Trances, traumas and tragic stews.
Yesterday was strange day. I awoke quite dizzy and felt like I was in a trance throughout most of the day. It must have been the carton of cheap Tavernello wine I had drunk over dinner the night before, but I couldn’t be sure. Maybe it was something in the air. Maybe it was a sign of things to come? After trying best to relax all morning we made our way to the in-laws where we sat down to a hearty lunch of two types of pasta: spaghetti a carbonara and fettuccine cooked in Ragu sauce. This was then followed by hunks of meat which had been cooked in the remaining Ragù sauce, and Neapolitan sausages with grilled aubergines and courgettes on the side. Neapolitan Ragù is a work of art. It is something which is so distinctive, it apparently has variations in every quarter of the city. In fact, I am told that if you go from one building to the other on the same street the Ragù will taste different in every house.
The distinctiveness of the Ragù out here provoked one of Napoli’s most famous sons to write a “comedy” about it. Eduardo De Filipo, a Neapolitan equivalent to William Shakespeare wrote many plays and films for the Theatre and then the TV during the 20th century. His fame out here is such, that possibly only Maradona can stake a claim to a place in the same lofty echelons as Signor De Filipo. His play “Sabato, Domenica e Lunedi” was later brought to the screen with Sophia Loren (that other Neapolitan great) as the main protagonist. Here she spends all day Saturday preparing for the family Ragù which will be eaten on Sunday. This first entails going to the Butchers to purchase the meat. The sauce is prepared and then set to simmer over night ready for the family meal on the Sunday. At the backdrop of this is a family argument that brews on Saturday, runs all the way through Sunday, and finally gets resolved on Monday! A the centre of the film is the preparation of the sauce. Sophia, in a trance of her own due to the stress of the argument, spends most of the film worrying about her sauce. The intense preparation of the sauce culminates in scenes of intense stirring and coaxing of said Ragù into its famed state as a distinctly thick sauce, which requires poor Sophia to wake up in the night and stir the sauce at regular intervals (wearing her nightie!) before returning to bed.
This sauce could be seen as a culinary version of the Neapolitan psyche: preparation is key! One small error and the whole thing is ruined and no one wants an angry family, who are also hungry, shouting around the table. Good food must be prepared, savoured and devoured, with a decrease in time seen for all three of these stages. So it was that after the large lunch we then opted for Ice cream the family erupted into arguments of its own on whose particular combination of ice creams was the best; my “cocco-limone” (coconut and lemon) was laughed off the table, but I was unfazed by this and laughed in turn when someone else suggested “Pistacchio-Rum i Raisin”! In the background the leftover Ragù was slowly metamorphosising in its own juices. Then an argument erupted on a forthcoming family wedding, it all happened so quickly that I couldn’t keep up. Something about dresses and shoes and who was wearing what. Oblivious I tucked into my Ice cream and drank my desert wine, despite my dizziness still hanging over my head.
O pisolino and failing to keep our most important appointment.
Although still feeling terribly dizzy and a bit run down, I had agreed to go and watch the Final of the Tim Cup in which Napoli were playing Juventus, later that evening so I decided to get my head down and have a nap, or as its know out here a pisolino. I awoke to a message that read “mi dispiace guaglio ma stasera non è possibile…non sento in forma! Forza Napoli comunque”. He couldnt make it. I would have to do with streaming the game live via RAI on the old laptop…Looks like I would be watching the game alone….or at least that’s what I thought.
Its a shame I wasn’t able to watch the game with one of my closest Neapolitan friends, especially a game I knew he would be absolutely mad about and wouldn’t miss for the world. This goes to show that he must actually have been feeling pretty rough himself. My dizziness had subsided, however, and we felt that we should return home. The best time to get a lift home in Napoli is when the team are playing, the streets are empty and “there’s a kind of hush” which even Peter “No-one” would have appreciated. So we waited for the final to start and I was prepared to watch a game, that everyone expected Napoli to lose (everyone except Neapolitans), on the computer at home.
Blue is the colour.
No not the Chelsea song, but the colour our Piazza was draped in when we arrived home. Zipping through the streets devoid of traffic, in what was an eerie silence, we arrived home to find a large TV screen had been placed outside the social club opposite. There was a throng of people singing, dancing and swearing at the screen as Napoli and Juventus locked horns in the final contest of the Italian top-flight for 2012. Once we negotiated the stairs and arrived in our apartment we ourselves sat down to watch the progress of the Napoli team.
This was a hard task, however. The noise coming from outside distracted us from everything, so we had to keep making sporadic checks on the TV screen outside which was some 5 mins ahead of our RAI streaming. The piazza was absolutely mental. This can be seen in the first video which Ive put up here of the second half. Napoli were holding their own and just before the cunning and guile of Lavezzi won a penalty for Napoli the first video her shows a tension in the air.
