Even though we only had one night in Naples (Napoli), we could tell that it’s one of the top destinations to visit in Italy. Is it dangerous? A bit. Was it yummy? Yes it was. It’s also the birthplace of the pizza, but more importantly – the first trip we took together. Aw.
One Night in Naples
Naples is gritty. It’s also urban, crowded, run-down, and a popular mugging spot. Basically, it has a reputation for being the big, bad crime city of Italy.
Maybe it was at one point. But that didn’t matter to us. It might have been our NYC arrogance, but we thought how bad could it be.
Just like any other city, we had to be smart. And it ended up being fine. Yes, some views and streets are prettier than others. But there were plenty of nice buildings and things to do in Naples.
Plus, this was the first trip that we took when we moved to Italy, so even if we were just walking around we didn’t care.
In general, we really liked Naples. It had pretty views of the sea and from certain points we could make out Mount Vesuvius in the distance. The people there are also so stereotypically “Italian”, which we loved.
Annie likes to say how she saw one of the most Italian things that she’d ever seen in her life in Naples. She was on the bus and stopped at a red light. Looking out the window she saw an Italian man zooming by on his Vespa. In one hand he was holding the handle, in his other hand he was holding an espresso cup. Quei pazzi italiani.
That’s what we loved about la bella Napoli in particular. It had a lot of culture. It’s kind of hard to tell in the pictures, but the narrow, winding streets added a lot of charm to the city.
We liked hearing people yell at each other through the windows in Italian. And it was down-right adorable to see an old lady lower a basket on a string to the street so that someone could put something in it for her. It was so quaint.
Naples Street Food
Ah, the Neapolitan food. Other than it’s close proximity to Pompei and Capri, Naples is known for its food. And the food in Naples is delizioso. Everywhere on the street your surrounding by food, food, food.
Neapolitan cuisine traces its roots back to the Greco-Roman days. Since then, it’s combined the flavors of many different regions, including France and Aragon. It’s characterized by rural ingredients, like pastas, vegetables, and cheeses.
Of course being right on the coast, lots of the dishes incorporate seafood, particularly from the Tyrrhenian sea.
In 1759, when Ferdinando Galiani, an Italian economist, was sent to Paris, he famously pined for the delicious foods and seafood of Naples.
As quoted in A Woman, A Man, and Two Kingdoms: The Story of Madame d’Épinay and the Abbé Galiani, Galiani found “no fruit, no cheese, no good seafood— everything here does violence to the Neapolitan temperament”.
Pizza in Naples, Italy
The best part of Naples is the Neapolitan pizza. We planned what we were going to do around when we were going to eat the pizza.
And somehow we got the guys making the pizza to let us go behind the counter and help out! Getting a behind the scenes type photo-op like that (but with a better quality camera!) is pure gold for travel bloggers.
We weren’t at the time. It’s just fun to think of how not much has changed from when we first met and started hopping around the globe.
We’re not just saying this, the pizza we had in Naples was one of the best pizzas that we’ve ever had. We’re a bit spoiled in New York with all the good pizza parlors at our disposal, but maybe there’s something in the water in Naples. It was so good.
Christmas Market in Naples
We went to Naples more than once when we lived in Italy. The second time Annie went was during the Christmas season, so she got to see the famous Napoli Christmas market.
Neapolitans are famous for their hand-crafted Nativity scenes (il presepe) made by local artisans. We’re told that Giussepe Ferrigno still has his famous workshop in the city.
As she walked around the market streets during Christmastime, she ran across hundreds of nativity scenes. The tradition in Naples is to start display nativity scenes on December 8th, during the Feast of The Immaculate Conception.
The baby Jesus is added to the manager on Christmas Eve, the night before his birth. The displays stay up until January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany.
History of Napoli
Naples has such a long, extensive history its hard to start. Briefly, Naples was an important port city for most of its time. It’s considered one of the most ancient cities in Europe, dating back to 470 BC (when they called it Neapolis, meaning New City).
Naples played key roles during the transmission of Greek to Roman society, the Roman Republic, the Angevin dynasty, the Aragonese government, and the Bourbons.
As we know, location is everything. Naples being located on the Bay of Naples certainly helped the city remain an important area for trade and commerce. It supplied the funding to its rise to power and prestige.
We saw its legacy all throughout the city. One of the most famous sights is Castel Nuovo – a medieval castle located next to Piazza Municipio in central Naples. It was built in 1279 and during the reign of the Kingdom of Naples, became the nucleus of the city.
Napoleon Bonaparte’s was also interested in Naples. He made his elder brother, Joseph, King of Naples in 1806. By the time Joseph, and his wife Julie (pictured above) left Naples, the people of Naples had said of them, “The King arrived like a sovereign, and left like a brigand. The Queen arrived in rags and left like a sovereign.”
Overall, Naples was a great starting point of our adventures in Italy and beyond. Hopefully, we’ll find ourselves in Naples again – preferably eating the pizza.
If you love all things Italy like we do, then you’ll love when I climbed the infamous Mt. Etna volcano in Sicily!