It took me a while but, once I looked past the rust on the surface.... the Naples area has a lot to offer. As a matter of fact Naples is more like home than anywhere else I visited on this trip.
"Let me ‘splain…No, there is too much. Let me sum up!" -Inigo Montoya
To do so, I must backtrack to when our guide and her driver, Rachella and Umberto, picked us up. As soon as Rachella spoke (English with thick Italian accent), we felt at home. What I mean is, in southern Italy, they speak the dialect of Italian that we, as Americans, are most acquainted with. Also, Dee's family understands this dialect along with all of its hand gestures (finger pointing to eye, biting fist, giant arm movements, etc..).
Now, I had booked this excursion based on the places of antiquity, Herculaneum and Pompeii, that I wanted to see. Usually, pretty quickly, the guide will realize this and cater to me. This time that went out the window in the first couple of minutes. While we were loading up one of my kids said my mother in laws nickname "Nanna" in front of Rachella. Her eyes light up and she says "La Nonna?" and gestures toward mom while looking at Dee. Dee then says yes! "La Nonna! Umberto (waves him over and points at mom) La Noooonna!" Umberto then says, "La Nonna? Ahh, La Nonna! Bene, bene!" This translates to "Grandmother! Good, good! " Which doesn't come close to the excitement these two were exhibiting. So, for the rest of the day, Mom was La Nonna and was the queen. Deservedly so!
After Umberto locked my wheelchair down we headed out for Herculaneum. Rachella, as soon as we started moving, began her tour. First, please allow me to provide a brief description of this magnificent and intelligent woman. Rachella is a beautiful, robust woman in her late fifties who is a smoker. She speaks English fluently with a thick southern Italian accent like Sophia Loren. But the great part comes from her smoking because she often would talk until she would run out of air and her last word would be gravelly sounding like Harvey Firestein (Robin Williams brother from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire). For example, she would say the word 'clever' with Sophia saying 'clev-' and Harvey saying the '-errrr' (the Harvey inflection will have (hf) next to it from here on. We are kicking ourselves for forgetting to video record her. Another frequent term was "Mama-Mia! That's bett-errrr!" (hf) Which meant saying Mama-Mia was better than cussing. Her whole style of speach and demeanor made me love this entire excursion.
As we drove, Rachella pointed out that most of the homes and even apartments had produce gardens around them. "The volcanic materielll (hf) provides nutrient rich soil for this!" Sure enough, there were gardens everywhere! I was seeing less and less rust and Naples beauty was beginning to show itself.
So at least I knew that for the rest of the day he would take a bullet for me. Then we headed to Pompeii. On the way, Rachella was talking about Italian politicians when she says "Italian people, they are stupeed! But, sometimes they are clev-errrr!" (hf) As she pointed to her eye (meaning "see what I mean?"). She definitely did not care for Italian politicians who were the brunt of many of her jokes. "Stupeed!"
So we get back to the port, I kid you not, with twenty minutes to spare! We say our goodbyes (Yes, Umberto kissed both of my cheeks) to two of the most unique people we have ever met and head to the ship. After we were out of sight I turn to everyone and ask, "Am I the only one, or did we just get off Mr. Toads Wild Ride?" Everyone laughs and completely agreed.
My next and final Mediterranean post will be about the cruise itself.