Naples, Italy

We arrived in Naples in the evening around 7. We exited the train station and made our way to Pizzeria de Michele, a cheap and renowned pizzeria. On the way, it was immediately apparent that the city had an earthy, gritty atmosphere. Homeless people dotted the streets, laying on twisted mattresses and stained cardboard boxes, with their possessions held around them for both protection and safekeeping. Heavy graffiti colored the stone walls. Groups of dark African men stood laughing on a street corner, adorned in bright yellow and green shirts and dark linen pants.  These were our immediate impressions as we wound our way through the streets of Napoli in search of pizza, a stark contrast to our days in Southern Italy. Hannah, Claire, and I ended up eating at an adjacent restaurant due to a long queue at Pizzeria de Michele and shortly after parted ways on our separate journeys. We were very grateful to have shared our travels, experiences, meals, and laughs with Claire and wish her the best in her next endeavors! (Can’t wait to see you in NOLA!)

We arrived outside our Airbnb around 9pm. As we messaged the host for entry instructions, a woman appeared on a balcony above us shouting instructions in Italian while her wiry orange terrier barked incessantly. In the midst of our confusion, a kind passerby stopped in front of the building, typed in the code that our host was apparently yelling down, and with a nod of his head, continued walking on his way. Hannah and I looked at one another and laughed. The small kind acts of strangers have been a lifesaver on this trip.

The sleeping accommodations were interesting in Naples. We each had our twin bed. This suited us, since we each blame the other for blanket theft most mornings. As we were getting ready for bed one night, Hannah, with wide eyes, says, “Ugh, did you let the dog in here?” To our surprise, the small, not altogether friendly seeming terrier, Tayven, was sitting between our beds. We figured out that another room adjacent to ours had adjoining balconies and he had snuck in via the outside. He very evidently had run of the house. I do not mean “run of the house” like my parents’ dogs, who are just respected family members. This dog was chastised in heavy Italian, and then given human cookies in the next breath. He would growl at his owner, or us, and then be given toys a minute later. He was especially affectionate with me, trying to show his dominance by humping my leg 3 times in the stay. It was good to meet you too, Tayven.

Naples has trademark narrow alleys and dark yellow textured walls. The city has several historical and cultural influences from the Romans, French, and Fascist regime. It is also a major port town and one of the first large cities when making your way north from the southern tip of Italy. This is important as it helps paint the picture of the refugee crisis. Many of the rafts and boats carrying refugees from the Middle East and Africa land throughout the northern Mediterranean. From there, they typically stream north to large cities where resources and opportunities are more plentiful. On this note, navigation is difficult enough at times for 2 educated, resource intact Americans. I cannot imagine the stress, fear, and anxiety these people hold when further compiling homelessness and lack of available resources such as food, water, or money.

Hannah thought back to a concept trialed in some American cities on how to fix two issues in one stride. The idea was that perhaps the migrants or homeless population could be employed picking up the copious amounts of trash that inhabit the streets, parks, and plazas of Naples. This would help clean the city and employee those who desperately need a new start. Imagine, for a moment, if the finances and rhetoric spent combating immigration was instead used to integrate and create meaningful resolution. Our deteriorating public infrastructure could not use more trained labor? As an example, the city of Houston’s suburbs often find themselves at a shortage for blue collar workers in a city where big oil, medicine, technology, and transportation often claim much of the population. These opportunities create a catalyst to lift families and future generations out of poverty.

Do not worry, I am moving on from my political soapbox. We enjoyed the warm sun and busy streets of Naples. While our Airbnb stay got off to a rough start, it ended better. Our gracious host offered us espresso and pastiellera. We sat with her family and communicated back and forth with limited knowledge of English and Italian. It turns out, they love the Simpsons and enjoy watching tennis. All the while, Tayven the terrier kept a wary and lustful eye on me as he chewed on his plastic water bottle.


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