuscany. 

So we ended up going to a restaurant which serves only organic food. Although I don't know what the poor farmers can do about toxified soil and ground water. This is their smoked chicken salad. Very good, but not especially what I think of as Italian. They also served us the largest Spritzes (Campari, soda and probably something else) I've ever been served. See below.

Cheers! And Happy Holidays!

xxoo Era and Don

Further Reading on the toxic situation:

Mafia toxic waste dumping poisons Italy's farms:

Naples mobsters move toxic waste dumping to Tuscany after poisoning own lands: