Alex’s Take on Aunt Midge’s World

My talented and delightful niece, Alexandra Rose Niedt, takes her Italian heritage seriously! She was the third person in our immediate family to apply for – Italian Citizenship.  (She would have been second but her mom had to get it first.) The winsome lady also has the wanderlust! Not afraid to travel alone she often pops into Pontelandolfo – when we are here and when we’re not! We had only been in town for three days, when with toothpicks holding open our travel weary eyes, we headed to the Naples airport. She glided into the airport pulling a suitcase bigger than she was and people noticed her.  The kid is a chip off the Guerrera block and carries herself with Una Bella Figura – just like her ancestors.  Shut up Auntie M!  OK, OK, here’s Alex –

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Annarita Mancini fills Alexandra in on the latest gossip.

Dear Readers,

Years ago, I started coming here to see my family, so not too much surprises me when I come to my ancestral home. Though this trip, I did notice something that took me for a slight loop that I wanted to update you all on: my Aunt Midge has become a complete local.

Now let me clarify a few things on this topic-

• I don’t know if it’s because of my roots or because of the bond I have with my family here, but I always feel somewhat like I’ve been here forever. Whether that be all of the familiar faces I see in the piazza, or the friends and family members that make me laugh entirely too hard, it’s difficult to say. All I know is that I always feel a sense of belonging.

• Midge has been spending more and more time here over the past 3 years, from 4-7 months at a time, so granted there has been time for this all to take effect.

• Being considered a local and simply feeling like one are two drastically different things.

Midge arrived back in Pontelandolfo nearly 3 days before I got to our gorgeous little village, so she’d really only had the chance to see our family, go to IKEA to buy some more furnishings for her house and drive to Naples to pick me up at the airport.  (A task which I am always grateful for, as taking the train from Naples in the evening is not on my top 10 list of things I most enjoy.) Because she hadn’t had the chance to fully settle back in to the swing of things I got to bear witness to her complete transition from “that crazy American lady that’s always writing at Bar Elimar” to “one of our own.”

I thought, as my generation is obsessed with them, I would present this to you in list form.

1) Walking through the Piazza random people come rushing over to my aunt saying “Bentornata!” (Welcome back) with hugs and kisses all around and excited conversation. This happens frequently, with people I know and also people I have never seen before. I thought I knew everyone! Dead wrong.

2) While sitting in the Piazza drinking a macchiato, a school bus full of children drives by and the kids lean out of the windows screaming “Hello!  Hello!  Hello!” to their former English teacher. I laugh for a solid minute at the ridiculous nature of little heads popping out the window in Italy shouting hello!

3) We need cheese, so I say why don’t we go to the caseificio in town? My aunt responds with “Oh no, we can’t go to him…” And follows with some story about the inner workings of the politics of the town and our family… Or was it that he sold her bad mozzarella once and she won’t go back? Same thing!

4) When we do make it to the caseificio (the one she frequents a little outside of town) after more hugs and kisses from Nadia, the long time employee, she proceeds to ask for specific cheese. Nadia on the sly tells her what is most fresh and what to stay away from today. Because you know, she’s a regular.

5) Sitting at one of the bars around 9pm Midge is about to leave when one of the women we know stops her. She asks for help making costumes for the town play “Dramma Sacro du Santa Giocondina.” Midge, being the true thespian she is, heartily agrees. This play is so important, it happens once every 4 years and is taken very seriously. Go Midge!

6) We are having a little gathering at Midge’s house the night before I leave for London, so of course we have to go to the pasticceria to buy dolce for after dinner. Upon arrival we begin to talk to the girl behind the counter, when out from the back (having recognized Midge’s voice) comes the owner Nicola, who immediately takes over our order and starts shooting the shit with us. After we’re finished he takes the treats to the register, tells the girl to give us the friends discount and waves goodbye. I mean, what a life?

I love this town, it’s home. It’s beautiful in the morning, and lights up after 10pm- literally and energetically. I hang out with the same people whenever I’m here, and have created really beautiful relationships with friends and family alike. But I’m always just visiting. Sure, I’m from here, sure I feel like a local, but I haven’t put in the time to truly deserve the right to be considered one.

My Aunt Midge has, and is now sitting back and reaping the benefits of a truly loving community. And I am forever impressed.

Questa e l’Italia- La dolce vita.

Ci vediamo la prossima volta,

Alex

(Thanks Alex, I actually cried when I read this.  I love you to pieces!  Auntie M)

Getting to Naples Airport

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Road Rage Doesn’t Become Me.

It is so exciting for us when our friends and family come to visit. It is not so exciting to drive to the Naples airport. We love our family and friends but aren’t kind and gentle enough to drive to the Rome airport to pick them up.  We (OK me – Jack is kind) tell them to fly to Naples.  Now, after schlepping to Naples numerous times to procure our loved ones, cursing and shrieking during the drive and watching Jack clutch the wheel while I turned green –  I started thinking there must be a better way.  Couldn’t the adventuresome guests take the train?  Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, I’m a bitch but have you driven in Naples or Rome?

