Day 2 & 3: Space Satyagraha in Napoli

Shashank Reddy

First of all, the title is not mine. Due credit here must be given to Vinodini. A story that will be mentioned later in this post. We arrived in Naples yesterday afternoon and came straight to our hotel, located on the Viale J.F.Kennedy and within walking distance of the Mostra D’Olletermere, the venue for our conference. At first sight, the location seemed to be some god-forsaken corner of Naples, a thought that was reinforced by the surprisingly bad pizza and sandwiches we got in a couple of restaurants on the road. Most of the evening was spent walking around the Mostra, figuring out where exactly the registration is taking place. Then, like true Indians, we skipped the opening ceremony and came back to the Mostra, a couple of hours later, for the free dinner. Which sucked balls. Bad lunch and bad dinner. Not the best combination for a couple of travel-weary guys who are expecting mana to be served in every nook and cranny of this city. Especially this city, the home of the pizza. Our bad mood was only slightly lifted by the incomprehensible number of beautiful women in a conference on space. The only thing worth reporting for the day.

Day 3 however, was beautiful. Our paper presentation was right in the morning and we were free by lunch time, which is when we joined up with Viraj, Vinodini and Prem, who were here for their Man Lachs Moot Semi-finals (which got postponed because the Nigerian team they were up against did not get a visa). The five of us walked towards the other side of the Mostra, away our hotel and down the Viale Augusto. That is when we got our first real taste of Napoli. As we walked by a tiny café called Blue Moon, an old Italian gentleman walked up to us and said, “Indiano? I lovea Indiano”, then promptly directed us to a neat little café, where he assured the food was good, got a waitress to take our orders and then wished us luck and walked on. The food was indeed good. Pasta with lots of sauce and ham. Eaten with a some Italian sunshine, while sitting on the pavement outside the café. And it only got better. With nothing to do for the afternoon, we went back to the Mostra, where Mr.D embarked on a quest to go to all the stalls of all the space agencies present there and ask them whether they followed the Planetary Protection Policy. Vinodini, meanwhile, dared me 3 Euros that I would not be able to go and talk to the murderous looking woman at the tourist information counter. I came back with three maps, two guidebooks and very much alive, but did not yet get the 3 Euros. Vinodini then hit upon another grand idea, “lets teach these agency people about planetary protection”. ‘Space Social Activism’ she called it. And since today is Gandhi Jayanti, she decided that we were going to on a fast too. A ‘space satyagraha’ to be exact. It was at this point that someone pointed out that free food was being given out someone and JAXA, the Japanese Space Agency. We took two plates of food from each. Not very good food. But its free. To make up for this, we began walking down the Viale Augusto again, and the number of cafes and bars just kept increasing. But where we finally stopped was a tiny little gelato stand shop called Tigela Tigela, where we had the most impossibly divine cherry flavored gelato possible. It is impossible to describe just how good it was. This was followed by a crepe, overflowing with chocolate and powdered sugar. As the crepes were being made, another old Italian man came up to us and asked exclaimed ‘Indiano!’ and gave us a huge smile and warned Viraj and Mr.D that having crepes would make them fat. Here, it is impossible not to be taken in by the exuberant warmth that every single person on the street seems to radiate. There is a lot of laughing and smiling and random people coming up to you and attempting to make conversation even though you cant understand the person and the person can’t understand you. It is slowly becoming clear why people love this place so much. Coffee was at this place called Sala something, across the street from Tigela Tigela, followed by which, we walked down a random road that ended up going to Piazza Venezia Tecchio, which is where the Mostra is located anyhow. We sat on the outside table of a little ristorante in the Piazza, and ordered two types of Pizza and sent a prayer up to the old Roman gods to let the pizzas be good. The gods must have been generous, because what we got were two stunning pizzas, with basil leaves, brilliant cheese, sun dried tomatoes and literally dripping with olive oil. They made me forget all about the stale bread with lots of ketchup that was served to us last night as pizza. To top it all, the weather was perfect, with a light breeze blowing in from the sea (which we have not yet seen) and from the hills (which we have), a partially cloudy sky. And let me tell you, long walks, good food and good weather makes for brilliant conversations. Anyhow, tomorrow, I head to the historic centre of the city to try and get my hands on some really really good pizza, probably a calzone and a Panini. Hope the weather holds and the gods are still with us.

P.S.Sorry for the lack of pictures, but my hotel’s WiFi is incredibly slow.

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