I had asked Laura, the very friendly and helpful manager at the Palazzo Rosenthal Hotel to arrange for a taxi to go into Naples from Pompeii in the evening. When Laila and I came down a few more guests had arrived. There were some couples and one man, tall, salt and pepper hair, beautifully tailored suit, holding his impeccably folded overcoat on his arm. He was one of those older (early to mid-50's tops) wearily elegant, handsome Italian men, female American tourists fantasize about when they visit Italy.
We headed towards the door for our cab.
Laura: "This is your taxi driver. Enzo, very dependable."
This was our cab driver. Oh my.
He was delighted to meet us, of course and we sat in the little restaurant, arguing about the cost of spending the evening in Naples, and of visiting Pompeii the next day before being dropped off in Naples to catch the train back to Rome.
How does one haggle with a man in an Armani suit who drives a silver Mercedes E-320? But I did. Badly.
After spending the day crammed in coach, then rushing from the airport to Roma Termini to catch the train to Naples, and then from Naples on the crowded Circumvesuviana train (where neither deoderant nor perfume has ever entered), this was bliss.
We were driven to and picked up from various places around Naples, before being taken to a restaurant by the sea.
"You like pizza?"
"You ask for pizza margherita with fresh tomaato and buffalo mozzarella. That is my taste. Very good."
"I come in with you and tell them." He did, and we ate pizza and it was fabulous. The best.
The next day as we sat down (nursing our aching feet after walking the dead, cobbled streets of Pompeii) on some lawn chairs drinking freshly squeezed orange juice, he appeared at our agreed-upon time. When we had arrived that morning he took us in, and almost everyone at the entrance said out loud:"Enzo."
Apparently he was a celebrity cabbie.
"I ask you a question since you are woman. And womans are very complex. Not like us."
He was in love with a woman named Roberta but he came on too strong so she dumped him for someone else. He told her he would remain her friend forever, but his "heart, it cannot be stopped. It love her."
"I love her you know. Not just for sexy...I can get that from other womans. But I love her."
She had just sent him an SMS wishing him a merry christmas. What should he do?
Play it cool, I said. Let her do some work. Perhaps you like her because she is hard to get.
"Yes, that's it," he exlaimed, "I cannot have her heart. So I want her more. That's it. She say to me, 'Enzo, you a great lover. You can have my body, but not my heart or my soul.' So I want her more."
I felt like I was in a Latin telenovella. The overwrought emotions, the passion, the handsome, silver-haired rake, the mysterious, beautiful Roberta. All I needed to do was to fan myself and swoon.
That, my friends, is indeed, amore. But I am glad to be home, in temperate Switzerland, where I don't play agony aunt to romantic cabbies. Or am I? There is something that comes alive in places like Italy. And yes, in India, where emotions are out there, writ large. And life has a bit more color, more passion. And where the difference between sexy and love is blazed across the sky at dusk.