2018
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Monday, April 16, 2018

Ischia: Sun, Sand, and Dislocated Shoulders

Hiking offers a few nice views...
When I thought about going to an island for a month, it was to get away from the crowds and bustle of Naples. It worked. Ischia, just an hour or so by boat, is a little oasis of tranquility, at least in the off-season. I didn't think, however, that I'd end up feeling like such a local, waiting in the island's only emergency room. Let me explain.

Ischia is a tourist haven, of course. The thermal baths and seaside towns have attracted visitors since the mid 20th century. Today, Italians still flock here in the summer, and it seems as if all of Germany has also migrated to its villas and apartments. It's April, and the weather rocks, but not enough to lure the Italians out in full force yet. I feel like I have the place to myself.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

London: THATMuse at the Natural History Museum

Partners in crime, Daisy and I launched one of her famous hunts at the Natural History Museum London!












When I first met Daisy, creator of museum treasure hunt company THATMuse, I interviewed her for my PhD thesis under the statue of Louis XIV outside the Louvre. Fast-forward to 2017 and we find ourselves sitting in London, a place we both serendipitously moved to at the same time. We were discussing life, books, and projects over coffee. It was during a casual mention of how much I love dinosaurs that the idea for a treasure hunt at the Natural History Museum came to be.

Daisy, as an entrepreneur, developed treasure hunts for tourists in Paris at the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, and now in London at the British Museum and V&A. I attended a hunt with the NYU alumni group at the British Museum and was hooked. Daisy's an art historian, and has tips about the famous works or iconic monuments in most any city in the world (as far as my travels are concerned). The idea of talking about mammoths and Iguanodons, however, seemed foreign. She knows Caravaggio and Edouard Manet, but Mary Anning and Gideon Mantel weren't on her radar. Until now.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Naples: Fontanelle Cemetery

Scenes from the Fontanelle Cemetery...

Walking through the backstreets of some forgotten Neopolitan neighborhood, I had no idea if I was going in the right direction. Even Google Maps seemed confused. I knew I was close. Or I knew I should be.

At the top of a steep staircase, a sign pointed me towards the Fontanelle Cemetery, though I still did not trust it. Down the stairs and along a street I found what seemed like an Italian shanty town, men sitting on chairs in the streets watching the emptiness pass them by.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Naples: I Miss My Bike

Cycling in Florence is a thing apparently...
I feel shackled. Weighted down. Limited. Without my bike in Naples, I feel immobilized. The feeling of the wind on my face as I zoomed over Blackfriars Bridge in London has no equivalent in Naples. There is no rush as I submit to gravity from atop a hill, no excitement of swerving through traffic, no zooming to clear a busy intersection before the light turns red.

The things we give up for pizza, right?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Naples: It's Not that Cold

Year-long clothes drying...
I came to Naples to escape the winter. After London, Paris, and New York, I felt like I deserved a break. I felt like I deserved to go somewhere without ice and painful winds. Somewhere without hats and gloves and scarves day and night.

When I woke up and saw Mount Vesuvius covered in snow last week, I began to feel like I made the wrong decision. Maybe Naples wasn't the haven I thought it was. Maybe I hadn't escaped the winter. It was February in the Northern Hemisphere. What did I expect?

I made my coffee and opened the window. Italian women were hanging their laundry outside. The air was crisp, but hardly cold. Winter was contained to the top of that volcano. The rest of us were spared. There would be no London winter here.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Naples: Never Trust an Italian

This is a pizza. There are certain things you don't do to it...
There was a remix of some old Phil Collins song playing through the room. The DJ was really into it. A fridge full of Italian beer and a shelf of whiskey faced the bar where the bartender was singeing a bit of rosemary for a Monte Negroni that I had ordered. I liked its bitterness, which also slowed down my drinking.

The Italians with me were getting gin and tonics, our Brazilian friend ordered a Long Island iced tea. We went outside, Phil’s lyrics more muffled at this point.

We clinked our glasses and in the chill of a Saturday night in Naples, what in London would be considered springtime bliss. We drank while a woman danced on an aerial ring hanging from a balcony because, well, she could.

“So you’ll never guess what Bryan does,” an Italian named, let’s say, Giuseppe, said to a Brazilian named, let’s say, Alice.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Naples: Shuffling to the Supermarket

Frozen cornetti with apricot jam inside...next week I'll try the chocolate ones, yeah?
I really like supermarkets. A bit too much. I haven't eaten in a restaurant yet in Naples (take-out pizza aside) because I prefer to cook. And so, I do.

Cooking, as you know, requires raw ingredients. After a walk through one of the outdoor markets, I was not too impressed with the quality of the fruits and vegetables. They looked fine, but it was mostly the same stuff and it all looked so tired and wilted. Also, I have not yet mastered my Italian numbers, so I fear walking home with twelve kilograms of apples instead of two.

Fortunately, my supermarket fetish is well-served here. There are plenty of smaller markets in Naples's historic center, but a twenty minute walk to a more residential part of town has a giant Coop supermarket. Not like Cosco-giant, but big for an Italian city. I found it by accident one day while wondering. I'm hooked. I can spend an hour in there seeing how far I can stretch 20 euros. The walk and carrying doubles as exercise, so my weekly trips are really 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Naples: Airing My Laundry

I smell...fresh laundry...
Naples is Italy's largest outdoor laundromat. Any chance people get, they put out their laundry to dry. The mild Mediterranean climate invites this. Begs it, even. While the smell of sewage and dog shit should have a monopoly, the tiny streets are instead fragranced with lavender detergent purchased from the local supermarket.

There is an art to it. As I walked up to the Vomero district on Sunday, up the stairs, then up more stairs, then ascending yet another flight of stairs, I saw the many strategies. Ground floor apartments throughout the city have drying racks outside their house year-round, usually chained to a bolt in the wall. While they leave their clothes on them, out in the public, for anyone to take, they guard their drying racks like the precious appliances they are. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Naples: Running Around

A run with a view...
Naples is not a running town. The tiny cobblestone streets are adorable, but they aren't built for running. If the streets don't get you, the scooters or cars will. The past few days, in order to justify my pizza habit, I've been looking for places to get in a few miles.

So far, two options have arisen. The most practical is heading to the waterfront, down via Toldeo, until I hit the sea. It takes a while to get there, but it's the easiest option. I began running from Piazza del Plebiscito, past Castel dell'Ovo, along the park, and turning around around the Mergellina funicular station. Out and back, this allowed me to log about 5 miles. Hardly any traffic, calm on a weekday morning, and plenty of photo ops along the way if that's your thing.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Naples: A Week in Pizza

So I haven't written in a while. Life got in the way, as it often does. For the update, I live in Naples now. Italy, not Florida. I'm here for a few months working on some things, but mostly I'm eating. Surprise!

I arrived at my Airbnb a week ago, and I already feel the urge to go on a diet. But I will resist. Living in the historical center, I am around the corner from all of the pizza a guy could want, I need to explore, dutifully, and try them all. Fortunately, I live on the fourth floor of a building that charges 10 centimes for each elevator ride, so I have been taking the stairs most of the time.

So when it comes to pizza in Naples, it needs no introduction. Unlike the supercharged pizzas of the US, the egg-topped pies of France, and the ultra-thin gourmet pizzas at my favorite London pizzeria Home Slice, Neapolitan pizza is deceptively simple. That said, there's more to experience than just a standard pie with its chewy and slightly charred crust topped with a smattering of cheeses or veggies.