|Twenty-Four Hours in Naples
Nestled in the shadows of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, life in Naples continues on as if there is no threat of any future eruption - exactly the opposite of what scientists predict. In our initial trip planning, we were not going to spend anytime in Naples and just pass through on our way to the Amalfi Coast. However, we changed these plans and decided to spend one night in Naples to see and experience a taste of the biggest city of Southern Italy. As we were leaving Venice for Naples, in a quite serious manner, Eric warned me that Naples is a really rough city and that we would have to carefully watch our belongings and be very cautious when we were out on the streets, thus setting a tone for our upcoming twenty-four hours in Naples.
Sitting across from us on the train from Venice to Naples were a couple of Italian businessmen. We decided to ask them a couple of questions and seek out some advice on Naples. Our first question, 'Are you from Naples?' was answered with a definitive no accompanied by looks of shock and waiving hands and arms making it clear there was no way they were or would want to be from Naples. Conversing in broken English they warned us to be careful in Naples as it is like no where else in Italy. In fact, he goes on, 'Like another country...like..Africa' as he smiles and gestures with a dismissal wave of his hand in the air. And we further prepared ourselves for our arrival into Naples and wondered quite what we should be expecting.
Upon arrival at the Naples central station, I teased Eric about the 'battle stance' he was taking with his belonging. He had his big backpack on his back, his dayback on his front, hands in his pockets so he could not be pick pocketed and taking off a mile a minute to find a taxi to take us to our B&B, all the time alert of every person around him. Finding the line for the taxi stand we were pleasantly surprised to find a civilized queue and get a fun and friendly driver to take us to our accommodations. Of course he wanted more money than what showed on the meter, but it was all in good humour and we tipped him over what we owed and sure he went away happy and we arrived safe.
The drive there had taken us through some rough looking areas of a city heavy with graffiti, pollution, chaotic traffic and appearing very dirty. We arrived in an alley just off the a main street where our B&B was located and after buzzing to get in, the owner greeted us to let us through the door that was so thick it reminded me of a bank vault. His smile and friendliness was reassuring though, and as we reached modern room upstairs, the furnishing far exceeded what we expected. Enrico the owner was immensely helpful and provided us with a map of where we should go and what we should see and do in our brief time in town along with a couple of restaurant recommendations. (If you are looking for a B&B in Naples we highly recommend the Donabelina 7).
Taking to the street, still a tad worried about our safety, we left the larger camera in the safe in the room along with any other valuables and only brought along with us some cash for expenditures and dinner. Ironically enough, as we got out to explore the city, we quickly came to love what we feared might have been one of our least favourite destinations. Naples was alive and real. Yes it was dirty, chaotic and noisy too, but the people were animated and incredibly dramatic and you could just sit and watch the world going on around you for entertainment.
Naples was a stark contrast to the pristine and orderliness of Paris or the peace and tranquility of Venice. Naples' streets were frenzied with motorcycles and scooters darting in and out, driving the wrong direction on one way streets, heading through red lights and having blatant disregard to traffic regulations - if there were any. Crossing the road as a pedestrian was a hair raising experience with virtually no intersection having crossing lights for pedestrians and it appeared the only way across was to weave yourself one lane at a time across the busy streets like dozens of other people in the roads at the same time..
Our most memorable time in Naples was dinner at Brandy's - the restaurant that invented pizza! Located in the heart of Naples, not far from the cruise port Brandy's served up the best pizza we have every had. Basic and plain, but with the freshest ingredients cooked to perfection. Our meal was complemented by the entertaining waiters doing their jobs with all the dramatic flair you would expect to see on stage at Broadway.
The city is certainly not one that would be loved by all, but the chaos and lack of order presented us with something I would have expected in visiting large cities in Asia or South America not in Italy. Apparently the city has been cleaned up considerably over the past decade and continuous work is visible as they work on improving it as a tourist destination. Naples is a big port for the cruise ships where they use it as a hub for visiting Pompei, Herculaneum, Capri, the Amalfi Coast and more.
Overall, we found Naples to be a polluted, busy, chaotic city. However it is alive and real, and offered us a 24 hour stay that we found most entertaining and memorable. We didn't get robbed or mugged or even feel unsafe once we hit the streets...but keep your wits about you and your valuables in your hotel safe while you enjoy this vibrant city and its people!