Having driven along the Amalfi coast and all of its little towns, the driving experience did prove very challenging. Driving in Naple’s city center was suicidal and chaotic to say the least. If you are the passive driver and obeying all road rules, you will then stay at an intersection for days; all while a swarm of mopeds engulf your driving space.
Insane but I loved it. When in Rome, do like the Romans. In this case when in Napoli do like the Napolitanos!
The tail end of our major 2 week trip to Italy, we decided to visit Naples for the night. To find this hotel took some major reconnaissance and despite my brother having stayed before, it was still searching for a needle in a hay stack. Couple the fact that every driver in Naples are formula one drivers oblivious to anyone else around them, it made for a very interesting ride.
Mission a success, we find our hotel Piazza Bellini, park the vehicle and check in. The hotel rooms were very spacious for Italy’s standard and offered 2 floors per room. Without any hesitation we head out to tour the city.
From the very first moment, I couldn’t believe how dirty it was. Graffiti all over walls, trash accumulated in corners and papers stuck on fences by the wind drafts. I do have to admit that the graffiti did actually look like art.
We decide to have lunch at a place called Mazz Pizza & Bar. Upon entering the local, the traditional counter top with espresso machines and pastries remind us of the casual and laid back lives they seem to live. I don’t understand how their hustle and bustle comes to a screeching halt when having their espressos. The waiter, which I believe is the owner, sits us down and we order lunch. He explains the menu with charisma and within minutes our order is brought to us. I’ve never tried their famous Capparelli dessert and what a better place in doing so…..Naples!
We continue our walk and even though graffiti was visible for as far the eye can see, something about the city was growing on me. As the sun was settling, the shadow kept giving life to the cobble streets. People everywhere where walking freely but all seemed to be focused and heading somewhere. In trying to figure out the proper word to explain the city, I figured labeling it as a “lived in city”, a “working city” or a city that locals use every day. If that makes any sense.
To continue with our pizza dose, we had to try the pizza eatery called Sorbelli. From what we had heard, this place makes the best pizza in the world. With only 3 locations world wide, we had to wait in line to get it. Doors open and the race is off. This place is jammed with people everywhere. Waiters and waitresses running around with plates in their hands while customers being seated in every corner of the dinning hall. Not knowing where they would put us, we climb another set of stairs with just as many people. This place has found the fine balance of production line and exquisite tasting pizza. They even had some live music which we ended being part of. Who can’t play the tambourine!
To digest the tasteful pizza’s we’ve been eating for the past 2 weeks, we continued our walk around the city center. As we walk into a local factory that makes Limoncello, their free samples get us talking with the owner and gives us a very informative tour of how the process is all made. He was so proud of his work that it truly reflected on how he was explaining it. It was very impressive that they still, today, peel all their lemons by hand.
Our walk ends at our nice quaint hotel terrace and reminisce of the days wonders. Beautiful memories.
Next morning, we pack up all our gear, leave it at the front desk and continue visiting Naples. We had planned to take full advantage of Naples and only leave mid afternoon for Rome that day.
The city was definitely growing on me. I was amazed on how quickly I judged it upon my arrival, is completely different on how I feel about it in leaving. We walk to the Galleria Umberto I and amazed on how much it looks like Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan. Commercial offices, stores and marble floors all around.
We pass along Piazza del Plebisicito with its gigantic dome like structure. Columns and space give an impression you are at the Vatican in Rome. We all stop to take in some great photos and find ourselves looking for some shade as the sun was starting to heat up.
We then come across the Piazza del Gesu Nuovo, which on the onset doesn’t look anywhere grandiose as the other Piazza’s, however when we walked in the Church of Gesu Nuovo, we were all left speechless. By far the nicest church I have ever seen. The ceiling and all its gold plating, the marble and worked walls, the way the light penetrated the coloured windows….how can this be so beautiful. Yet from the outside, one would never even imagine.
We stop to have lunch near the Piazza San Domenico Maggiore. This square had an obelisk statue in the center giving it a more gothic look. The Gothic era was surely visible with more of the dark peeks on the buildings.
We continue towards the water front and can’t help notice all locals taking advantage of the sun, water and each others company. What a life!
We come across a huge castle called Castel Nuovo which brings us back to the medieval times. Large and imposing, this castle was built in 1279 for the royal residence. It is now home for Naple’s civic museum.
Like I mentioned earlier, my perception of this city has changed completely as every site that was visited, every corner that was turned and every monument that was seen made Naples more captivating and wanting to see more. On our way back to the hotel, we find a small court yard with large leaning picture frames. Large enough that we can actually become the subjects in each portrait.
As Naples left an early impression as a dirty run down city, the opposite can’t be more true than a city of history, beauty, and character. I guess the “never judge a book by its cover” proverb is so true. Naples is definitely a place to visit.
Retrieve our bags from the front desk, walk several blocks to our underground parking and destination Rome was up next.