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Buona sera (Time to say goodnight to Napoli)

For months, I had puzzled over what to do on our last free day in Napoli. “I want to take a day trip down the Amalfi Coast,” was my optimistic final answer. There was no way I wanted to drive! But when I researched tour companies and bus schedules, I couldn’t find a good fit.

Still without plans, suddenly it was our second to last evening. We spritzed at a place famous for its snacks, except it was the cook’s night off. While the others were inside getting directions to the owner’s friend’s restaurant for a very late dinner, I quietly observed two elderly ladies in high apartments chatting with each other across the narrow street. They began to lower baskets on ropes.

“AN-TON-I-O!” one called repeatedly, starting at a high volume and getting louder. Fortunately, my time in Istanbul had prepared me for just such a moment. With no response from Antonio, I ran out from under my awning, got confirmation with eye contact and a nod of the head, collected the contents of one basket (a bowl of food covered with a plate, a bag of nuts and snacks), and smoothly transferred them to the basket across the street, where they were swiftly pulled up to the fourth floor.

It was quite dark by the time we found our way to a corner table by a window at Antica Latteria and puzzled over the menu. Where the Italian listed pastas with several ingredients, the English vocabulary was limited to translations of “tomatoes and tomatoes” and “clams clams.” As we verified that both were delicious, we got a text from Valeria: “Do you want to go to the beach tomorrow?” And so, finally, a plan for the last day was born.

We took the train down to Sorrento, with Vesuvius moving ahead of us, shifty as always. At the tourist office, they recommended a free beach in the village of [redacted] and which bus to take to get there. The bus was packed, but no one else got off at our blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stop on the side of the busy, twisty, shoulderless highway. We walked on top of the retaining wall until we reached the steep turn off to the village.

Walking past groves of the impossibly large and juicy lemons that the Sorrento region is famous for, we finally switch-backed our way down to sea level. The village was a perfect single street with buildings on one side and the beach, boats and the sea on the other. We found a fish restaurant where we could enjoy the view of the harbour, the bay, and Vesuvius (not where I expected it to be).

We talked about other beaches and other harbours and our travels, we talked about the beach where Leonard met Marianne, and Montreal, and how great it was to be on this beach in this village on a Tuesday, when everyone back home was working. We sunned and swam and solemnly swore to do this again, and then we hiked back up to the road and caught a bus back to Sorrento.

We had a final spritz in Marina Grande, the old harbour, with someone’s laundry drying overhead. After dinner we joined the other tourists in a photographic frenzy to capture the spectacular main event: the sunset over the Gulf of Napoli. It was hard to tear ourselves away. As Dean Martin said: 

Though it’s hard for us to whisper buona sera

With that old moon above the Mediterranean sea

It is time to say goodnight to Napoli

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