A quick note from Naples

It’s 10:30pm, and I’m just sitting down to write. I’ll have to keep it a quick one. A long and sweaty, beautiful and adventurous day of travel now at an end, I’ll recount a bit and reflect, see if I can tease out a few details to remember.

Naples has a reputation. I think everyone I spoke with, from Norway to Rome, told me what I should expect in this southern city–“It’s like another country,” someone said. “It’s dirty, and the people are loud.” “Watch out,” I was told at least four times. “You’ll love it,” at least twice.

Elena Ferrante's novel My Brilliant Friend, which paints a vivid image of Naples, Italy.

And more than anything, I’m arriving in this metropolis informed by fiction, the first two novels of Elena Ferrante‘s Neapolitan quartet. I wrote just over a month ago about my experience with the first in the series, which brought this city to life for me quite vividly. As a friend told me, and as I am seeing for myself in the books, Ferrante paints a certain “quickness to violence,” the characters on tenterhooks, ready to bite, ready to avenge.

But what I want to write about today is not Ferrante and not violence. It’s not quite even Naples. Rather, this phenomenon of knowing a place before we come, of having an expectation, and then seeing how that place fits or breaks the mold we have fashioned for it.

A discarded boot and dog poop on the streets of Naples, Italy.
On the sidewalk near the flat we’re renting, a single discarded boot, and dried dog feces. There is a lot of garbage on the streets.

We entered Naples by train, and in the last few minutes before disembarking, I readied myself. I felt nervous. The buildings we passed looked in bad shape. There were piles of rubble. In the train car, a group of teenagers gossiped, and I felt very alien among them.

On the platform, I perceived chaos. I held tight to the suitcase handles. I set my face and marched forward, and I realized, I think, even in the moment, that as loud and noisy and dirty as it might have been (and what train station is not loud and noisy and dirty?), I was projecting that image too. I expected it to be overwhelming, and I think that that fact made it so.

Tonight, in search of a grocery store (although it turns out everything we could find was closed), we stumbled upon a great park, hundreds of people taking an evening walk, and in one of the yards was a free concert of opera arias.

It felt like a different city. Such a different kind of feeling came to me–calm and thoughtful and diverse. The quickness to violence felt far away then. It was a reminder to look twice, or ten times, to look as much as possible, to let this city be what it is and not what I might expect it to be.

For the next nine days, while my husband is taking an intensive pizza-making course, I will be writing. I am thrilled about this in three ways: for my husband taking this crazy and fantastic opportunity, for me eating pizza, and for me writing. I’ll be working on some short stories set in Italy. I’ve completed drafts of two so far, and that’s where I’ll push forward. I’ll also spend some time with this blog, with figuring out how I might reach more people, and of course with exploring of the city. But mostly writing. That’s my plan.

A man gripping metal bars overlooking Naples, Italy.
My husband caught in a very interesting Google-generated panorama.

Best wishes, from this sunny city. We’ll see what this next week brings.

2 thoughts on “A quick note from Naples

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  1. Hi Jimmy,

    I actually thought that on this very busy traveling weekend of yours and Taren’s, you wouldn’t have time to write your weekly blog, but alas, you did not disappoint! I enjoyed reading it immensely. I’m sorry getting off of the train felt tense for you, but it sounds like everything is fine now. Loved the pictures! This city looks larger than Todi; is it? I could relate to the subject of your blog, for we all have expectations of places we visit – from TV (like me) and/or BOOKS (like you), and it is interesting to compare our expectations with reality. I’m so pleased for you that you’re in the thick of doing what you wanted when in Italy…write. To have two drafts for stories already, is impressive. I’m glad the writing juices are flowing, as I’ve read that writing is something that cannot be forced. Dad and I are looking forward to our next book group with Taren on Migration chapters 31-36 (I think this Tuesday), and Dad has already written his “Cliff Notes” on each chapter, which he’ll share with Taren and me. I find these notes very helpful, as in general, I frequently find it hard to summarize amid the many details.

    Dad and I had a 45-minute Skype session with Laura and Emanuel earlier today (and both skyped with Emanuel’s parents yesterday). Our impressions are that they are having a wonderful time together. Laura said that their plans to visit us in October are still on…so that is a great sign. They both looked relaxed and happy, and showed us Adriatic sea and mountain views from their air b n’ b deck. They’re enjoying swimming right next to their lodging, and are taking it easy and not doing any hiking. They’re cooking some of their own meals as there are just 2 restaurants nearby. We’re feeling very positive about L&E that their engagement is on track to become a reality 🙂

    Yesterday, Dad and I went to a cookout/potluck at a CCL friend of his by a lake. After dinner, Dad’s friend took folks out on his pontoon boat for a 20-minute ride which was lovely. This week will be another quiet one, and then on the 25th, Dad and I leave for a 3-day visit to Door County. Aug. 1-3 will be the family reunion in New Mexico, and then on Sept. 7th, we’ll drive over to Jill & Mark’s cabin to rendezvous with them, the Rhombs, and the Hackbarts.

    Have actually got a good start with L&E’s wedding quilt (shhhhhh!). Have got all the material cut out, and am ready now to start sewing the parts of each block together. Attached is the pattern I’m making.

    Hope you and Taren like your new villa, and enjoy the sights, sounds, and PIZZA of Naples!

    Love, MomO

    On Sun, Jul 14, 2019 at 4:21 PM Words like trees wrote:

    > Jimmy Kindree posted: ” It’s 10:30pm, and I’m just sitting down to write. > I’ll have to keep it a quick one. A long and sweaty, beautiful and > adventurous day of travel now at an end, I’ll recount a bit and reflect, > see if I can tease out a few details to remember. Naples has ” >


  2. Thank you so much for the videos! A city with free sidewalk opera is my idea of heaven. Plus: pizza! I adored the few days I got to spend in Italy — Pisa, Florence, and Rome. Now I wish we had gone to Naples, too. 🙂


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