Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Fishing Town of Pozzuoli

(Pictures: The Flavian Amphitheater -- both inside the field and underneath the field, the Temple of Serapides, fresh octopus at the port, and a fisherman working his net.)

Chi dorme non piglia pesci.
(Those who sleep don't catch any fish.)

Nook of Naples: The port town of Pozzuoli lies in the heart of the Phlegraean Fields. The Flavian Amphitheater sits at the top of this town's hill and boasts being the third largest next to the Roman Coliseum and the amphitheater in Capua. The amphitheater used to hold up to 40,000 spectators during the first century A.D. Today, roaming on the grand field, anyone can wave and strut like a famous Roman gladiator. Beneath the stadium, visitors can walk around thick brick walls, fallen marble columns, and dark inlets where Romans once caged wild animals.

Signs along the Pozzuoli roads point to a number of other Roman ruins. The Temple of Neptune overlooks the sea with its mammoth dome peeking out from the dirt, but a locked gate bars tourists. Other signs lead through a narrow tunnel and then along a road next to which the Neocropolis Romana hides behind overgrown weeds. The fence keeps visitors out, the locals walking by the 2,000 year-old bricks as though the ghosts inside were amicable neighbors.

Driving down to the port, the Temple of Serapides (2nd century AD) has been excavated out of over thirty-feet of dirt. This temple, like most ruins in this region, lies below ground level due to bradyseism. The name is also a misnomer, the ruins were actually a macellum or food market. The three erect marble columns in the middle and the algae-green water only hint at how beautiful this could have been.

Next to the Temple, the port blends the contemporary with the ancient world. The Pozzuoli port began as a 7th century B.C. Greek colony called Dicearchia. By 194 B.C. the Romans named it Puteoli (little wells) for the hot springs in this area. For centuries, the port flourished as a trade center. St. Paul landed here on his way to Rome and the city is also the birthplace of actress Sophia Loren. Like the Romans, fishermen still work their nets in boats. They bring plastic buckets to the banks with all kinds of live fish and octopus inside. The port brims with seafood restaurants along with cafes and gelaterias. Pozzuoli is also where ferries dock and leave to the islands of Ischia and Procida.

Getting There: The Flavian Amphitheater as well as the port are easy to find. Simply Mapquest or GPS this address: via Terracciano, 75 - 80078 Pozzuoli - NAPOLI.

Music Recommendation: Restaurants here often include the "posteggiatore" or singers with guitars who perform Neapolitan folk songs at your table. (And yes, this usually means giving a tip at the end.) The Neapolitans have their own vintage songs such as "Funiculi Funicula" written by Peppino Turco and Liugi Denza in 1880 when the Neapolitans built their new funicular railway heading up to Mt. Vesuvius. Today, pop Italian music abounds. The most famous voice on the radio and in malls everywhere is EROS RAMAZZOTTI. His e 2 (or "e" squared) includes duets with Ricky Martin, Cher, and Tina Turner.

To order Italian books and music, you can go to the Feltrinelli website or visit the store in downtown Naples. Feltrinelli is the Italian version of Borders Books.

La Cucina Napoletana: The variation on shellfish recipes are endless in this region. But the classic dish on just about every restaurant menu is Spaghetti Vongole. It's simple, light, and cooks up in about ten minutes.

Spaghetti Vongole
(Pasta with Clams)

1 box vermicelli
1 lb. clams
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic

Cook the vermicelli in boiling water and add a liberal amount of salt. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic. Place the clams in the pan, turn heat to low, then cover and simmer until the shells open. (The water from the clams will provide enough moisture in the pan.) Drain vermicelli and add to the pan of clams. Mix the pasta and shellfish together. Top with parsley and serve.

And if you are sailing the high seas --
Buon Viaggio!


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