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Ancient Rome, The Italian Renaissance, And Postmodern Love

by Frederick Noble

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June, 1996

"Exit, stage left even."
Snagglepuss

Brussles/Naples ticket stubThe plane flight from Atlanta to Bruxelles (Brussels) was uneventful. Nothing of note for an entire night of sitting in the same tiny, uncomfortable seat watching a cheesy computer animation of a plane unmoving on a map. It changes every few seconds to show a close up of how far you haven’t moved, the outside temperature to remind you that you’ll die instantly should the plane blow a door or something, then back to the map of the Atlantic with the plane in the exact same place. The lucky ones nod off and wake up sometime later, amazed at how far the pixels have crept across the display. The rest of us suffer through a couple of bad movies everyone has already seen.
I couldn't decide if I should try to sleep or if I should try to stay awake in an attempt to adjust to the time difference when we arrived. The excitement of being underway decided for me and I sat awake the entire flight, amazed that I’d pulled it off – a 9 week study-abroad program in Italia (Italy), followed by a week on my own in Paris or Amsterdam, whichever I could afford.
On the flight I got a feeling for what the rest of the students in the program were like. Most didn’t realize Brussels was in Belgium, or where Belgium is for that matter. Typical college “educated” youth of postmodern USA.
A brief layover in the Bruxelles airport and it's off to Napoli (Naples.)

On my way off the plane I decided to steal the small sheet Delta provided. They call it a “blanket.” I stuffed it in my carry-on in case I needed a towel, a la Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Napoli has been described as the armpit of Europe for quite some time - hot, smelly, sticky. However, when we arrive it's not hot at all. In fact, I was wishing I'd brought something with long sleeves as we trundled out to the waiting busses. But the trip out of town did show some of the underarm qualities of the town.
There are 2 car junkyards per person, many under long-abandoned half-constructed bridges leading to nowhere. Corrugated tin hovels and creeks buried under floating pollution are frequent sights. It's the most crowded city in Europe, high population and low income, and it shows. Vesuvius, the only active volcano in Europe, sits over all of it, a pile of ash waiting silently to again pass judgment on those below.
Ick.

Bay of Naples, from Vicco EquenseFortunately we didn’t stick around. Our first stop was Vico Equense, a small town on the opposite side of the bay of Napoli. From the highway we got a   marvelous view from top the high gray cliffs overlooking the bay with Napoli looking charming in the distance and Vesuvius lurking behind it.

The bus unloaded at Hotel Aequa. I was buzzing on adrenalin again, so my backpack didnít slow me down as I gawked at the hotelís beautiful patio overlooking the bay, and the pretty dining area with huge windows and French style doors opening onto the balcony. We climbed the steps to find our rooms.
Rooms? More like cells - cramped, hot, and stuffy. The only breath of air in the place came out of our own lungs, smelling of 14 hours on a plane. I dropped my bags, washed my face, and headed to dinner.
The food wasnít great either. But the patio faces out over the aforementioned view with Wisteria in full bloom hanging from overhead, completely obliterating any memory of the dismal rooms or forgettable food inside. The nice swimming pool helped wash off the sweat from the long flight and soon jetlag hit the group like Novocain. The ones who werenít sleepy were soon sedated by bottles of wine as a group of us sat on a balcony on the third floor, passing bottles around and introducing ourselves. Most students came from the University of Georgia but only a few people knew each other.
At night Napoli glimmered like scattered droplets of gold across the bay, though the air is so hazy that Vesuvius is barely visible in broad daylight. So I sat on the railing and eavesdropped on the conversations for an hour or so, then tried to get some sleep. Had I not been exhausted from the journey I doubt I could have even shut my eyes in the cramped, hot cell with two roomates snoring so loud they would've rattled the windows, had there been any windows to rattle. Fortunately I was dead tired.

Haze over Vicco Equense
The view in the morning. No, that's not misty fog, it's the smoke from burning trash, almost ruining a marvelous view.

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