Torre del Greco, a comune of Naples, sits in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius. Up until the early twentieth century, it was a resort for wealthy Italians and tourists seeking to climb Mt Vesuvius. Today it is a gritty, blue-collar town, not concerned with packaging itself for outsiders, which is quite refreshing. We went there to meet an online friend from the sea glass world, Rebecca Di Donna. She and her husband, Paolo, invited us to their apartment for a late lunch after we finished seeing Pompeii. Dennis and I got back on the Circumvesuviana and rode a few stops down the line, toward Naples. We got off the train at Torre and started walking toward the Marina, somehow managing to get lost even with directions.
As we walked through the town I thought about its close neighbor, Herculaneum. Once a city of wealth and prestige, it was completly destroyed when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A. D. Torre del Greco was lucky that day-spared by the gods, so to speak. Natural disasters are kind of personal to me. I was living in Washington state when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, and remember the uprooted forest trees stacked like pick up sticks and mountains of volcanic ash along the interstate. Thirty years later I still live in Washington state, on a beautiful peninsula that happens to be in a tsunami zone. With proof that an earthquake and tsunami wiped away much of the area in the 1700’s, we live with the knowledge that its “not if, but when”. Still, we go about our daily lives and try not to obsess about the future too much (at least I don’t). Is that how it is to live here? I wondered, as we walked by signs of past volcanic eruptions.
Times change, of course, but the basics of everyday life; eating, drinking, working, praying go on. Like their ancestors, the modern inhabitants live their lives within the shadow of an active volcano.
Food For The Soul
The fertile (volcanic) soil produces the most flavorful produce and wines, which we were about to experience firsthand at the lunch that awaited us- but we were still lost.
The Coral Museum
There is a coral museum in Torre that I really wanted to visit, but it was closed the day that we were in town. The most beautiful coral comes from the nearby Mediterranean sea, and an industry sprang up here in the 1700’s producing cameos and jewelry from the vibrant red and orange branches. Coral has been used for adornment and worn as a protective amulet for centuries. On a personal note, I have always loved coral ever since I was a teenager and a package arrived from Italy containing a box of Altruda family jewelry.
The residents of Torre del Greco are called corallini, in reference to the cameo and coral jewerly industries located here.
As we walked toward the Marina (the long way, I’m sure), I had to stop to photograph the details we passed along the way. I was hoping we would find Rebecca’s apartment before too long, as we had already walked miles on the hard paving stones of Pompeii. We were ready for a glass of wine and a snack!
The influence of religion and ritual are very much alive here. Street processions, singers, submerged statues in the marina for protection- yes, protection would be very much on the minds of people at any time in history who lived here.
The End is Near
At last, we found their apartment address and rang the bell. No one answered. Two boys from across the street watched us and then came over. They confirmed that our friends lived here, and then they rang as if that would produce better results, but no dice. Not sure what to do next, we walked over to a nearby bench facing the harbor, and sat down. Very soon a man on a Vespa rode up and asked if we were Judith and Dennis. It was Rebecca’s husband, Paolo. They had been looking for us!
Pranzo Fatto a Mano
We were brought upstairs to the top floor apartment of a six-hundred-year-old building. Rebecca and Paolo, whom I had never met in person before, seemed like old friends. As with other people I have met from the sea glass world, we already had a lot in common. Soon we sat at their table and had the beautiful food prepared by Chef Paolo for our lunch.
As we sampled the delicious food, conversation flowed like the hearty Vesuvian wine. Paolo, who is from Capri, is a professionally trained Chef. He had lived in the States for a number of years, and was working at a restaurant in Santa Barbara when he and Rebecca met. They hit it off, married, and moved back to Italy about five years ago. Our visit included a show and tell of sorts. I showed some of my sea glass and ancient coin jewelry. Rebecca, an artist, showed us some of her mixed-media pieces hanging on the walls of their home. Her creativity overflows in everything she touches, be it painting, photography or lifestyle. Many of her photos of everyday life are included in this post. Thank you Rebecca!
I drooled over her Italian sea glass and pottery collected on Capri and all over the Mediterranian. Of course, we had to do some trading!
Before it got too dark, Dennis and I started back for the train station. This time we had better directions and made it there in about ten minutes. We got on the train for Sorrento, tired, content and happy. We could not stop talking about our visit, rehashing Paolo and Rebeccas’s incredible hospitality. I will definitely return to Torre del Greco on a future visit to see the coral museum. Hopefully next time the sun will be shining so I can actually see Vesuvius!
Next Post/Amalfi Coast