We sucked it up, rented a car, and had a family outing that *wasn't* comprised of walking next door to eat caprese! We went to Ercolano and experienced Napoli driving for the first time. We had heard, 'Most Italians view stop lights as a suggestion... Neopolitans don't view them at all.' Difficult to explain, but this video does a pretty good job of showing better than I can tell.
Ercolano* itself... magnificent. If Pompeii was L.A., Ercolano was Beverly Hills. Ornate mosaics... sliding doors... underground sewage system... wrestling center/ gym... fast food places where the vacationing senators could stop for some freshly baked bread and a goblet of wine... a spa with steam rooms, swimming pools, and massage tables... Not bad, 79 A.D. After thousands of years and a disaster that decimated its population, the grandeur of Ercolano is still stunningly apparent. The generosity here continues to amaze us. Very few areas were roped off, and when I stopped Kylie from ducking under a rope, our tour guide told us, "This is my house, it's okay~ let the bambina play."
Our exploration experience was enough to galvanize us into action, so we drove from Ercolano to a used car dealership and got a cute little can-navigate-though-itsy-bitsy-European-streets-and-hopefully-make-us-stick-out-less car :-)
Saturday morning we drove to the Amalfi coast and had gelato and an epiphany about why Italians don't bother with car seats. When weaving through traffic on a moped with an 18 month old sitting on the tank is the norm, trying to enforce 7 year olds in a booster seat seems kind of pointless...
Saturday evening we went house hunting and found a gem of a house & a family. While Scott and I looked around, the landlady (Signora Garofalo) and her son entertained the girls. Our limited Italian left us basically unable to communicate, but our Realtor translated what the son (Vincenzo) was saying to Avalon which went something like:
"Oh you are so cute! With your hair and your eyes if I carried you down the street, everyone would say, 'What a pretty little toy doll that man is carrying!' You are such a sweet little doll!"
As we were admiring the tile work, Signora Garofalo dashed out of the house. Two minutes later, she returned with espresso, chocolate, and her mom who reminded me so much of my Nana I felt like I had come home. After Scott said we would like to rent the house, we were invited for Sunday lunch the next day with the whole family.
Scott did an excellent job covering the lunch we ate today, so I'll just say that it may be the best meal of my life. It had all of the warmth and comfort of Thanksgiving dinner with the taste and attention to detail of a nicely catered wedding. Nearly immediately we realized that our limited Italian and their limited English hadn't miraculously improved overnight and communication would have to happen in a less traditional, more creative way. With the help of an Italian-English dictionary, our smart phones' translator app, and excellent wine, our trite guide book phrases gave way to miming, gestures, and desperately hoping that the words we knew in French/ English/ Spanish were close enough that our thoughtful Italian hosts would know what we meant**.
After what must have been 8 courses and about 4 hours, we all went outside and chatted while the girls ran around the house/ driveway/ garden and were told in numerous languages that they shouldn't touch the cacti :-) Phone numbers were exchanged, and Scott and I are looking forward to a double date with Vincenzo and his fiancee to hike Vesuvius.
Wonderful food, wonderful family, wonderful day.
Love from Italia!
*named for Hercules, the patron god of the city. Also had lots of altars and mosaics to Apollo, Poseidon and Aphrodite
**and no, most of the time they weren't :-)