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martedì 11 marzo 2014

Vedi Napoli e poi muori (there is no city like mine). First part

I dare anybody in the whole world to find a city like this. There is no other. It is simply unique. I am not saying it because it's the place where I was born and raised but because it's true and anybody who's been there can say it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Judge for yourself: I got this video from Youtube which has one of my favourite Neapolitan songs of all times and images of my beautiful hometown. I have to confess I don't go there as often anymore. I used to : for years I would go back every one or two months to see my friends and some of my relatives. Having moved with my whole family to Milan almost 24 years ago I do feel like I belong there and I truly do but at the same time all these years away from it make me an expat, so that when I go back I feel like I have never moved away and a tourist at the same time. It's a very weird feeling, because I have lived many years out of Naples but I do feel and I am truly Neapolitan. I never lost my accent for one thing and I speak the slang all the time especially when I'm angry. I do have to confess that I have always had a love-hate relationship with the city. One of the reasons why my family decided to move is the fact that nothing ever changes in the good but mostly in the bad. It's always been a city ruled by inadequate and mostly corrupted administrations, where lack of work has always been a big problem since I can remember and most of all it's located in a territory where we sadly know organized criminality reigns. Moreover it's a place where the mentality of the people remains the same even after centuries and unfortunately doesn't open to the rest of the world. I know some of my fellow citizens will not agree with me but most of those who have moved away will totally see what I am saying. It's a very closed society and very difficult to deal with. Nevertheless the city has always coped with numerous problems with the so called " arte di arrangiarsi" which could be translated as art of getting by and which the Neapolitans have used to go around obstacles for centuries for survival purposes. The problem is that this habit of going around things to find a way to get by brought people not to face problems and solve them. This is why after many years the city has still the same problems. I am saying that because people only see the obvious beauties of the city and of the people but as tourists do not get how difficult it is to live in a city like this one. Even I when I go back for the first few days am enthusiastic and happy, but after a while I have this urge to run away. I am not the only one believe me. This is for living there but as a visitor anybody (I can bet what you want) will have a wonderful time. The city is simply fantastic, people are also unique and have a great sense of humor and are known to be a step ahead. Here are some examples: Well, tecnically Massimo Troisi and Sophia Loren are not from Naples but from little towns close by even if they have always been considered true Neapolitans. We are in fact, very proud of our origins and of our Neapolitan culture like no one else at least in Europe. Now let's talk about a couple of advice when visiting: Naples is not dangerous as sometimes people say. Do not believe in this terroristic propaganda and yes do take care of your stuff when you're walking around. That's just common sense: you would do the same in Paris, New York, London or Milan. I got pickpocketed in all four cities and curiously enough never in Naples. I insist: don't listen when people say that because they got robbed of their Rolex or Prada handbag, Naples is a dangerous city. I guess in every city where you flash that kind of stuff in certain neighborhoods or close to the railway station you can easily become an easy target. Just use your common sense and you'll be fine. Be prepared to spend some time in traffic when touring. There is a lot of traffic in Naples but that's just the way it is, so there is in Bangkok, Bejing, New York, or Rio. Neapolitan drivers are described to be crazy but have you ever been in a cab in one of the four places I mentioned? Crazy is all over the world my friends. Another main thing: when you go to Naples you should probably fast for a week or two before leaving since you're gonna eat so much you won't believe it.Mind you, most of the things are healthier than most foods we eat every day, but of course pizza, sfogliatelle, taralli al pepe, paste cresciute, crocchè, biscotti all'amarena, sciù al ciocclolato and many other kinds of food can be quite heavy if you eat them everyday and I guarantee you will want to. See what I mean? Ok now I'm officially hungry. Another thing you should do if visiting Naples if you're a man and have some (but not too much) cash is to have a tailored suit or a jacket since in Naples there is one of the most ancient traditions of men tailors of all times. To see what what I'm talking about check the trailer of my brother's movie called O'Mast. Since "La Grande Bellezza" won the Oscar as best foreign movie if you watched it you might have noticed the exquisite clothes worn by Toni Servillo the actor playing the role of Jep Gambardella, the main character. Well they are made by one od the most famous tailors in Naples, Mr. Cesare Attolini who was thanked at the ceremony together with all the others by director Paolo Sorrentino. And let's get to places to visit .... in the second part

lunedì 3 marzo 2014

Manila in a day

Well let's start by saying that I am probably not the best guide to this city since I was there for 24 hours, last January and did not see too much of it but I was also told that there isn't in fact too much too see in Manila. Wrong ? Right? Who knows, I only know I was coming back from Boracay and exhausted since I had a true sleepless night, one of those when you can't sleep a wink. Know what I'm talking about? My flight had been delayed incredibly like the majority of all flights from the island, but I was told that it is very common. I took a very nice hotel in Makati, one of the nicest areas of the city, suggested by a very nice girl I met in Boracay and pampered myself a little. Makati is made of malls and tall buildings, very modern yet very nice I thought. While I was wondering around like a zombie I happened to stumble across this lovely place called Ginza Bairin Tonkatsu. Now who likes Japanese cuisine knows what tonkatsu is: a yummy cutlet like specialty usually made of pork. I tried the vegetarian tonkatsu made of tofu and served with organic rice and cabbage with potato salad. It was simply de-li-cious. The place is very nice and there is a free refill of cabbage and rice any time you want it. Places like this are one of those Asian things I miss the most when I go back home. I then was so tired and basically collapsed in my hotel room which was nearly frozen for the air conditioning (one of those things about Asia I don't miss when I go back to Europe). The next day my friend suggested that I should go to the old parte of the city called Intramuros where there are traces of the old Spanish domination. To be honest is not so interesting to us Europeans, for obvious reasons and I mostly enjoyed the ride in the tricyle I took in the narrow streets more than the monuments themselves. Judge for yourselves. To get there from Makati and back takes almost two hours because of the traffic, which is dreadful. The taxi drivers have all sorts of objects next to the steering wheel mostly religious simbols, but also dogs with their heads moving at every movement of the car, flowers , hearts, and any other kind of stuff which makes the taxi look like a Xmas tree.I found it very funny and cute at the same time. An alternative to taxi is jeepneys widly used by the locals but advised against for tourists. If you don't know where you're going exacly do not take a jeepney, -I was told- or you'll get lost in Manila and you don't want that to happen. Manila turned out not to be one of the cities I like better in Asia but I had a really good time there. I met my friend I had known in Boracay and she took me in these giant malls for lunch and to buy things to take back home. I love Asian Malls: I remembee the ones in Singapore and Bangkok. You can easily spend the whole day there and find whatever you want even if you're not looking for it in that moment. My favourite was Greenbelt which has 5 or 6 buildings and even a park. You can easily walk from one mall to the other: they are all connected to each other, and find yourself immersed in that shopping heaven. After many hours of walking and shopping (I even managed to have a fast mani-pedi the results of which were fantastic) some shops were about to close and multitudes of people started piling out of the malls and onto the streets to go home. The night was falling and I also had to make my way to the airport. I was sorry I did not stay more because I spent a really nice day with my new friend I hope to see again one day always in Manila or in another heavenly island like Boracay. But that's another story which I will tell in one of my next posts. I left with the melancholy I always get when I leave Asia. My good friend from Turin would probably say I am Asia addicted like her and maybe she's right. I am happy I managed to go to the Philippines and next time I go ( because I really want to go back ) it will be again through Manila. Ba-bay!