In an attempt to show a recent trip to Italy as a business expense on my tax return, my accountant has suggested that I publish more of my travel journal here on the pages of this website in order to give the impression that the trip was planned entirely as a business trip. If you recall, I earlier published four entries in April during Holy Week, recounting my visits to churches in Rome, Naples, Pompeii, and Pozzuoli (in accordance with the stipulations of IRS Publication 463: Travel Expenses).
In this entry, my journal will take us for a drive and stroll about the cobblestone streets of Naples, and then on a daytrip to the Isle of Capri and her amazing Blue Grotto.
Naples: Beneath the Mediterranean Moon
I have become convinced that Italian drivers are either the worst drivers on the planet...or else they are among the best.
There appear to be no "rules of the road." Anything goes. Maneuvers which would cause us at home to beep and curse and gesture at the other driver are commonplace here. Cars approach each other like metallic medieval knights in some jousting battle, nearly hitting each other as one driver swerves one way and the other swerves the other way at seemingly the very last moment.
Turns that would seem impossible to accomplish at home are no problem here. Roads that seem to come to an abrupt end, usually at the front of a neighborhood church, offer some escape route that looks as if only a baby carriage could fit through - yet it is somehow more than enough room for a Fiat or some similar size automobile.
And yet, with all the close calls and near misses, the Italian cars show almost no sign of bumps or bruises. As I said earlier, the Italian drivers are either the worst drivers or else the best drivers on the planet.
A note about the roads here: They are made of cobblestone - large blocks black in color and cut into roughly rectangular shapes that run from a foot and a half long to about a foot wide. Driving the streets is a bumpy experience that must make happy those who sell and install shock absorbers.
Walking can be an experience as well. You must be mindful of where you step as your foot may miss a block and your ankle become twisted in between the cobblestones. When walking, one tends to step from stone to stone like crossing a brook.
The buildings of Napoli are worn and tired, as if the residents have left them that way on purpose in order to add to the charm of the place ... as if to emphasize that a façade is merely a façade, and it's what's inside which truly matters.
And inside are people full of passion for life - from the foods they eat to the robust way in which they converse with one another. A typical conversation witnessed on the streets of Napoli may be likened to two people involved in an auto accident arguing over who is to blame. Yet, there is no accident, and these two friends are merely discussing some of the finer points of life here along the narrow streets of this Mediterranean coastal city.
In general, the women of Napoli, and of neighboring Pozzuoli where I was staying, are beautiful and the men who court them are handsome. At night, they perform the "ballo di amore" out upon the streets as couples walk hand-in-hand, or drink espresso and cappuccino at outdoor cafes, or embrace as if depicting some ancient statue beneath the Mediterranean moon, or beneath the glow of a street light, or seated atop a stone wall overlooking the sea below.
Life and love, they exist hand-in-hand here in Napoli - a situation that one imagines has existed for millennia.
Capri: Into the Blue Grotto
The next morning I awoke refreshed - with three cups of espresso - ready to face the new day.
On this particular morning we boarded a ferry bound for the Isle of Capri, a bit more than an hour's sojourn from the port of Napoli. As the city disappeared behind us, I realized I was on the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean Sea! Imagine me on the Mediterranean, upon waters I had only read about in books, where Italians - perhaps even my ancestors - fished for their livelihood centuries ago.
Capri appeared before us, sheer cliffs of volcanic rock soaring over purple-hued waters, with buildings climbing up the more subtle sloping hillsides - each building overlooking the Mediterranean. Upon docking, we immediately obtained tickets for a smaller boat, which took us to the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) -- a natural wonder somehow carved into the volcanic rock at sea level, into which, in an even smaller dory, we entered.
Once inside we marveled at the florescent blue nature of the interior waters, as rowers from a half dozen similar boats sang Italian songs ... and who then, upon exiting, held out their hand for tips. It was a satisfying experience - something to be checked off the list of lifetime accomplishments as we headed back to the harbor and our next adventure, a trip up the Funicular to the top of Capri.
High aloft we were afforded a commanding view of the island, and of the harbor and the brilliant sea below. Also at the top were the typically narrow Italian streets, lined with elegant shops designed to capture the tourists' Euro dollar. I found it strangely satisfying to know that capitalism existed atop the beautiful Isle of Capri, beneath brilliant sunlight that has long attracted artists to capture upon canvas its eternal and perhaps elusive essence.
Publication 463, Section 1: Travel Expenses; Subsection -- Part of Trip
"To figure the deductible amount of your round-trip travel expenses, use the following fraction. The numerator (top number) is the total number of business days outside the United States. The denominator (bottom number) is the total number of business and non-business days of travel."
Let's see ... Zero divided by ten equals zero.
Hmmm...that couldn't be right. Let me try that again.
Zero divided by ten equals ... damn!
PS: Ballo di amore (dance of love)
PPS: Be sure to look for my latest book, Cape Odd (written with Jim Coogan), at a library near you - available thru the CLAMS and OCLN systems. And while you're at it, check out our earlier book, Cape Cod Harvest. Take them to the beach for an afternoon of Cape Cod stories ... just be sure to shake the sand out before you return them.