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Janet Cantore Watson came and found her Cantore cousins in Pontelandolfo!

It is a small world.  I have always considered Janet my daughter and discovering she had family where I had family was an uber woo woo moment.  Being a brazen lady of the world, Janet was the first guest to take a bus from a stop seconds from our house to Naples.  We were told that an early morning direct bus to Naples stopped in the piazza in Compolattaro.  That piazza is literally 5 minutes from our house.  We were there in the wee hours of the morning.  A tiny little bus stopped.  I asked if it went to Naples. “Si” said the lying S.O.B. bus driver.  Janet kissed us goodbye and got on.  As we were leaving a big bus pulled around the corner – h’mmm I wondered?   The first bus only went as far as Benevento – the second bus was the right one.  Merde.  Janet had to figure out which bus from Benevento went to Napoli.  Jack just pointed out that the first driver was not an S.O.B since he stayed with Janet and escorted her to the right bus – which cost her €10.  Double Merde.  After tooling around Naples Janet hopped a €16 cab to the airport. Her experience taught us that we have to over research everything and ask ALL the right questions.

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My brilliant niece, Alexandra Rose, was the first to explore the train to the plane connections from Pontelandolfo to the Naples airport.

When she came to visit this fall, Alex wanted to hang in Naples with her cousin Giusy. ( I didn’t ask what they got up to and they didn’t tell.)  After landing at the Naples Cappodichino  airport she hopped the Naples Alibus Airport Shuttle.  It took her to Naple’s Central Train Station.  After frolicking with Giusy, she took a Metrocampania train from Naples to Benevento.  There we scooped her up in big hugs and drove the scant twenty minutes home.

It is wonderful to have an adventuresome kid in my life.  Living in London she has traveled all over Europe alone.  Alex has scored thousands of points with this Auntie Mame.  Returning to London, Alex was going to do the trip directly to the airport. We hopped in the car and took a short slide down the mountain to Stazione di Benevento.

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There Alex was able to get a ticket on a Metrocampania NordEst train to Napoli Termini.  She tells me the ride was quick, easy and uneventful.

Next, the ever resourceful traveler jotted down specific directions to the AliBus shuttle from Napoli Termini to Naples Cappodichino airport for whoever was going to try it next.  Alex’s directions were simple enough. Tickets were cheap too.  It’s €4 if you buy the ticket on the bus or €3 if you buy it at a shop – but we don’t know which ones.  She was easily at the airport and on the way to England.

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Marta Figueroa – our next adventurer.

Marta, the traveling buddy of my youth, spent a fun filled week with us.  Being another world wide explorer she said it was stupid for us to repeat the drive to the Naples airport.  We had picked her up there and she got the full driving in Naples and on the highways experience.  “How could they be passing on a solid line?”  “Is going that fast legal?”

We got Marta to the Benevento  Train Station in plenty of time.  There isn’t great parking near the station so Jack stayed with the car.  I went in to discover that Alex was right – buying tickets was a breeze.  The station was organized – just lacked parking which reminded me of NJ Transit.  The ticket to Naples was only €5.  She got on the train and all was well until she got to Naples.  Even though we had Alex’s directions and knew that the Alibus stop is located in Piazza Garibaldi midway between the Central Station and Corso Garibaldi.  No one could help her figure out which door out of the train station headed in the right direction.  When she finally dragged her suitcase to the right place a kindly gent suggested that since the bus wouldn’t be there for ten minutes she cross the street and buy a ticket in advance.  Marta bought the ticket and  watched an Alibus come in, unload and leave.  What???  Maybe the driver had to pee.  A second bus came in, unloaded and left!  Now she is panicking about making her flight.  Finally, a full 45 minutes later,  an empty Alibus appeared and let the throng of people on.  Imagine how many people were now cued up, worried about catching trains and dragging luggage.  Marta pushed her way onto the bus and then watched the drama unfold.  The driver wouldn’t leave until a very proper British type lady got a new ticket.  She spoke Italian with great force and pretension.  “I have a bloody ticket and will not buy another.”  Now, you must validate the ticket in the electronic ticket machine on the bus and it is good for 90 minutes from validation.  What Marta couldn’t figure out is if the women had validated it too long ago or it was three years old.  She said the shouts and screams were incredible.  People on the bus were offering to pay her way.  The driver threatened to call the police.  She threatened to – well I don’t remember what.  But there was much shrieking until – —

The bus took off and Marta made it to the airport with only twenty minutes before the boarding of her flight.  Her recommendation – take the taxi!

Some cynic said to me – “Mussolini is dead you can’t expect public transportation to run on time.”