This tension was alleviated by Ezequiel Lavezzi or Il Pocho as he is more affectionately known. A long throw into the the area put the ball at his feet, he deftly put it past the advancing goalkeeper (Storari) who’s slow reactions brought Lavezzi down. There was only one possible result…..PENALTY!!!! The referee didnt hesitate to award it and we rushed to the balcony to see our own piazza erupt into a crescendo of Madness. JUVE MERDA!! MAVAFFFANCULL’…. they screeched and laughed. “Qui non salta è Juventino, eh, eh, Qui non salta è Juventino, eh, eh”. They sang. The anticipation grew as Cavani stepped up and coolly slotted the ball into the net 1-0 with 62 mins on the board.
This gift from the city’s most favoured adopted sons, may appear to be one of their last as the rumour mill has already begun surrounding Lavezzi and a potential move to PSG or even Inter. So the photo of young Andrea above is made more poignant-“Pocho, give me just one last gift and I’ll always keep you in my heart” which eludes to his impending move this summer. But was this to prove his last gift or the mere futile jab of an amateur against a giant of calcio?
A good Ragù needs time to stew.
It does indeed! But this Neapolitan sporting version of the city’s staple dish was more than ready to be eaten! And although Juve shirked the task, the Neapolitan tifosi leapt to the frontline to hand out even more scorn. The ex-Napoli striker Fabio Quagliarella, now playing for Juve, was having what can only be described as a “mare”. This brought a spontaneous and much appreciated chant from the piazza below: “Quaglirella figlio puttana, Quagliarella figlio puttana”. Basically translated to his mother didnt sleep much at nights and had to earn a few extra quid on the streets….or something similar.
Napoli’s defensive tactics and counter-attacking nous hit Juve hard when on 83 mins they broke the Juve wall that had supplanted itself in their half. Here, the east came crashing down on the “Berlin wall” Juve had erected. The east in the form of a Macedonian and Slovakian, who’s names are now likely to go down in Neapolitan folklore. The ball was at the feet of Pandev (of Macedonia) who dribbling cautiously released the ball to his left to the advancing Hamsik (of Slovakia) at just the right time. Hamsik kept his cool and slotted the ball past Storari and the city went mental. And I mean MENTAL! This was the first time Napoli had come close to winning anything since the days of Maradona. The last time they had got to the Final of the Coppa Italia in 1997 they lost the two-legged final 3-1 to Vicenza, not one of Calcio’s biggest names. Now they found themselves mins away from snatching victory from one of Football’s most successful clubs….and boy did the kids in our piazza relish the occasion! Bottles were being thrown and smashed, bottles were being opened and consumed, insults launched and prayers made. It was quite a scene. Hamsik flew his Slovakian colours for his adopted city….Slovakian nails had been duly banged into the Juve coffin.
Napoli hung on until the end, but the night had one final act of drama to throw up to the gods of Calcio. Quagliarella, a native of Napoli, an ex-striker for the blues, had regularly sulked when questioned about his reasons for leaving the club under a cloud in 2010. This reaction garnered nothing but hate for a Southerner who was increasingly seen as a hate-figure, a man who had sold-out and joined a bigger club for money at the expense of making Napoli into a success. Aside from references to his mother’s CV, Quagliarella has become “Core n’grata”, an ungrateful moron, who has shunned the love his city has given him. Arguably sulking again on 90 mins, he lashed out at the Napoli defender Aronica with his elbow and earnt the Red Card. He received a tide of abuse from our piazza, and one can only imagine the scenes across the city as people launched their venom at him across living rooms, bars and pizzeria’s. The cup was coming to Napoli for the first time in 22 years.
Footballs coming home. The supporters are going home.
Then something strange happened. The build up to the final whistle made me expect a party in the streets. But two minutes before the referee blew up for the end of the game, everyone started to get onto their Scooters. They were revving them up furiously and I couldnt tell for what! Then I heard someone shout, Piazza Plebiscito! And I understood they were heading off to the centre of the city to join a throng of supporters in a mass celebration. Fireworks were flying over our heads to loud crescendo’s and as the ref blew his whistle our once rammed piazza was vacant and empty within literally 30 seconds. As the city erupted into madness and joy, even the overlooking Vesuvius must have tipped his hat to Napoli’s success. The Ragù that had been the staple of this Sunday had long been devoured, but one cant help wondering whether all that preparation has finally paid off. The streets may be a mess, the traffic may be uncontrollable, but boy does its citizens know how to celebrate. And it was to those sounds that I tried my hardest to ignore as I settled down to my nights sleep……FORZA NAPOLI!