Napoli, Italy | A Misunderstood Beauty – 18 February, 2016
Neapolis – the New City – you may have heard of Napoli (Naples) for its Pizza, Vesuvius, your stop for Sorrento & Capri or the place where they stole your friends wallet (FYI – it can happen ALL over – I had my wallet stolen in SWITZERLAND…yeah, exactly!). But there is so much more to this city than meets the eye.
My passion to discover Napoli started back in 2010, when I had to go there for work. I found myself in one of poorest areas of Naples – Quartiere Sanità. Everyone (even the TAXI driver), had a story to tell me about this part of town and while I was starting to worry, I had no choice but go. So I embark on this mission hoping to get out of there alive…you can imagine the stories I was told if that was what I was thinking…well, I can tell you I did survive (obviously!) and I did not come out of there scared or worried anymore and more importantly, with all my possessions. Instead, I came out of there in love with this beautiful and culturally rich city.
As you know, my favorite quote is – ‘To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries’. It could not be more true for Naples.
Fast forward to 2016 (2 work trips to Napoli, Italy later), I am now a blogger and my goal for this year is to discover the South of Italy, so what better place to start than Napoli! Napoli is certainly not perfect. In fact, even the locals will tell you what is wrong with Napoli but few outside of this amazing city will tell you what is so beautiful about it. Look passed the stereotypes, the garbage (it has improved dramatically) and let’s look at the positives of Naples and what you can do to avoid having a bad experience.
Just before you go on, a cool quote I was told on Naples, written by Goethe in the ‘Italian Journey’ was – ‘See Naples and die’, to explain the sheer, often misunderstood, beauty.
Napoli, Italy – 6 Reasons you MUST go
1. The castles! If you love G.O.T, then you cannot miss these amazing monuments. With Castles there is HISTORY, so definitely go to Naples for the history. You thought Rome was old, well Naples issssss pretty old too!
2. The people! Get a local guide. Trust me, you will not regret it. The Napoletani have a way of telling a story that is something off an opera or a broadway musical and will keep wanting for more. It is a true art form.
3. The food! You think I say that about any place in Italy…well ok maybe…but the food here – pasta, pizza, seafood, sweets…W.H.A.T.E.V.E.R. you are looking for…Napoli does it superbly!
4. The Walking! Take a stroll on the promenade eating a gelato…and take that wonderful sunshine in. Over the promenade? No problem, 20-30min walk (help digest the gelato) and you can then go to the Catacombs, the beautiful churches, the Duomo, the museums…it’s all there and easily walkable.
5. The ruggedness! Yeap. People love Florence (so do I) but ever thought it was just too perfect? I have. Well that is why I love Naples, what you see is what you get. The city offers beautiful buildings, monuments and these unique alley ways, where you can get lost, with clothes hanging everywhere and graffiti on the walls. Marvellous.
6. Traditions! Napoli, Italy is filled with them. One that I found particularly cool, which I discovered while I was there, was crossing Piazza del Plebiscito with a blindfold. Step 1: You basically blindfold the person you are traveling with. Step 2: Face San Francesco di Paola (church based on the Patheon of Rome – very cool!). Step 3: Accompany your friend/partner (so they do not kill themselves) across the piazza, through the two equestrian statues located approx 200m away. Oh and make sure to place a bet of no less than 100EUR, they will never make it (it is a guarantee win!).
Tradition has it that Queen Margaret granted, once a month, the possibility to one of her prisoners to be freed should her/she overcome this ‘test’. Starting from the door of the Royal Palace to the middle of the two statues, no one ever succeeded due to a “curse” put on the Piazza by the Queen herself. Legend has it that still today, this ‘curse’ prevents people from succeeding.
PS: Affordable! I add this as a side note because you might know this already but Naples is MUCH cheaper than Capri and Sorrento, so its convenient to go for a day to those other places and use Naples as your base. Just a useful tip 😉
Napoli, Italy – Top 5 Foods to Try!
1. Pizza! Yes, everybody tells you to try it when in Naples and there is a reason why – IT IS AMAZING. I enjoyed my Vesuvius pizza (a capricciosa, topped with a margarita! – needless to say, it was huge!) at Antica Hosteria Napoletana.
2. Pasta! You must try ‘Pasta a Genuvese‘. Along with ‘ragù’, the Genuvese sauce represents one of the foundations of Neapolitan cuisine. If we define ragù the “King”, then the ‘Genuvese’ is certainly the “Queen”.
3. Staying on the topic of pasta, another pasta dish I was told not to miss was the ‘Pasta con Patate‘ and wow, talk about a good hearty meal. I think it was enough carbohydrates to last me a week but well worth it and I think I deserved it after my 12km walk around the city.
4. Seafood! You are in a port city with a tradition for fresh seafood, do not hold back. Try the ‘Vongole Lupini‘ they are only found in Naples! I had an amazing meal at La Cantina dei Lazzari
5. Do not leave Naples without trying Sfugliatelle (it’s not misspelled, it’s how the Napolese say it)! Do not ask what it is…just try them (yes plural because you will not stop at one) – give it a go!
PS: I would have added Mozzarella but I eat so much of it in Rome (directly from a Napoletano), that I skipped it this time round! But for those not accustomed to having it all the time, you will not regret it – it is the home of Mozzarella di Bufala after all!
4 Things to do before getting to Naples & Italy
1. Attitude. Vitis Naples understanding you are visiting a place different to Rome, Milan or Florence. Keep a positive attitude, regardless of train delays (this will happen!) and do not let 1 negative experience put you down – after all, this is travel!
2. Understand the traveler you are. There is a wide variety of amazing things to do throughout this city – from the rich seaside area, to the poor ‘quartieri’ of town. Understand if you are happy to visit the poor parts of the city or if you are more for luxury travel – there is something for everyone.
3. Remove unessential items. I recommend this whether you are visiting Naples or New York. Do not flash around an expensive watch, have your wallet in the back of your pocket (or at all!) or bring all documents with you – bring the essentials for your day of sightseeing. Camera, mobile, water and around 50EUR + card (if you traveling solo). Travel light – your feet and mind will thank you later!
4. Try experience it as a local. Wearing sandals & white socks (please don’t) is a no go, walking around looking around like a lost soul, puts unwanted attention on you. Move confidently with map in hand and plan your day ahead. Don’t be worried to ask the locals for help, they are friendlier than you think. Do not expect products from home or even from around Italy, you are in Naples. Just prepare your day as best you can, be comfortable but not ridiculous and get accustomed to a map. Bringing your phone is ok – it will come in handy for maps!
PS: Just remember you are visiting a big city with a lot of people – be careful of your surroundings (this I say for Rome, Milan, Venice also!) and keep your belongings safe.
A Weekend in Napoli, Italy – What I did and saw
Getting to Napoli, Italy is easy. Simply use Trenitalia or Italo train from any major city as Naples is connected with the high speed train system and you get there in no time at all (from Rome it’s a 1 hour 20 min ride).
On my next post, I will provide some extra info on where I stayed in Naples and why you should to, along with the name of a taxi driver you can trust, who will not try to get you to stay in another hotel because he gets commissions for bringing guests through – oh yeah, that does happen.
All in all, my experience of Naples was not good but GREAT! I love this city, the food and just the all round feel of the South. Like I said, it is not perfect but that is what makes me love it even more.
Did you like my post on Napoli, Italy? Have you ever been or visited any of the places I visited on this trip? What has been your experience of Naples? If you like the post, please also share on social media or simply follow me for great pics and updates on Italy in 2016. Ciao e a presto!