See Naples… and DIE. My love affair with Italy’s most dangerous City.

“I never thought I’d die so young… but I suppose this is the end” I thought to myself as I sat in bed the night before my flight to Italy, watching a documentary about Naples being one of the World’s most dangerous Cities and reading countless accounts of people’s experiences with pickpockets, bags that have gone speeding away on the back of vespas and reports of confrontation and violence. Mix that in with the known Mafia presence and I felt more worried about travelling to Southern Italy than I have when travelling to really isolated and ‘off-the-beaten-track’ parts of the world!

Napoli has always been of interest to me as my Grandmother was from nearby Sorrento and I’ve always wanted to discover my Italian roots. I took Italian classes at University but not practicing the language pretty much took me back to square one – I vowed to improve and what better setting to do so than in Italy itself?

chiaia

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Sunset at Chiaia

I touched down at Capodichino airport. In the evening light, as my cab drove through the traffic-laden streets of Napoli, we sped past old ladies cooking pasta in the streets, groups of older Italian men sitting outside smoking and laughing with life long friends and vespa drivers with a death wish speeding through the most impossibly thin of spaces between cars. The City just felt so alive.
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It’s true what they say – Naples is loud, brash, dirty, smelly, full of graffiti… but I love it. It just has so much character.
For whatever reason, Naples has escaped from the major influx of tourists that travel to Italy – most sticking with Rome, Florence, Venice, etc.

Think of it like yourself – you go to a bar with friends and there are cute guys, so you make a little effort – smear on a naughty bit of MAC lippie and poof up your hair… but if you stay at your parents for a weekend – who you gon’ impress? Dave, the fat bloke next door? Hell no – so you sit in that oversized hoodie you’ve had since 2004 (you know the one I’m talking about!) with chocolate around your mouth and hair scrunched up like Miss Trunchbull. Well Naples is like that too – no-one comes, so it has no-one to impress, you know? The City hasn’t developed around tourism and still has a very local and traditional Italian feel to it.

Naples books

You may or may not be aware of the divide in culture between the two regions of Italy – the North and the South; these two regions being in almost opposition as they openly express their disdain for the other’s lifestyles. The Northern region is synonymous with class – style conscious, sophisticated Italians with a taste for the good life; The South on the other hand – the more simple, Mediterranean, family focused life.

Naples 2

Every place I’ve been to in Italy I’ve loved and I have friends dotted around the Country; however in Naples I really did find the stereotype of the friendly, welcoming Italians to be especially true – I met so many locals at my Language School who were concerned I’d come to the Country alone, inviting me into their homes to have dinner with their extended families, introducing me to each member in turn as though I were a guest of honour and going out of their way to ensure my social diary was filled during my time in the City.
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The only negative emotion Naples stirred within me was disappointment at the lack of appreciation of the history and architecture of the City the younger generations have – Roman ruins are covered in graffiti and your footsteps echo as you walk through empty museums and tourist sites.

I never for a moment felt unsafe, and I was often strolling home alone late at night (Okay, not the smartest move – you probably shouldn’t do that, but nothing happened to me in my month of doing so). If you’re concerned about the Mafia – let’s look at this logically – they are not going to go around attacking random tourists. Why would they risk that? They won’t bother you if you don’t bother them… like Spiders.

Naples 2

There are good and bad people everywhere you go – yes there are a high number of pickpocket incidents in Naples – equally, someone tried to steal my friend’s bag when we were in Paris, and nobody warns you against Paris – be conscious of your surroundings, especially when walking down the narrow streets and hook your bag securely under your arm. If you can avoid taking a handbag, I just put what I needed in my pockets.

Naples really is a diamond in the rough, but I hope that, like me, you are able to uncover its beauty.

Have you been to Naples and the Italian South? What are your thoughts?

 

11 Comments
    1. The pizza is definitely incredible! In my first week I was eating pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner before I told myself enough is enough ha. It really is a great city, and so many things to do nearby – Pompeii, Amalfi, etc 🙂

      1. I don’t doubt it! Lol that’s my dream diet … if only it was healthy. I really want to see Pompeii and (especially) Amalfi as well so I guess I’ll have to dedicate a trip to that region of Italy alone.

  1. Loved this post! Sometimes the places with the more grungy reputations are just like you said, more authentic. I haven’t been to southern Italy yet, but plan to go, especially after a good friend who I visited while in Milan raved about Naples, Sicily, and the rest of southern Italy. We did most of the major cities in the North last time, so South will be next!

    1. Yes absolutely! I was the same as you – I’d travelled a lot in Italy but I’d always stuck to the North – Milan, Venice, etc. It was only when I felt like I was running out of new places to see there I thought I’d brave Naples. I managed to do a fair bit of travel from there as a central point to – to Sorrento, Capri, etc. I think Puglia will be next 🙂 (looks so pretty!)

  2. May have to pay a visit to Naples the next time I go! I kind of like that ‘grunge’ aspect. I currently live in a city like that in the UK. Before I moved to Hull from the US, everyone was telling me that Hull is terrible and blah blah, but I came anyway, and loved it! It’s not the most glamorous city, but people are friendly, there is plenty to do and it’s close enough to travel elsewhere if I need to escape!
    🙂

    1. I really loved it 🙂 You know it’s funny you mention Hull because I never thought it was as bad as people made out and this year I actually saw that it was listed in ‘Rough Guides’ as one of the must see Cities of 2016 haha.
      I’m glad you enjoy being in the UK 🙂 I guess a big plus is how easy it is to get from one place to another, so there’s plenty to explore at weekends!

  3. I agree 100%. I first visited Naples a few years ago, after previously visiting Rome a few times, and Venice. Like you, Naples felt so ALIVE to me…the energy on the street, the scooters dashing in and out… young people sitting in the piazzas at night, socializing and drinking. The area around Garibaldi…sure, it ain’t exactly ‘pretty’ but…it never felt ‘dangerous’ to me. I remember standing in front of the station and looking out towards the sea and all the old, weathered looking hotels, that I could almost imagine what it must have been like a century or two ago…all the European seafarers who spent time there, and stayed in these hotels.

    I remember sometimes seeing an entire ‘family’ on one scooter! I saw a man driving, the woman sitting behind him, one kid on the man’s lap, and another I think on the handlebars!

    As for pedestrians trying to cross the street….I figured out pretty quickly….you cannot be afraid! 😉 You could stand there for hours trying to be polite or ‘safe’, and wait for cars and scooters to let you cross. It AIN’T ‘gon happen. lol. You must take that first step onto the street just like a bold NYer (or in this case, a Napolitano) and just announce to all the oncoming cars/scooters: “I AM going to cross this street and you ARE going to slow down for me.” And indeed, they do!

    The pizza? Margharita is of course the classic pizza there. For the first time in my life, I ate an entire pizza without stopping, when I was in Naples. It was THAT good.

    The neighborhood of Chiai. Adorable. And the Latin Quarter?? Wow…you talk about alive. Laundry hanging everywhere. Scooters darting around corners. Tiny ‘restaurants’ here and there out of people’s street-level cucinas.

    I can’t wait for my next visit there…

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