Napoli Naples Real Italian City

Naples Italy – Welcome to the Jungle

In Food Tripping, Italy, Travel by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch33 Comments

Naples Italy is a rough jewel meant to be explored. With its gritty neighborhoods and some of the best food in the world, Naples is a real Italian city.

Naples is a rough jewel meant to be explored. With its gritty neighborhoods and some of the best food in the world, Naples Italy is a real Italian city.
Our First View of Naples Italy Real Italian City

Our First View of Naples

We exited the stratosphere, breezing through fluffy clouds into low altitude, as the landing wheels sprung from our small Lufthansa jet. Just then, through the airplane window, our eyes glanced upon the massive Mount Vesuvius – majestic in its steaming grandeur and the source of Naples’ power and fertility.

Our Arrival in Naples Italy

We strolled off the plane into the tiny Naples airport, passing by a touristic mozzarella di bufala stand to be greeted by our hotel driver, Pierre. After a short walk through the miniscule (by most airport standards) parking lot, we hopped in Pierre’s car and headed toward our hotel in the center of the city. On approach, as we drew closer to the ancient buildings, we were caught in a maze of scooters, pedestrians and fellow motorists. The car slowed, and, in what seemed like an interminable trip, we crossed each thoroughfare with increasing slowness like a canoe stuck in a river of tar.

Just then, Pierre asked us if we had been to Italy previously.

“Sure. We were last in Italy a few years ago,” we said. “And where did you visit?” he asked as he patiently drove through the rush hour anarchy. “We traveled to Rome, Bologna and Florence when we were last here.” we explained. “Oh. Those cities are Italy,” he stated with a cynical French accent.

“Naples is Africa.”

First Impressions

And so it goes for poor, hapless Naples. What was once the second largest city in Europe has been reduced to an afterthought to many travelers, and that’s a shame. Yes, there’s not a wall untouched by graffiti. Sure, there’s more litter on the ground than there was in Philadelphia in the 1970’s. True, crossing the street, even at a cross walk, can be a life risking endeavor.

Colorful Litter of Naples - Coca Cola Can and Lottery Tickets Nestled in a Public Sculpture Naples Italy Real Italian City

Colorful Litter of Naples – Coca Cola Can and Lottery Tickets Nestled in a Public Sculpture

But Naples could be the most authentic city in all of Italy with its ancient corners, dark alleys, passionate (and yes friendly) locals and most of all… fabulous food. The long hot summers and pure volcanic slopes of Vesuvio produce some of the best fruits and vegetables the world has to offer from fragrant aromatic basil to the long, plump San Marzano Tomatoes that have become the world’s tomato sauce standard. Add to that the the best pizza in the world plus amazing pasta and seafood – we quickly fell in love with this great, ageless volcanic metropolis.

With locally grown ingredients like these, it's no surprise that the food in Naples is so good. Tomatoes Squash Blossoms Dried Peppers Naples Italy Real Italian City

With locally grown ingredients like these, it’s no surprise that the food in Naples is so good.

Civic Pride

During our time in Naples, we saw a resurgence of civic pride. We first noticed this as we strode off Via Foria toward the center of the old city. We stopped when we noticed some pasta littering the cracks of a small cobblestone street just off the main drag. Of course we had to take a photo. To our surprise, our camera snap was greeted by the disapproving glance of a local shop owner. This was not the image he wanted us to share with our American cohorts.

In Naples, the streets aren't paved with gold. Instead, they're sprinkled with pasta. Naples Italy Real Italian City

In Naples, the streets aren’t paved with gold. Instead, they’re sprinkled with pasta.

Real Italian City

In a sense, Naples is a real Italian city – the image we in America most closely associate with the boot. Shop owners sell their wares in the streets as they have for centuries. Women still sweep the ground in front of house stoops. Master craftsmen continue to apply their skills despite the throngs of cruise ship tourists who enter the city every day. And while many of those tourists quickly and cautiously breeze through the city on their way to the ruins of Pompeii or to the nearby seaside vistas of Sorrento, Capri and the Amalfi Coast, we were more than happy to stay in Naples.

In return, Naples welcomed us like an old yet somewhat sophisticated Italian grandmother.

Italian Grandmother in Naples Italy Real Italian City

Italian Grandmother in Naples

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  1. I like what you saw! I love venice, but it doesn’t have this charm unless you really get away from the crowds, this sounds like real Italy but with plenty for a tourist too!!

    1. Author

      It’s true that we loved the food in Naples, but we also loved the city itself. You should definitely go one day!

  2. I love that you painted a real picture of Naples, something most people don’t dare show in their blog posts about a city. I loved that you said the street is sprinkled with pasta and I love how you described how it felt to be there. I definitely want to visit soon! 😀
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer recently posted…Eating My Way Through FlorenceMy Profile

  3. Your photos have so much heart, perception and humour. Love your impressions of the “littered” sculpture and the roads paved with pasta–how very Italian and endearing. I am smiling now at the thought of walking down Neapolitan roads. Beautiful post 🙂
    paper boat sailor recently posted…Postcards from Portobello RoadMy Profile

  4. Interesting review. From the title I thought maybe you hated it, but it seems like just the opposite. And, at first glance I thought the one photo was cigarette butts in the cracks of the street, but when I read it was pasta, well, I just LOVE that! Thanks for sharing.
    Amber recently posted…Bubble Tea – Tasty TuesdayMy Profile

  5. That Italian grandmother is just too cute! Reminds me of the Madrileña grandmother I live with who sometimes cooks for me (best tortilla in town!). I’m planning an extensive Italian extravaganza this summer so, I’ll add Naples to the Itinerary. Love the cities that seem to be overlooked, yet have so much to offer.

    1. Author

      We too had been warned about Naples, but we felt as safe there as in any other big city.

  6. I love chaotic and “not too clean”, authentic cities, so it looks like Naples would be my cup of tea!! I am sure that it is indeed a 100% more “real” than Venice or Rome, even if this cities might be prettier from an aesthetic point of view!
    Els recently posted…Join me on a food tour around AthensMy Profile

  7. My first thought looking at the sprinkled with pasta streets was “Of course, all Italians smoke!” and then I realized that it wasn´t cigarette buds but pasta :)) Very accurate post!

  8. When we were planning our last trip to Italy, we did not hesitate to include Naples on the itinerary. People thought we were nuts, especially since we were bringing our then-two-year-old daughter. It turned out to be our favorite city of the trip for many of the same reasons you mention. Aside from the food, what sticks with me most is the hospitality of the Neapolitani. We were welcomed warmly everywhere we went. We can’t wait to go back!
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted…Best family hotel in Springfield, Illinois: Residence Inn by MarriottMy Profile

  9. Naples is amongst my favourite Italian cities because it’s not what people expect. People always project an image of an unsafe and unclean Naples, and whilst that’s certainly not inaccurate; the people are a wonder to meet with, just as you’ve mentioned.
    Dale recently posted…Five Tips and Pics for AntwerpMy Profile

  10. I love your take on Naples and your pics! I have been to 9 cities in Italy now and I love it. I will say I was one of those tourists that didn’t spend much time in Naples. We stopped there on a cruise and took a tour to Pompeii, Capri and Sorrento. All interesting and beautiful. I had heard such negative things about Naples but next time I’ll explore!
    Nadeen recently posted…Black History Month: Alvin Ailey Dancers-Glenn & Linda Sims!My Profile

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