Let out of work early on Sunday, I took one of my last walks from Via Chiaia to Via Tribunale, and I pass women bearing striking resemblance to Sofia Loren with their bronzed skin and tight necklines; I gaze upwards as blue buckets are hoisted to waiting men in windows, taking their goods and placing payment to be sent back down; I see tough tykes with swag, decked out with pierced ears and temporary neck tattoos, walking equally dangerous puppy pit-bulls with training ears on; and I giggle as scooter drivers honk in call-and-response fashion to each other while they wait for the light.
The flanking Quartieri Spagnoli streets rise sharply on either side, slants of sunlight revealing the centuries-old dust hanging in the haze. Young girls swing their legs and look down on the street from their small apartment terraces, and shop-owners peer over food displays, in a way that is neither threatening nor inviting. I continue on, and when I get to Piazza Plebliscito, my music changes to Ave Maria, and everything falls into place. This song seems to have been made for Naples, the perfect juxtaposition of a majestic history with a musical softness, an orchestral harmony with the chaos around. It’s a sweet serenade to a damaged city that lives in the beauty of the past, but which continues to rise forward in its own confident crescendo of the every day.
Ave Maria is my song of Naples, and will be a reminder of my stay here. It recalls finding my way and myself in a foreign city not conducive to young girls living on their own; taking the 140 over the hill every morning to work, the beauty making my stomach drop every time in astonishment; the moonlight on the water from the car on the way to midnight cornetti, blasting Pink Floyd and Kaleo; and to my lodging’s terrace down the hall from my room, which called me out even late at night to watch the lights dance in the summer heat and silent blackness. The elegance of Naples and its beautiful people will stay on like a song in my head, my memories available to me anytime I put my headphones in. And it will never lose its meaning.