Naples isn’t quite like the other tourist spots of Italy. Naples is gritty. You won’t see the hundreds of security officers wandering around with nothing to do like you might in Rome (we saw only one, donning a bulletproof vest). Unemployment in Naples is extremely high, and it shows. They also say that the mafia controls the trash collection (or lack there of) and it shows. What shows the most is that Neapolitan youth love spray paint. Graffiti is visible on basically everything. I never really felt unsafe here though. I’d venture to guess that the odds of being pick-pocketed in Naples are about the same as any other city in Italy. Fewer tourists and empty piazzas were actually refreshing. The huge Piazza del Plebiscito was practically empty as we strolled through. We also found excellent lodging in Naples at L’alloggio dei Vassalli.
While Naples wasn’t my favorite destination in Italy, it isn’t as dire as I may have made it seem. One, including myself, could make a convincing argument that the pizza alone will make the trip a worthwhile one. We stopped at Pizzeria da Michele twice, which is famed in its own right but also from the book “Eat, Pray, Love.” A picture of Julia Roberts is proudly displayed within. Da Attilio also provided a solid pie. In general, the coffee and pastries were also top notch. The Museo Archeologico contains some amazing works excavated from the ruins of Pompeii (though the museum itself is drab).
Naples makes a great home base for some other destinations as well. The beautiful town of Sorrento is just a short train ride away to the south. Pompeii and Vesuvius are also just a short train ride to the north. Unfortunately we just didn’t have enough time to get to Pompeii and Vesuvius but we did make it to Sorrento for a day.
There is a stark contrast between Naples and Sorrento which is quite clean and quaint. The town is famous for its softball sized lemons. The trinkets in the shops are lemon themed, the candy is lemon flavored, and of course there is limoncello for purchase. Most shops even let you taste before you buy. One end of town has a lemon grove that you can stroll through, though the mosquitoes were a nuisance. Great for a day trip but wasn’t a place I’d stay for more than that, unless I were exploring other towns down the Amalfi coast.
Naples itself may not be for everyone but it’s worth a visit. To non-foodies it may sound odd, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget the taste of the pizza in Naples. I suppose those types of lasting memories are what travel is all about. You might even fall in love with the more authentic feel of this city versus the long lines and tour buses of other Italian cities. Anyway, if you can’t stand the place head to Sorrento and Pompeii. There’s nothing to lose.
Next post: The Cinque Terre