Tuesday, March 23, 2010
I live in a region where Starbucks is nowhere to be found. To be honest, I don't go to Starbucks for the coffee. I go to rent a space where I can sit quietly on my own, laptop or book in hand, and have a few moments to myself. Once upon a time, I also enjoyed getting into my car and finding a new neighborhood to walk in for the sake of exploring a new environment. I would walk alone in the mornings, afternoons, or evenings depending on my schedule. Along the way, I would pass many women joggers who needed more cardiac work-outs than me. I lived in San Diego where I could also walk along the wide open beaches.
All this became impossible when I moved to Naples.
Cafes in Italy are for drinking coffee or, perhaps, to sit for a short period to chat with friends. Most beaches are privately owned. And in Campania, sidewalks are non-existent. A woman walking alone may also bring unwanted attention. I remember the first month I lived here, I decided to wander around a new neighborhood with my daughter, only to find that I was in a parco where the neighbors eyed me with suspicion.
So I had to re-define how I spent my moments of reprieve.
My Artecard became essential. While I recommend the Artecard for anyone who plans to stay in Naples for more than one day (they offer 3 & 7 day passes), the year-long card for 40 Euro is nothing short of divine. For Americans, buying one adult Artecard allows your children to get into museums, ruins, palaces, and castels for free. (Children who do not have EU passports usually must pay the full price of entry.) Even better than that, the Italians in Campania tend to be lax about entry fees when you show them the card. Sometimes, the computers aren't working -- so last year I visited Pompeii four times rather than the two times the card says you're allowed to enter for free. When I drove up to Sperlonga to visit the ruins of Tiberius, they let me into the museum for free -- even though Sperlonga is located in Lazio and the Artecard is supposed to be exclusively for Campania. The card says you get 30% discounts here, 15% discounts there, but all these rules are at the discretion of the person sitting behind the entrance counter.
You can purchase the Artecard at any museum, tourist office, or newspaper stand. It comes with a coupon pack as well as a brochure that lists an abundance of places to visit, some more well known that others. (The Artecard brochure is how I came to know about Velia.)
For me, the Artecard has meant using Pompeii as a playground for my children and Castel Sant'Elmo for our 'Sunday hunt for princesses'. On days when I get some 'me' time, I've taken walks within the near-abandoned Archeological Park in Baia. Thanks to the Artecard, I've re-defined my leisure time. And now I wonder -- when I make the transition back to the States -- will Starbucks suffice?
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