Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Naples, Part I

I think that maybe if we'd been to Naples before we went to Rome (last October) then our expectations would have been different.

Rome is a beautiful city, the light itself is amazing, the architecture stunning, the shops range from tiny little (not too expensive) boutiques all the way via H&M and Zara to Prada and Gucci, the men are all as memorable as the sights and the restaurants are great.  Yes it's busy and full of people but it's a capital city, you expect that.

Naples is the third largest Italian city (so we were informed by a guide trying hard to defend her home town, after she'd asked how we were enjoying the city and I didn't lie, I didn't tell the full truth either, but what I said was clearly enough to make her go on the defensive) after Rome and Milan but I don't think it's the third richest and it certainly doesn't feel as though it's third in the pecking order.  If it really is third richest and third in the pecking order then I really, really don't want to go to the fourth place city...

Because we'd been to Rome first I think we all expected Naples to be similar, we were very wrong. Thinking back, in many historical books that I've read Naples is always talked about as a thriving port but also a city with a seamier underside to it, you would think that as the years have gone by then so the city would have grown up, cleaned up its act and become more respectable, at least on the surface. But no. 

Here are the good and the bad of Naples as I see it:

* Good - pizza, Naples is the home of the Margarita pizza, and their thin crust pizza is deeeeeelicous.
* Bad - pizza, some of the pizzerias make them just a bit too soggy in the middle for my taste.
* Good - the weather, the beginning of April and we had 20 degrees C, nice.
* Bad - the homeless, from our hotel window we could see 2 guys every night bedding down on the front steps of the University building.  Just along from the cathedral there was a guy who clearly slept in the same spot every night and used the pavement nearby as his toilet, dog poo is one thing but human excrement?  Shudder.
* Good - cake, omg, the cake! The baba, the sfogliatelle, yum yum yum.
* Bad - cake! Too much of it tempting me, everywhere, it's even OK to have it for breakfast.
* Good - proximity to sights like Pompeii, Herculaneum, Vesuvius, Capri, the Amalfi coast.
* Bad - the dirt, the streets were filthy, litter everywhere.
* Good - the wine, thanks to the naughty volcano the wines of the region are totally scrumptious.
* Bad - the traffic, the Neapolitans are crazy drivers, they occasionally stop for red lights but you shoudn't bank on it, the horn is used constantly and the moped drivers are insane. We were seated in a restaurant window when a moped was pulled over and we were trying to work out what he was being told off for, lane hopping? They all do it.  Weaving through the cones? They all do it.  U turn? They all do it.  Going through a red light? They all do it. Eventually we decided it must be the lack of a helmet (although they all do that too, especially when riding three to a bike) either that or it the moped was knicked!
* Good - limoncello, a lemon liquor, some of the restaurants give it away free as you pay the bill, very friendly of them, and yes I did bring a bottle home.

So, Naples...an experience, one that wont be repeated, although I'd happily go back to Pompeii.

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