The mention of Naples unleashes a stream of love it or hate it adjectives; filthy, enchanting, frenetic, dangerous. A girlfriend simply warned, “Be careful. A thief broke my friend’s arm while stealing his gold Rolex.” Fortunately, I have my Walmart timex to protect me.
Pat is a street photographer at heart. An hour after arriving in the city he commented, “If a photographer spent a week here, they would win the Pulitzer.” Naples is a street shooter’s paradise.
I arrived in Naples with a single goal; eat an authentic Napoli pizza. Beyond that, our agenda was wide open. We dropped our bags at the hotel, and with map in hand set off towards Via del Tribunali – a pizzeria paradise.
Mobs congregated outside a few places which was good enough advertisement for me. We picked one of the busiest and waited outside. Periodically, a burly man opened the door, glanced at a tiny scrap of paper, and called off a few names. Each time we tried to give him our name, but he starred back mutely and returned inside. “Does he speak English?” “Are we violating protocol?”
Me: I think you need to go inside and give him our name.
Pat: No way. You do it.
Me: Stop it. You are the man. Go do your job.
That last bit never works, so I was a stunned when Pat threw open the door and ventured inside.
He returned. “I think he has our name, and I think he said thirty minutes.” As we waited, an Easter processional approached proceeded by a flurry of fireworks skittering along the stone pavement in a flash of sparks and smoke. For a moment, I thought it was gun fire. We never figured out if that was part of the show or part of the mayhem. Before the processional took another step, the burly man returned and called our name.
Over the next two days, we visited churches and monasteries, walked the upscale part of town near the sea, and spent the better part of one day at Pompeii (which I will write about separately). During our free time, we strolled unintentionally through the old town – a crucible of the best and worst of Italy.
The last evening, we cut through the rather dodgy Piazza Dante heading back to our hotel. Groups of kids mulled around in packs of five or ten. Some played music, others cricket and soccer, some just talked and fooled around. We noticed a restaurant in the corner and spontaneously stopped to eat. Surrounded by large tables of multi-generational Italian families, we enjoyed a simple selection of pastas and scaloppine washed down with a pitcher of house wine.
Leaving the restaurant, we cut across the square ducking flying balls and detouring away from the most unsavory groups. I wasn’t sure if we should be frightened or invigorated, so we picked invigorated.
Back at our hotel on the nearby Piazza Bellini, the night was just getting started. A young and hip crowd gathered in the courtyard rimmed by a string of small bars. Pat ran to the room to grab his camera and for an hour or two he shot scenes of Naples’ night life.
Everyone was right about Naples; filthy, enchanting, frenetic, dangerous. Naples made my head throb. I hope we’ll be back.
Street shots on Piazza Bellini.
Make it happen:
Getting there: Naples is an easy one hour ride on the fast train from Rome Termini. Buy your tickets three months in advance for the best price. The train was modern, clean, comfortable and fast. Perfect. The Naples metro is spotless and very easy to use. It connects the train station into and across the city.
Hotel: Hotel Piazza Bellini: Very quiet. A nice old town location. Trendy, immaculate, well priced. This will be our go to hotel for Naples. For those wanting upscale, try the neighborhood near the opera and the sea.
Gina Sorbillo: Pizza. Bottom line, we had very good pizza but no different than very good pizza at home. It makes me believe all those pizza makers claiming they trained in Naples, probably did.
Ristorante al Vechhio: We entered this restaurant very apprehensively. The location is on a somewhat seedy square. We ended up eating one of my favorite meals – Pasta, Scaloppine, Wine. A very simple, old fashioned family place. The waitresses can handled English if you keep it slow and simple.
Categories: Western Europe