Antonio Rocks

From the beginning you should know I have no photos of Antonio, you’ll understand why.

In search of clues to Elena Ferrantes' My Brilliant Friend, I traversed Piazza Giovanni Leone near Porto Capuana, the carved old city gate.

Porto Capuana

A grey-black cloud of pigeons menacingly flapped and squawked from one end of the piazza as passers-by tossed baba crumbs and dry bread. With startling accuracy the birds just miss gouging out eyes and taking scalps in their morsel chase. I threw a precious bit of my roccoco biscotto in an attempt to see them move en masse.

Rccoco biscotti -rock hard. Soak in coffee and eat

As I reached the corner of Corso Guiseppe Garibaldi an old man crossed a side street towards me. A car moving behind him paused before turning into traffic. The man reared as if he was going to fall backwards, unsteady he placed his hands on the rear of the waiting car. “Senor!” I called out to him. The couple next to me gave physical indication that perhaps they saw his distress too, but they walked on.

I grabbed his hand. “Senor.” He nearly collapsed on me. He held a medium plastic bag of his belongings. I spoke to him as I do everyone here in Naples, “Io sono Ana. Parlo Englese. Parlo un poco Italiano, (or parlo un po d’ Italiano), blah blah blah.”

Antonio, as most Neapolitans, speaks Napulitano, the language of southern Italy, not Italian. So here we are, a team of misfits hobbling slowly across the piazza as I try to figure out where he wants to go and what I’m going to do with this old man who may be on death’s door.

He is frail, not wearing much of a coat on a cool day, unshaven with missing teeth, his breath smells of old. He at times leans on me so that my six foot frame takes all his weight and mine to move him forward inch by inch.

We wait to cross a busy intersection as he (in-comprehensive to me) explains his motives. I make sure we have a clear path before proceeding knowing oncoming cars will veer mere inches from us if we obstruct the street. As we near the corner where plastic barriers force us to go around, Antonio nearly falls over.

A man in a drink kiosk at the same corner stares at me. I know I am in a part of the city deemed unsafe, tourists do not come here. I get a lot of stares carting this old man from bustling corner to corner.

Just as I think Antonio may bring us down together the drink man steps out out of his kiosk and deftly moves one of the plastic barriers so we can step up onto the curb. I tell the drink man I’m visiting Naples, I don’t know Antonio and could he ask Antonio where he is going.

Antonio is trying to catch a bus that by the newly determined bus stop location is going in the direction we just came. I thank the drink man and he tells me to come back after I get Antonio to the bus stop.

Halfway down a long block a large man steps out of a store onto the street and shouts out to Antonio. Help at last I think. We cross the street again. When he sees Antonio can barely keep his balance he conjures a small blue stool from somewhere and Antonio sits. The big man talks loudly to Antonio. I say good-bye to the big guy who hadn’t acknowledged me until then.

Crossing back into traffic I breeze past the kiosk. The drink man says “Complementi”, a job well done. I give him the thumbs up and reward myself by standing on line for some of Naples best pizza at Pizzeria Carmnella.

The Elena Ferrante Pizza at Pizzeria Carmnella

Watch YouTube video on how Roccoco are made. There are two versions, Duro= hard or morbida=soft.