Day 5 St. Stephen's Day
Another bright sunny morning--Stephen's Day. I don't suppose there's a wren to be had for love nor money around here. There's a relic of the blood of Saint Stephen, kept nowadays in the church of
San Gregorio Armeno here that used to liquefy on 3 August and 26 December, at least up to the nineteen forties. It hasn't been very active since, though
I decided to take the bus to Pozzuoli (on right), which lies to the west of the city, close to the Flegrean (burning) Fields. The Greeks named the place thus, due to the hot springs and steam eruptions that cover a large area, and at the time of the Empire wealthy Romans travelled there for the beneficial effects of the sulphorous fumes. The nearby Lake Averno was regarded as the entrance to the Underworld. Pozzuoli (Puteoli, which means "little wells") was at that time the most important Roman port on the Mediterranean.
The modern town has improved tremendously over the past few years. Most of the houses damaged by earth tremors have been renovated and made safe. New cafes and shops have opened up in the town centre and along the seafront. Strolling along the seafront, I passed the spa hotel
Terme Puteolane, where I had stayed for several months while working
for Olivetti. The hotel is situated on a spa that dates back to Roman times.
The Trattoria degli Amici, also on the sea-front, was one of my haunts
when I was living out here. Craggy Alfredo, returned from Holland,
had set it up, along with an elderly gay waiter who was constantly
ragging the Arab plongeur. The team was later joined by a strangely
quiet young girl with a pale face and freckles. On busy nights
they were helped by a penniless chap of French Algerian descent, with wild dark hair and passionate eyes, who told me he had a lover in Paris. He lived at Capo Miseno where he was building a boat.
Once a week
musicians would come down from Naples with guitars and mandolins and if Alfredo wasn't around
the place would be drunk dry.
The restaurant is still there, but
Alfredo has returned to Holland. The waiter had been given the bullet,
probably for tippling; the plongeur suddenly disappered one day,
presumably to Belgium where he had a sister; the boat-builder married
his lover in Paris. But whatever happened that strangely reticent
young girl with the pale face and freckles?
on the Cumana railway, as far as Montesanto (right), I intended to
have a pizza at the little pizzeria across from the station. It
had a good reputation for its pizzas, and many a winter's evening
I had eaten there on the way in from Pozzuoli. But it was closed, seemingly
gone out of business. The next best bet was a little place down
past the hospital run by three old boys who talked incessantly while
the television blared at full volume.
But by now it had started to rain quite heavily. I walked to
Roma instead and from there to Via Medina, where in the Pizzeria Medina
I found a good range of pizzas from L5000 to L9000.
When Boxing Day comes round again
O then I shall have money
I'll hoard it up and Box and all
I'll give it to my honey.
(Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore)