We spent about 24 hours in Naples so we could visit the famous archeological museum and taste the real deal in Neopolitan Pizza. In my humble opinion, Naples is only for the intrepid traveler. Crossing the street is like playing dodgeball with no rules, except, don’t get hit! Finding the names of the streets is even harder. The standard stone plaques found on most street corners in all of Italy are few and far between in Naples. The mix of kamikaze motorcycles and narrow, cobblestone streets make walking a frenetic workout, at best.
The Old Centro Area
It was probably not a good idea to visit on a Sunday. This is one of the busier days in the city, especially on a sunny, spring afternoon. We arrived a bit too late for the amazing, National Museum of Archeology. But we managed to use the metro and bus system to get to the art museum on the hill called Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte. We enjoyed the walk in the park that led to the museum, which had our favorite artist, Carravaggio and other excellent artists from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
We did accomplish our goal of finding great Neopolitan Pizza. The more famous pizza parlor, Sorbillo, was closed on Sunday (another reason to pick another day). But we were advised to try Pizzeria I Decumani, and we were very satisfied with our choice. The dinner service started at 7 p.m. and there was a group already waiting for the doors to open—a good sign. We had fun talking to a young couple from South Africa and Sardinia, who gave us more tips on Naples.
Bob and pizza
On the way home from dinner, we decided to walk back to the hotel, which was about eight blocks away. As we navigated the unfamiliar and dark lanes, a guy on a motorcycle stopped abruptly in front of me. I thought he was trying to back into a parking space, but he quickly grabbed my small purse that I had safely strapped across me. I held on to my purse tightly as I yelled loudly at him, so he gave up and sped away. I didn’t have much money on me, but I had my beloved iPhone, which I wasn’t about to give up, without a fight. Bob yelled at him, too, but there wasn’t anything left to do but get back to our hotel. You would think we had enough of night walking, but Bob hadn’t had his gelato for the night. So we went back out for a quick dessert (I left my purse in the hotel room). As we walked down the main street near the incident, we saw three young women in serious conversation with the local police. One of them was without a purse. So we assumed that the same robber finally had some success.
A Typical Scene
There is one more challenge in visiting this interesting and frustrating city—the garbage. In a city filled with so many architectural treasures, it’s sad to see so much litter in the streets and parks. There are city garbage bins, but they were overflowing the day we were there. Even the next day on our morning walk, we saw litter everywhere. The smell was pretty bad on some streets, and I can’t imagine how awful it would be walking around this city in the summer months.
One of Many Fountains
Our morning walk to the Pio Monte Della Miserecordia was worth braving the streets again. Inside this old church is an amazing painting by Caravaggio that was commissioned by the bishop of Naples. Seeing this painting in its original setting and learning about the symbolism was even more powerful. There was also a small museum next door included in the price. We finished our visit with some excellent pastries (svogliatella) in a coffee bar nearby.
Despite the difficulties of living in this chaotic city, most of the people here seemed to be taking it in stride. We heard lively and cordial conversations in the streets and we met some nice people. When we needed help figuring out the bus system, a local family gave us advice and then talked to us for quite awhile about what to see and where to eat. The people in the pastry shops and the baristas were also quite friendly. There is definitely plenty of good food and excellent coffee to be found. There are many other sites we missed, due to our schedule and we didn’t even make it to the bay, which is the site for the America’s Cup this year.
I also have to add that our hotel was excellent. We chose a chain hotel (UNA) for the first time because it was very close to the train station. It was the most organized and clean spot we visited in Naples. Our room was modern, spotless and very quiet—even though it was on a main avenue facing the train station. Breakfast was also included in the price. We were offered more selections than we could eat, and the espresso was excellent.
So, Naples has plenty to offer, as long as you are up for the challenges and you always have your wits about you.