Friday, September 1, 2017

Don't be afraid of Naples.

Naples is Italy's third largest city after Rome and Milan. More importantly, it's the birthplace of PIZZA! Do you even need another reason to travel there? I used to think that I didn't like pizza until I moved to Europe. Needless to say, I'm now a fan a pizza.

Naturally, our first stop after checking into the hotel was to find pizza. The place Elvera researched online and had good reviews was already closed because Chef Matteo "ran out of dough." You can't expect Matteo to make more dough!! He closes his restaurant for the day whenever his dough runs out. Oh Italy.

Thankfully, the street near our hotel, the Via dei Tribunali, is known as the "pizza street." We quickly found some equally delicious Neapolitan pizza. We also discovered something else magical about this city- it's the cheapest place I've ever been in Europe!! A standard pizza cost less than 4 euros- half of what you would pay in Cannes.

With added strength, we set out on a guided tour of "Underground Naples." It is a series of tunnels under the city center that were originally used as aqueducts and later as bomb shelters during WWII. We learned that Naples was the most-bombed city in Italy (by the Allies) during the war. There are still items left behind by people who took shelter in these tunnels.

Tunnel entrance

One part of the tour was PITCH black through a tunnel so narrow you had to shuffle along sideways. We wondered how the tour guides awkwardly tell large people that they wouldn't fit when they try to sign up for the tour. It's not somewhere you'd want to get stuck.

After our tour, we made it to the Duomo di Napoli before it closed. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Italians have the most beautiful churches in the world.

Naples is one of those cities with a "reputation." It's known as kind of a gritty port city (not super safe or clean), à la Marseille. I never felt unsafe, but the amount of graffiti was hilarious. Every square inch of wall space in the city center was, shall we say, 'decorated.' 

It was also the dirtiest place I've been in Europe. They don't seem to be great at garbage collection. 

That being said, Naples was still a beautiful and interesting place. I really wasn't phased by some garbage or graffiti. It was nothing compared to East Jerusalem! And the pizza alone was worth a visit.

To prove myself on the 'interesting' claim, here's a lovely souvenir we found. For just 2 euros, you too could wipe your butt with the world leader or soccer player of your choice.

On our second day in Naples, we saw a whole new side of the city. After a day trip to Pompeii (coming up in another post), we got off the metro and were surprised to find ourselves in very classy neighborhood.

This covered shopping gallery is very similar to the one in Milan.

We came across the Palazzo di Napoli by accident and weren't sure if we wanted to pay to go inside. There was an open door in the courtyard. Elvera took matters into her own hands and just waltzed right in. There was a guard sitting by the door who saw her, but he didn't care and just kept looking at his phone. Again, that Italian work ethic is unbeatable haha.

Workin' hard
I thought she would just pop in the lobby and come back out, but Elvera took the opportunity to quickly tour the palace for free. Eventually she felt guilty and found me again. On her recommendation that it was worth seeing, we forked over the 4 euros (seriously, everything is cheap there!) and went inside legally. We laughed about all of the guards who had already seen Elvera speed-walking through the same rooms a few minutes earlier.

After some gelato for dinner, our sightseeing time in Naples was over. 

I'll leave you with one last travel tip- if you ever get lost in Naples, just ask these friendly soldiers in Piazza Dante for directions. I'm pretty sure Elvera "got lost" a few times just to talk to her new friends.

On a related note- don't try to speak English in Naples. You'll have a lot more success with French or Spanish. I was surprised by how many people spoke French. They didn't seem to actually speak Spanish, but Elvera discovered that if she just spoke Spanish at Italians she could usually get her point across. Combine French and Spanish with my baby level of Italian and we were golden.

Coming up... day trips to Pompeii and Sorrento. Naples was a great base for exploring southern Italy.

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