Naples felt a lot different than most other towns I visited on my whirlwind Italy trip. Arriving by bus meant driving through dense, chaotic traffic along narrow streets, and compared to places like Rome and Florence, Naples looks…well, grittier. Maybe a little dirty.
Alright, it’s downright ugly at times.
But if you’ve been reading me for awhile you probably already know that I LIVE for those kind of cities.
Most people come to Naples as a gateway to the Amalfi Coast, or for Pompeii, or Capri. It doesn’t seem to strike a chord with most adventurers. For me, though, the experience was one of my favourite. Here’s why you should visit Naples.
Napoli people are awesome
Up until that point, my hostel experiences in Italy were completely lacklustre. I was often the oldest person there by 80 years, I hadn’t slept in weeks, and the staff members were usually too busy manning a thousand different guests to care all that much about me. There was a high school group of at least 50 kids at my hostel in Florence, for fucksakes.
So I showed up at this hostel and was greeted by Luca and his staff, and immediately treated to some espresso. Then I was given the proper spiel — what to do in the city, where to find the best pizza, what walking tour I should go on, etc. They were incredibly attentive during my whole visit, and became friends to me. One evening I was just hanging out in the kitchen, and a staff member came along and gave me some fresh blueberries and a bottle of beer.
AND the hostel hosts free meals twice a week. On Thursday night, we had homemade pasta and bottomless sangria. Then me and a few others hung out in the common room until 5AM smoking and drinking on the patio. The hostel definitely catered to an older crew, and other than a handful of young Canadians saying they were from “east coast Canada” (they meant Toronto), everyone was great. (Screw those guys, though.)
The pizza is so good, you’ll cry
Pizza is kinda what Naples is known for. But you gotta know where to find it…and no, it doesn’t have to be that place where Elizabeth Gilbert ate.
I put this off until the last day of my trip, but me and my friend Lisa finally went to find proper Napoli pizza at Pizzeria Sorbillo after watching some Eurocup in a beer garden. I went for the basic margherita — the classic. I cried. It was so good, I cried. Pizza makes me cry. No seriously.
How to tell it’s good Napoli pizza: the bottom has to look a little black in some places — like a leopard print; the centre must be kinda soupy; there shouldn’t be too many ingredients, and you should be able to fold it in half.
Basically anywhere along Via dei Tribunali is excellent.
I know I have an obsession with Domino’s but this is a whole new level of pizza awesomeness.
It’s not just pizza that’s awesome in Naples, though. On my night out with Harriet, we stopped at Pescheria Mattiucci, a raw seafood standing-room only restaurant. The place was quite crowded, but the owner helped us to set up a table outside.
We consumed an enormous amount of seafood, seriously. PLATES of it. I have never seen bigger oysters in my life. We drank jugs of wine. JUGS! And there I was, still not fully over my smoked salmon food poisoning experience in Spain, pushing around delectable pieces of calamari on my plate. I didn’t eat a whole lot. Still, though, I appreciated the experience.
The Old Town is a confusing and magnificent labyrinth
One day, me and Lisa got hopelessly lost in the Old Town. I have no idea where we were even trying to get to — I think perhaps a lookout over the city. We wandered forever, between narrow streets and under huge awnings overflowing with colourful laundry strung out to dry. Drivers on mopeds were bumper to bumper, and most of them were continuously checking their cell phones.
It was sketchy as fuck at times, but memorable too. My favourite scene: two 20-somethings leaning out the bottom windows of their respective apartments, shutters flung open, yelling at each other in Italian conversation from opposite ends of the street.
There are safe, hyper-local places where few tourists tread
My bloggy friend Harriet lives in Naples, and so one evening she invited me out with her friends at Spuzzule.
It took me awhile to find the place — it’s off Via Toledo. But when I arrived, Harriet and her buddies were sitting outside in the street, around a giant wine cask being used as a table. They evidently knew the owner because he kept appearing with more goodies. Harriet is British but she’s lived in Naples for seven years, so it’s fun to watch her switch from the polite, reserved British conversational tone to full-on, hands-flailing Italian.
Anyway. We ordered wine, and beer, and little plates of food. There were Italians all around us, with the exception of our little table. We also had a random American join us because she was drinking alone and well, that’s what people do. The night got weird.
So I was sitting there drinking my beer, and cars kept trying to squeeze down the ridiculously narrow street, and every time the driver would lean out the window and say something to us in good humour about us blocking the way. I shit you not, at one point, a car caught the leg of my stool and started dragging me with it. I kept trying to pull closer in to the table, but everyone was like, “Nah, this is okay.” The drivers weren’t perturbed in the slightest.
Later, we ended up ordering drinks from a sort of kiosk window in this side street lined with bars and clubs and such. We drank on benches and talked about life and flirted with Italian men. As you do.
I realize I started off by saying how ugly Naples can be at time, but it has pockets of unbelievable beauty too.
There’s the coastline, to begin with. And the Castel Nuovo. Half the treasures from Pompeii are at the Archaeological Museum of Naples. And, well, you won’t find too many people shoving selfie sticks into your face as you stroll the city squares. I think that’s beautiful.
Oh, and the main train station is full of giant, colourful snails.