Naples is a city that overwhelms the senses. It's such a travel cliché but so apt and not in a completely positive way.
One of the huge contradictions that floored me about Italy in general, and Naples in particular, is that people will wear I love Italy or I love clothing, they'll fly flags and proudly proclaim their civic pride but have no qualms about filling their streets with trash. Is that love for your city?
Maybe I've been completely indoctrinated by the "Keep Australia Beautiful" campaigns I grew up.
Naples is a city that isn't so much as a destination for many travellers but a place to pass through on their way to Capri or Pompeii or the Amalfi Coast. Being the middle of the peak season for travellers, I decided to skip the overcrowded places (about from two side trips I'll post about later) and stick to Naples.
The overwhelming of the senses, well for starters the humidity was so intense even the host at my BnB and his girlfriend were complaining. I hit the city in prime shitful heat season. Seriously, everywhere I went, people would say the weather had been wonderful up until when I got there then it either turned rainy or too hot. I think I'm a weather jinx.
Then there's the smells. The piles of trash in the streets are part of it but also the pizza and all the good foods.
And noise. People in this city do NOT shut up. Screaming, laughing, stereos blaring, yelling from your balcony to the person across the square or the kids playing on the street. I woke up one morning at 4am to blissful silence only for it start up again about 20 minutes later.
Just a walk down the street means dodging scooters parked on the narrow footpath and displays spilling out from shops and the locals who don't move out of your way. Step onto the road to avoid them and you may as well have a target on your back for traffic. Just crossing the road is an ordeal in Naples. Best to tag along beside a local, even better if they're a nun.
All this crazy street life mixes in religion from huge churches to tiny street shrines. One of the side streets in the historical district is famous for it's nativities that sell blonde haired, blue eyes baby Jesuses, the standard range of nativity farm animals and even popular soccer players decked out nativity style.
Everywhere you look, street art covers ancient walls with messages beyond my Italian comprehension (not that difficult to do).
But mostly, Naples is about food. I arrived with the intention of eating all the pizza but the heat left me with little appetite. In Australia and in Japan, I find I can only eat inside where it's air conditioned but, in Italy, if there is air conditioning, it's not much cooler than the temperature outside.
Then there is the problem of where to eat. The best and most famous pizza places in Naples have huge queues. Being alone, I didn't relish the thought of an hour wait amongst rowdy customers on the street. Luckily, the pizza places sell croquettes and other premade snacks to go (or to stay your stomach until you get your pizza).
I did find one sit down place that wasn't the best pizza in Naples, not even second best but even fair to middling pizza in Naples is still amazing. It also introduced me to Italian style service. I waited forever to get a menu then forever to have my order taken. I got paranoid that they didn't want solo diners at their restaurant until I noticed it happening to everyone. Then the waiter apologised because he had to service TEN tables on his own! That was just taking orders, the food came directly from the kitchen. I laughed.
The heat meant passing up on the awesome looking pastries too but luckily I didn't have to skip the gelato.
I stayed slap-bang in the middle of the historical district, which meant slap-bang in the middle of the intensity. My BnB was a really old building with thick stone walls that adjoined the Duomo so did provide a respite. It also meant climbing four huge flights of stairs so I felt justified in the pizza and gelato I did eat.
The view from my window at night - my camera skills aren't the best but what an amazing view of the statue on a pole in the middle of the square.
I spend most of my time wandering the streets, taking it all in, then stopping for a wine or a snack and continuing on. I did try to hit a tourist attractions but they were closed (I really need to start checking opening hours for things). After three nights in Naples, I was weary but glad I went there. It's a city so full of energy and life. I have absolutely no idea how people manage to live there though.
Note: a lot of tourist information about Naples makes it sound dangerous, like every second local is a pickpocket or bag snatcher. I had absolutely no problems at all, taking normal, sensible precautions. It's no better or worse than any other city in that regard.