Well, we have now been in Naples for a total of 17 days. When they say that no amount of schooling can equal what you learn when you are simply immersed in a language and culture, they aren’t lying. I guess I learned that in Spain, but I forgot. To catch up on a few loose ends from previous happenings: Ben’s best friend Grace and her family PCS’d this Monday. That is to say, they left Italy. Ben was devastated. When we picked him up from school he was very emotional, I guess this was lesson number two about military living, and not a fun one. So we took him to see a movie and what luck, Grace was there with her father to see the same movie! So he got to spend just a couple more hours hanging with her.
If you haven’t watched a movie at a base theatre, let me tell you, it’s quite an experience. Instead of previews, which you might get one, they instead play older American movies or game highlights that sports fans may have missed not having American tv. Then, before the movie begins, all stand for the National Anthem. It was a unique experience, but we were just excited to see Kung Fu Panda 2 in it’s second week of running!
Having seen a movie at 4:30 that ran until 6:30 was perfect to distract our rumbling stomachs as we try to stave off our hunger so that we can slowly acclimate to the Italians schedule. Restaurants to dine in do not open until 8 PM, unless they of course are trying to cater to the American clientele, which we don’t really want because then we’re just hanging with Americans, and what’s the good in that? So with dinner at 8 PM, that means lunch is around 2 PM, and breakfast…well, despite Ben and I’s inner clock that has us raring to go around 6:30 AM, there is ne’er an Italian to be seen on the streets let alone opening a shop before 9 but more commonly 10 AM.
As Americans we are taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but unless a coffee that could give rise to the dead and a sweet roll is what you had in mind, then Italian breakfasts may contradict that line of thought. So you roll out of bed at 9:30 or so and where do you go? Your first stop is the bar. The bar is now your Starbucks. Now don’t expect your flavored iced coffees, there are basically two choices. The real stuff is of course the espresso which is usually simply called caffè. It is a shot between 1/3 and 1/2 the size of a small espresso cup. The second choice is Cappuccino and it is a BREAKFAST drink ONLY (the only exception to this rule is extreme cold), you usually order a cornetto, a sweet croissant, to go with it. You do not under any circumstances order a cappuccino after 10 or 11 AM unless you want to be looked at as if there is a horn coming out of your head. You pay for your coffee in advance at one counter and take your receipt to the one actually making the coffee. Make sure you put a small coin 5-10 euro cents on the ticket so it won’t fly away…or more honestly so that the “coffee maker” will give youpriority service.
Lunch consists generally of a light meal, a panini or sandwich of sorts but as I mentioned much later than we are accustomed.
Dinner is the central meal for Italians. Served at 8:30 PM, which begs the question of when do the school aged children sleep?! We’ve pushed back meal time just a bit, but other than weekends, dinner that late just isn’t feasible. And now for the menu. There is antipasti (not to be mistaken for antipasto–already made that mistake) which is appetizers, which you can truthfully make an entire meal out of! Common antipasti include “prosciutto e melone” which are pieces of ham with some of the sweetest melon I have ever had or “bruscette” (even if you think you have had it before, it won’t hold a candle to what they serve here!). Then there is Primmi and Secondi Piatti (which are the first and second course) which by then you are ready to be rolled out the door since that generally includes pasta and either seafood or meat along with some heavy hitters like octopus, chicken, or sausages. “Contorni” are the side dishes which can include vegetables or salad, which is a misnomer since the dish is made up of buffalo mozzeralla (only the best cheese in the world) tomatoes and basil. “Dolci”, the dessert, can be anything from deep fried fruit (can we say it was like eating at a carnival!?), chocolate souffle, tirimisu (of course), or some pastry made with nutella filling, or last but certainly never least…gelatto (an ice cream made for the gods!). The meal ends with a small drink, generally a caffè or a limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, mainly produced in Southern Italy, specifically in Naples.
And so there you have it, Italy where diets are thwarted the moment you take your first step off the plane in Italy and taste buds are satisfied to your hearts content. I assure you, you will not go hungry here!