A live taste of Portici

I know, some of you might think I’m exaggerating with my fervent accolades for my hometown.  Portici, that is, the one and only.  Nostalgia, you might say, rosy remembrances of a lost time, a golden childhood, a thrilling adolescence steeped in romance, my ‘wonder years’ immortalized in a still picture forever glowing.  Not so. Though my memories are caressed by the hue of wistfulness, there was often the harsh reality of extreme sorrow, as my heart was torn out – fragile and still pulsating – not a few times.  But one gets strong (and, yes, touched with cynicism) when slapped by pain, because that is the essence of human survival.  But Portici is real.  It was then, it is now.  A small Mediterranean city with all the qualities of such a place, and you know them – the nearly perpetual sunshine, the shimmer of the calm sea lapping at the foothills of Vesuvius, the boulevards lined with aristocratic villas, yes, faded these days, some slowly crumbling, but clinging with tenacity to the dignity of their glorious past.  Then, still within walking distance, you can step into the ancient Roman past at the Ercolano excavations, not less fascinating than famous Pompei. And the abundance of food, of course, really,really good food, the one you dream about on frigid New York winter nights.  But Portici is so much more.  Vibrant with people that explode on the beautiful downtown streets in the evening, wearing chic boots and super-long scarves arranged and knotted in such creative ways (which I’m still trying to figure out).  People who are exuberant, wise and accepting, even in these hard times, most of them smoking freely, and I walk into the clouds of their smoke, trembling with my memories.  Glittering boutiques selling Emilio Pucci and Dolce & Gabbana at exorbitant prices, and those the thrills that only your eyes can enjoy.  But stroll down a few more meters and a glorious saldi sign beckons from a cheerful little shop, where you can indulge in an elegant charcoal-gray shrug for only a few Euros.  Or a pair of suede platform pumps (coral red, perhaps), not signed by Ferragamo, but just as delicious.  Of course it’s a city of great contrasts, my Portici, but isn’t this what makes a place mysterious and exciting?  I love (LOVE) Via Marconi, the open market street, the melodious (or not so much) cries of the vendors, praising their just-off-the-fishing boats at the Granatello (the picturesque harbor) seafood, which you know it’s going to be tender and exquisite in a light sauce aromatized by the local white wine.  Snatch up (and I do) a warm and flaky cream-filled cornetto for less than a Euro at a unassuming bar, where the espresso is (always) the best you ever had.  I hear the sharp tapping of my heels on the artistically placed sanpietrini (a kind of cobblestone made from lava), and the snapping noise reverberates through my body, spreading through my veins, and I feel my revitalized blood flow energetic, bearer of new hope.  Walk with me, my friends, on those sanpietrini, even if for just a few minutes.  Let the green, velvety afternoon light that ensconces the Vesuvius warm your heart, tease your imagination.  Let my Portici seduce you too. (For more videos about Portici go to YouTube, search my name or MaraWriter.)

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