Location: Ayr, Scotland
Temp: A balmy 6°c
Back in October when I arrived in Naples, I had a head cold, and as soon as I got off the train, within five minutes two strangers warned me to “watch my bags”. This would be the catch-cry of this visit…WATCH YOUR BAGS.
Then arriving at my hostel, my female roommates were telling me how dangerous Naples is.
And to be honest…I was confused.
I had turned up excited and felt no danger or reason for anxiety. And yet, I kept hearing this repetitive rhetoric of ‘thievery’ and ‘danger’. I heard it so much that I had to wonder if I had been naive. Should I have done more research? Should I be more concerned?
So…and I am embarrassed to admit this…I was on tip-toes for my first day in Naples and was nervous to go out at night. And I hate being restricted.
It turns out, that this idea of Naples being dangerous is absolutely not true. It is a really cool, grungy, upbeat city with a lot happening – cute bars, restaurants with amazing food and live music in the street every night. It has beautiful historical buildings, a gorgeous waterfront promenade and an ancient underground city (who knew! I didn’t.)
Sure. It’s not as pretty as other Italian cities. It’s not so well lit. Enthusiastic motorcyclists drive their scooters a bit too fast for comfort down pedestrian streets. But that is just surface stuff.
And this made me reflect on the power of perspective.
The difference between what I saw and what my roommates saw of Naples was completely coloured by our attitude towards and perception of the city. They chose to be cautious and fearful. I (eventually) wanted to push past that and see it for what it really was.
Maybe they did this because they were expecting something different. Maybe, as solo female travellers they felt more vulnerable and were being extra cautious.
But I saw a vivacious city with great food and a fun vibe, and I wanted to get the most out of it.
Rome too was a place I was misinformed about. I was told not to spend too much time there because there is not much to do…this is where I throw my head back and laugh out loud. HA HA HA HA HA!
This is also not true.
I sadly only had three days to soak up the history and beauty of the city, but I wish I’d had more time. I only scratched the surface.
Sure. If you’re not interested in history at all, you may not see the big deal about Rome. But Rome epitomises what Italy is all about – in every aspect of life they put thought, love and passion into it. Their food, architecture, music, urban design, fashion, conversation. And you can feel it everywhere you go. It’s an onslaught of history, culture and beauty, and it is awesome. Respect Italy. Respect.
And so, my time in both cities was an in-the-face lesson about perspective….this word again.
Everyone goes through life imprinting onto their experience. This is not a bad thing – it’s very normal. But I feel it’s key to remember this and be mindful of how we as individuals project onto our existence. And to also be mindful of the information we receive.
I definitely took advice on this trip, tucked it into my travel tool-belt, and went forth blind, using anything I’d been given only as needed, and forgetting the things I did not need. I’ve seen my own Italy and had my own experience and it was awesome. And I took this process with me to every city I visited after that.
You will have your own experience. Whatever that may be I hope you receive immense joy from it.
If you have ever visited a place and had an experience you didn’t expect, please comment below, I’d love to hear about it!
The best place for pizza that is also stupidly cheap is Pizzeria da Michele. Everyone will probably tell you to go here anyway, so you can’t miss it. They have only two types of giant pizzas for 4€ and I am told they are delicious. There is always a queue outside due to it’s appearance in the film Eat, Pray, Love. But it’s worth the wait.
If you want (need, same-same) freaking amazing gluten free pizza, do yourself a favour and head to Dal Presidente Pizzeria. You won’t even be able to tell that it’s gluten free. Seriously.
I totally forgot about the existence of this dish until I got to Naples. The city is known for it’s beef ragu. Make sure you sample it’s, it’s incredible.
- The ancient underground city
Beneath the city are the ruins of ancient roman aqueduct systems and a forum which is now disguised by apartment buildings built right into it. It is interesting, darkly beautiful and otherworldy – definitely worth a visit. Tours are run regularly in different languages: https://www.napolisotterranea.org/en/naples-underground/.
The ancient site of Pompeii is an easy day trip from Naples, if you don’t want to stay for a day or two. All I can say is DO IT. It is a sprawling site with so much still standing you can almost imagine being there when it was a a living-breathing city. In fact, it’s so huge you may need more than one day…totally up to you. It’s always nice to have options.
It’s tempting to say “everything” but that would be cheating…
- Altare della Patria
Is a memorial to all fallen Italian solders from World War 1 and a tribute to Italy’s first king. It also holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (many European cities have this. What does it mean?! Is it the same guy? Or a different unknown soldier in each country? Someone please explain.)
Though the building of this monument was controversial at the time, it is incredibly beautiful and it has great views over the streets below.
- Colosseo & Foro Romano
The Colosseum. Enough said. I cannot describe in words the feeling one gets when you jump on the Metro, and exit the station at Colosseo and there in all it’s giant glory is the Colloseum one has heard and read so much about. This famous and significant ancient site ‘just casually’ sitting in the middle of the city. Whatever.
Hint: Go super early i.e. 8.30pm and buy your ticket that gets you into the Colloseum and the Forum from the Forum entrance. There will be NO QUEUES. You also get incredible morning light which really does the Forum a lot of favours. Give yourself half a day to enjoy these two sites.
- Walk along the River Tiber. It’s gorgeous. (Yes, everything is being described as gorgeous. Because it is. Prepare yourselves for the word “cute” to come up a lot in later blogs).
- The Pantheon
Another ancient building “just casually” sitting in the middle of the city’s historical centre. It’s an incredible domed building with a hole in the middle of the ceiling. It sounds weird but it’s beautiful. See if you can figure out how they deal with drainage in the temple after it rains…