Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rob and Sarah make a friend

When we arrived in Naples from Florence, Rob wanted to call the hotel to get information on the quickest way to get to Positano from the train station. I wanted to use my "Italian" vocab to take a cab to a marina, a ferry to Sorrento and then a ferry to Positano. Because then we would have figured it out all by ourselves.

Rob won.

Almost immediately, a driver from the hotel showed up. It was kind of freaky, actually, until he explained that he had already been there to pick someone else up, but since he was early, he would take us and someone else would bring back his original clients.

The driver, Gaetano, was born in Positano but spoke perfect English as a result of having lived in the Bronx for several years as a kid, where he attended PS 7. He moved back to Positano when he was 9, and now proudly shares his love of it with visitors. Gaetano is a cross between Javier Bardem and Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. He speaks in the same speech patterns Pacino used in that movie and I kept expecting him to bust out a "HOO-AH!" He did not.

He did, however, get frustrated with another driver as we were leaving Naples. "AH, he is such a snaps provolone!"

"A what?" I asked.

"Provolone," he replied. "It's a cheese that we make. But also it means 'kind of dumb.' It's a slang."

"It's a basic cheese," he continued. "It doesn't have so much in the head."

We talked about travel guides. Gaetano was particularly irritated that he is not listed in the Rick Steves' Italy guidebook, since he speaks English so well. Rick Steves does list a man named Carmello from a nearby town, who takes Americans on tours of the Coast.

"Why should Carmello be listed in the Ricky Steves guide?" Gaetano grumbled. "He speaks broken English! If people have questions and require further information, Car-MEL-lo will not be able to answer them!"

He cheered up noticeably as we neared Sorrento, cueing up a song on his CD player for us and singing along with it, "Ohhhhh Sorrento," he crooned.

Am I making him sound annoying? He wasn't; he was charming. When we decided to hire a driver to take us to Pompei and Ravello one day, we were very pleased to find out that it would be him. It simply solidified our burgeoning relationship.

We met him across the street from a pharmacy on the hill above the hotel.

"The weather this morning was THREAT-en-ing," he yelled happily. "It was menacing that it was going to rain!"

Then he gestured calmly towards the sky and said, "But no."

And off we went to Pompei, chattering to each other the whole time about family and traveling, among other things. Gaetano played us some music from local bands, and narrated our journey as we passed walnut, olive, lemon, and fig trees. He left us to explore Pompei on our own, explaining that he had a girlfriend there.

"I'm KID-ding!" he insisted, "I'm meeting my friend Rafael for pizza."

When we got to Ravello, he bought a chocolate bar and shared it with me, then left us alone to explore again. We walked through an old palace with a beautiful garden and experimented with our photo poses. Ok, I did. Rob just rolled his eyes for the camera.

When Gaetano dropped us off at the end of the day he gave us hugs and kisses. A few days ago, he emailed me a picture of his kids.


Jay Nicolosi said...

Awesome. Keep the stories coming. The trip sounds incredible. Can't wait to see you guys next week.

One of my favorite images from Naples is a family three generations deep (teen, father, grandfather, presumably) carrying an ironing board, perpendicularly, on a motorino (i.e. Vespa), zipping through traffic.

Joe said...

What fun! It's easy to see why Gaetano took to you; his kids look just like you and Rob. Are you going to get in touch with Rick Steves about him?