The garbage in Ercolano is collected with a police escort. No, it’s not valuable, the streets are so narrow that the cars have to wait, horns blaring, until the (tiny) garbage truck picks up the stuff.
Drivers certainly love to honk their horns, it’s a national pastime, but a couple of men hopped out of their cars and exchanged words with the garbage truck driver. Strong words from the sound of it.
Hence the police escort
The little town of Ercolano is built next to, and literally on, the ancient town of Herculaneum, which was buried by the eruption of Vesuvio in 79.
It was early on a Sunday morning when I arrived and the streets were full of men. Men of all ages in groups, smoking, talking loudly and wildly waving their arms. Men all over the footpath, filling the footpath, blocking the footpath, so that I had to walk around them, sometimes onto the road.
I would have liked a coffee and a little sit down to check my map after my train ride of 20 minutes or so (standing up!) but all of the bars had their outside tables crammed with, guess what – men.
I kept walking down the hill to the Herculaneum Scavi.
This barrow caught my eye.
I wanted to ask something about them but the barrow man didn’t look too friendly. Maybe they’re all sick of stupid tourists wandering about asking stupid questions.
It wasn’t until I’d reached the bottom of the hill that I spotted some women and children, and all in their Sunday best. Well it is Sunday after all.
Before I went into the Herculaneum Scavi I very cleverly made a beeline for an alimentari. I’m not going to be caught by those weird closing hours again!
With loads of bravado I marched straight up to the shopkeeper and, after the customary exchange of Buongiorno, jumped straight in with…
Posso avere due fette di prosciutto, per favore. Can I have two slices of prosciutto, please.
He responded with a barrage of incomprehensible Italian punctuated with magnificently rolled Rs. It was obviously a question of some sort.
Blinking only once, I pointed in the general direction of the deli assortment behind the glass and answered..
To my relief, he yanked out the gorgeous looking ham and proceeded to cut me two slices.
So far, so good. Va bene.
Emboldened by my success I hurled myself in again.
Anche, una grande fetta di formaggio (and pointing) quello. Also, a big slice of cheese. That.
Pecorino? he asked Pepato?
What with the explosive Ps, the strongly expressed C (like a double K), a powerful T and another of those wonderful Rs, he sounded for all the world like a merry castanet.
Lost in admiration of his linguistic skill, I could only nod in assent.
The castanet started up again and, through the drumroll, I distinguished pane. Yes, I wanted some bread but not something that was all crust. Crust, I’ve found, is all the go in Italy.
Si, pane, I ventured. Po ‘di pane, crosta non troppo
I really don’t believe that you ask for a “little bit of bread” and, if that actually WAS what I asked for, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t ask correctly anyhow. As for crosta non troppo, I really don’t think you can translate English to Italian literally but I was hoping for not too much crust. Some of the bread I’ve seen here is crust, crust and more crust. I’m frightened of chomping in and losing a filling and how would I find a Dentista?
Per panino, I continued gamely. For a sandwich. Panino piccolo. A small sandwich.
He picked out a huge loaf from a nearby basket and cut two thick slices. As big as plates! I had no idea you could get slices of bread like this. Or maybe he just did a favour for an old lady who couldn’t speak la bella lingua but nevertheless demonstrated valour in her attempt. Italians like valour.
I also got some grapes uva, and an orange arancione.
Ercolano from the Scavi
The houses in Ercolano go right up to the Scavi.
You could glance out your kitchen window and look down to the ruins of an ancient town.
So after visiting the Scavi (a creepy experience) I headed back up the hill toward the train station (it was twice as far to go up as it was to go down) and, sure enough, everything was closed. Every shop, every bar. And all the men were gone too.
I had my lunch in this tiny little piazza, all on my own. Solo.
It was so quiet! Apart from the church bells, of course.
I could see over the bay of Naples from my stone seat, a calm grey bay today, making me think of my own Port Phillip and I reflected, as I munched, on how far away I was from everything I know.
Instead of the rolling expanse of my own bay and the clamour of trams, I sat under the looming presence of Vesuvio without even a pigeon to keep me company.
What was I doing here among these strangers? These dour men who don’t step aside to let me pass on the footpath, these irascible motorists who can’t handle a garbage collector going about his necessary business, these, these foreigners who glare at me when I look at their melon barrows. Wait! I’m the foreigner here! What on earth do they think of me, a senior lady in trousers, wearing strange foreign footwear, with my pale foreign skin and my blonde foreign hair? And all on my own. Solo !
Still, I may as well be on Mars. There’s absolutely nothing that remotely resembles anything I know.
Then I looked around and saw that some things are just like home.
Graffiti is universal.
As for the Scavi itself, the Ancient Town is full of Ghosts Come and meet some!