top of page
Search

Naples, Italy: Boisterous, Gritty, and Lovable



Above is a slideshow with a collection of images from our visit to Naples, Italy.



We begin our three-month visit to Italy with a four-day stint in Naples - the third largest city in Italy and one of the most densely populated in all of Europe. Naples was never on our “Italy bucket list”, but its proximity to the Amalfi Coast and the ruinous towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum made it a great starting point for our journey.



The streets of Naples are anything but beautiful, charming, or quaint. Instead, they are chaotic, crowded, gritty, graffiti-ridden, quite dirty in places, unsafe in certain areas, and very unpolished . . . and yet there’s a vibrancy and energy to it that makes it a very compelling city. In her own unique way, a certain beauty and charm emerges and like this traveler, you may find that Naples, seemingly against all odds, touches your heart.


As someone we met in Pompeii said: (and hear yourself saying this with an Italian accent) “you have tears when you arrive in Naples, and you have tears when you leave”.



As I walk the Neapolitan streets I am reminded of the “Grunge Music Scene” (as it was called in the 1990’s). Grunge music burst on to the scene in the late 1980’s and was characterized by its gritty sound and introspective lyrics. It became popular for its raw and unfiltered expression, embracing an edgier sound that seemed to be a direct response to the glossy and polished music dominating the airwaves in the 1980’s.



My favorite of the “Grunge Bands” was Pearl Jam, featuring Eddie Vedder. Their music was often edgier and more metallic than what I would typically listen to, but Vedder’s distinctive passionate voice, characterized by its rawness and emotive quality, was refreshing. The band connected with youth and those who were feeling the angst of a society whose polish seemed to ignore the underbelly of life that so many were experiencing.



Naples personifies the message of Grunge Music. It’s ironic how close it is to the Amalfi Coast . . . with all its beauty, polish, and sophistication. Naples, on the other hand, speaks to a more everyday “reality”. She doesn’t dress herself up to create an idealized persona of what she thinks tourists might be interested in seeing or experiencing. Not at all. It’s a city that is authentic - embracing her depth, her darker aspects, and even the vulnerability that you might feel as you walk the streets - this is important and real to Naples.



Naples can be off-putting in the same way that seeing our own edgier stuff can be off-putting. Most of us don’t like looking at our own darkness or truly facing the reality that occasionally emerges from the very real depths of our being. It can feel uncomfortable. Well . . . welcome to Naples. She is the embodiment, in the form of a city, of our edgier, angstier side . . . which - like it or not -most of us have and experience from time to time.



On a lighter note, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention pizza. Naples is the birthplace of pizza, and you can’t walk 12 steps without encountering (smelling) a pizzeria. I did my very best to embrace the pizza-eating culture of Naples and ate quite a few!


It was easily the best pizza I’ve ever had, and so simple. The crust is thin and light, with a delicious sauce and fresh mozzarella on top, and it is delicious. If you pay more than 8€, you’ve been swindled. Even if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not a “pizza person” (ha!) . . . be willing to let go of that self-image. Naples will change how you feel about pizza forever.



So yes, we enjoyed Naples. Am I looking forward to a return visit? Probably not - once was enough for me. But am I glad I experienced this gritty city? Absolutely! Even as I began writing this article, I wasn’t sure in the end if I would recommend Naples . . . but I say yes - visit Naples - and allow her to touch your edgier, grittier, darker side.


And to get you in the mood . . . a little Eddie Vedder please. Listen to the soundtrack from the movie, “Into the Wild.”, which he wrote and performed. And it’s the perfect title for a visit to Naples, Italy.


113 views10 comments

10 Comments


Guest
Oct 02, 2023

Well done Simcha. regarding pizzas, it’s hard in the US to find the delicious simplicity of an Italian pizza. We have a couple in Denver and thoroughly enjoy each morsel when we dine there.

Like
Simcha
Simcha
Oct 03, 2023
Replying to

Thank you . . . and so true about pizza, and glad you do have access to some good pizzerias. Over here, they stay with simplicity . . . not a lot of toppings, but the basics are so well done: great crust, fresh (often local) mozzarella, and sauce that has been slow cooking and blending for at least 12 hours. They still see pizza-making as an artisan event . . . and it shows.

Like

So interesting and descriptive, Simcha. Do you think much of the graffiti brightened up worn out/dirty structures or was some of it destroying what was once beautiful architecture?

Like
Simcha
Simcha
Oct 01, 2023
Replying to

Thanks Monica. I think of Naples as a beautiful mess and tend to think of graffiti (from the perspective of those who create it) as less about being destructive and more about being irreverent. It's more of a modern day way of expression for those who feel they don't have a voice. It's odd because there is so much graffiti in Naples that it almost blends together into what becomes art . . . with the shapes, designs, and colors so prevalent. These day, from our travels, graffiti is common in so many European cities.

Like

Lynne Jaffe
Lynne Jaffe
Sep 29, 2023

A boy and his pizza! So cute! To many buildings and people for me though..

Like
Simcha
Simcha
Sep 30, 2023
Replying to

I get that, Lynne. Most cities we visit here in Europe have wonderful and beautiful green spaces. Naples . . . not so much. A definite lack of the natural world in the city itself. Of course, beyond the city is the ocean and Mount Vesuvius, where nature is well represented. And yes, fun times eating pizza. I have already ingested enough pizza to last me the entire trip. 😊

Like

enebhut
enebhut
Sep 29, 2023

I now have an itch to see Herculaneum. And to eat Neapolitan pizza. 😊

Like
Simcha
Simcha
Sep 29, 2023
Replying to

I'd recommend scratching those itches! 😉 Both Herculaneum and Pompeii felt otherworldly . . . it's like seeing a town frozen in time.

Like

Jerry Sherman
Jerry Sherman
Sep 29, 2023

Beautifully presented. Thanks!

Like
Simcha
Simcha
Sep 29, 2023
Replying to

Thank you, Jerry. I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Like
bottom of page