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View of Naples Italy from Airplane

Naples Italy – Real Italian City

In Italy, Travel by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch36 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.

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 power and fertility in Naples Italy.

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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 minuscule (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 visited 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 crosswalk, can be a life-risking endeavor.

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

Colorful Litter in 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, authentic Italian coffee, 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 best pizza in the world plus amazing pasta and seafood. It’s no wonder that we quickly fell in love with this great, ageless volcanic metropolis that belongs on a one-week Italy itinerary.

Food in Naples - Tomatoes, Squash Blossoms and Dried Peppers

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.

Naples Sidewalk

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

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.

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.

Italian Grandmother in Naples Italy

Italian Grandmother in Naples

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.

And so began our ongoing love affair with Naples.

Hungry for more? Check out our Naples Pizza Guide.

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About the Author

Saveur Magazine's BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.


  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!!

  2. A very accurate description of Naples! Loved the food to bits, crazy driving around there!

  3. I still haven’t made it to Naples but it is high on my list. I have heard such a great things about it but you hit the nail on the head… most people mention the food as the BEST thing about it. Can’t wait to go one day!

    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!

  4. We spent 3 weeks in Italy, but never made it to Naples. I love the pasta on the street, too funny.

  5. It is interesting what you can experience when you get past the surface. Naples sounds like a city I would enjoy – the food alone sounds like enough to get me there.

  6. Places that are too clean or perfect seem inauthentic to me…Naples sounds like it’s truly the real Italy! Would love to go someday and eat all that amazing foooood 🙂

  7. 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! 😀

  8. Such a wonderful take! And those tomatoes. Oh I could just eat them straight off the basket! Can’t wait to get to Naples!

  9. Never been to Naples but its on my list….. I hope next year 🙂

  10. 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 🙂

  11. I’ve heard so much about the food in Italy that I’m desperate to go just for that! It sounds like Naples gives you a great look at Italian traditions. I love the shot of the pasta, by the way, even if the shopkeeper didn’t!

  12. Loved your take on Naples. I adored it when I visited. Strolling around the city you really feel like a local – guess you just better watch your step or you might slip on some pasta. Terrific photos!

  13. I love this portrait of Naples you paint! Especially the details that give a place its unique character – pasta in the streets…. how perfectly italian!! 🙂

  14. How fun to venture to an undervalued part of Italy and to have someone suggest it’s actually more African than Italian! I once lived on Naples Island in Southern California that has canals but nothing resembling the picture you paint. I hope to visit its namesake one day!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. Dan has promised me that we will visit Naples the next time we are in Italy (or Africa?) and I can hardly wait to imbibe in the local wines and sample the regional cuisine. I loved your pasta on the sidewalk photo. That’s what makes travel extra fun, random sights like that.

  18. Just goes to show every destination has its charms if you just look hard enough

  19. I loved how you brought me to Naples and back. Ive never been to this city but Ive heard the food is ridiculously good. Theres nothing more beautiful than traveling through a city and discovering its true colors.

  20. I love the italian culture. Been there last year this time.jus love love it. The weather was brilliant. Wanted to visit naples but I heard it is not same for solo travelers so unfortunately I had to cut that off my list:( ..

    1. Author

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

  21. 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!

  22. 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!

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. Naples is one city I have always wanted to visit but still haven’t had the chance to see when I was in Italy.

  26. 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!

  27. Very accurate description for Naples and like any other real city. I am not surprised.

  28. I really didn’t know about Naples before but your description sounds good for me. I am currently planning to go Italy for a road trip. Will Naples will be good for that. Thanks for this post, very informative.

    1. Author

      Naples would be a good spot to either start your road trip or ditch the car. I would not attempt to park around the city since parking is most likely limited. There are plenty of car rental spots near Piazza Garibaldi or you could rent a car at the airport. If you already own a car in Europe and you must park in Napoli, you could do some further research about parking lots, etc. That being said I definitely would avoid driving around the Centro Storico. We hope you have a great trip!!

  29. Naples is absolutely an Italian gem. It’s the third biggest city in Italy and has everything a person would need: beach, country, views, museums, art (Banksy has even left his mark there), Napoletano music culture, sport, churches, subterranean, food, shopping, parks and I could continue. It amazes me that I haven’t been there before. It is such a rich city and I can’t wait to see it rise again to be the pearl of Italy that it should be.

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