The Streets of Naples
The Streets of Naples
Chances are you’ve been to another city in Italy before you find yourself in Napoli, the capital of the southern region of Campania, a place famous for it’s pizza. You’ve probably been to more manicured and curated cities like Rome and/or Florence, that are catered to the tourist. Whether you’ve frequented the Milan train station or walked the deserted alleyways of Venice at night, Naples will come as a bit of a shock to you. And no, it’s not because of all the things you’ve heard about pickpockets (which are everywhere in Italy) or the Mafia, but because Naples has a true air of realness.
The street and city life lacks the usual touristic elements that you find in some larger Italian cities and leaves room for the day to day to be appreciated. Like Genoa, it might be hard to find what’s unique and special about the place… because it takes time to discover it. But as soon as I got to Naples, I knew it was there. I would just take me some time (and a little courage) to find.
While that is a task that could take months, as well as making some amici to help you out, I was able to appreciate the richness of the historic center in the little time I was there. I happened to find my way onto the spaccanapoli. The spaccanapoli is a decumanus street, an east-west avenue, that splits Naples’ historic center in half. Its name literally means “Naples splitter.” You’ll quickly notice that you might be one of the few actual tourists on the streets.
As you walk along this pedestrian avenue, you feel like you’re walking through a cavern where life is happening above you in the little apartments and spilling out as hanging plants and onto laundry lines. Flags also wave and sway as you walk, hailing from far off places you wouldn’t initially expect. On the street you’ll pass tiny dogs, pizza parlors serving “la vera pizza Napoletana,” and pastry shops that specialize in one of the most delicious treats I’ve ever had, sfogliatelle. (A palm-sized package stuffed with orange-scented ricotta and carefully wrapped into a flaky, cone-shaped pastry. Basically heaven in your hand and I suggest you have one at Antico Forno Attanasio.) Old people, kids, seedy looking dudes, all sharing the alleys of the center and discussing the day’s happening in their particular accent. “Capito?“
If you walk towards the coast, you’ll reach the bay of Naples and have a great view Vesuvius, as well as Sorrento and Capri in the distance. I happened to be in town on a Sunday, so I got to see everyone out on the streets after Sunday morning mass with their families. I felt like I was finally witnessing that big family culture us Americans are made to believe is characteristic of all of Italy. Kids were playing on the street in their Sunday best while adults have their lunch, drink some wine and catch up under the sun.
While Naples is typically used a gateway to Pompeii, Capri, and the Amalfi coast, I urge you to take at least an afternoon to walk the spaccanapoli and for a mandatory stop in a pizzeria. The pizza is as good as people say it is. I had an amazing pie at Dal Presidente, but Da Michele is the most famous in town.
Naples is gritty. There’s trash is a lot of places you wouldn’t expect. There are seedy characters standing on street corners. As a solo female traveler you’re warned to keep your bag close at all times and head back home before dark. All good advice that I would take but don’t let that deter you from enjoying or visiting the city. Give it a chance, go with an open mind and accepting eyes, and maybe the city will charm you like it did me.