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yuliangpang Naples - A travel report by yuliang
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Naples,  Italy - flag Italy -  Campania
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yuliangpang's travel reports

When the Prejudices Are Gone, Love Will Come

  9 votes
Page: 1 2
I have heard too many negative things about Naples, which stands in the way to motivating me to have had a close look at it over the past years. I have passed it several times, but I have never dared to drop a visit. I found I took everything for granted.

Naples Bay
Naples Bay
There are some gossips about Naples floating all over the world, among other things, the biggest gossip is that Naples is the heaven of crimes and it is dangerous for tourists. I have been told many times, even by my local italian friends, "don't go there". Naples is really like a scar somewhere in the body for Italy that everybody would like to hide it as much as he can.

To see a thing once is better than hearing about it a hundred times. I have finally decided to ignore all these friendly warnings to go and have a close look by myself.

Naples is the capital of the Campania region, one of the major agriculture areas in Italy. Neapolitans say "Naples, City of a thousand faces", my personal experience there told me that it is true. Naples is indeed a city with a thousand faces. But the first face it showed to me was its poverty. I was shocked at what I saw at Piazza Garibaldi, the immediate square I got when I got out of the train station, Napoli Centrale. Many people seemed to be homeless hanging around and made you feel not safe, or uncomfortable at least, especially when you got back to the train station at night. You always felt that there were eyes staring at you somewhere in the corner. When I tried to get the train ticket from the machine, there were always someone who were so friendly to come up unexpectedly and readily to offer you a hand, which put you an extremely nervous situation. Though policemen were just a few steps away, I still had to be very careful with my every movement. It made me feel like I was a thief there, playing the rat-and-cat games with the "policemen". Life was not so easy in Naples. I saw many people searching in a big dustbin clothes and shoes. I was so curious to know what they were doing. I managed to find a Chinese and he told me that all those things were collected by the city from somewhere in the markets and then they put them in those places that poor people gathered. I thought it was very humanitarian.

Favourite spots:
Spaccanapoli, Via San Biagio dei Librai
Spaccanapoli, Via San Biagio dei Librai
You may forget those uncomfortable things easily when you hung around the city. Because you would find that Naples was a friendly city. People were smiling at you and there were many people, young and old, male and female, coming up to you and said "do you want a picture of me". How could you refuse those generous offers!!! The more I stayed, the more confidence and trust I got. I began to enjoy my visit because I felt so strongly that I was welcomed.

Naples is not as poor as it looks, its historical center is full of rich things to show you why and how it deserves the status of being a world heritage site. These are several streets showing you a real Naples. Via Benedetto Croce, Via San Biagio dei Librai, which are also known as Spaccanapoli (cutting Napoli in two), as shown in the pictures, are functionling like a thin canal transporting you from the past to the present and then to the future as well. This area is just the right place to see the ordinary people and their lives.

What's really great:
Parco Virgiliano
Parco Virgiliano
There are some places for you to appreciate the life of the rich, the waterfront winding from the Castel dell'Ovo to Mergellina, or even just a little bit further upward to a small hill, Posillipo, offers not only an unbelievable view of the whole city as well as its surroundings, but also seems to be private garden of the rich. Along the major seaside road, Via Caracciolo, you may find some great hotels with nice balconies. But it you just stopped there as what I did the first day, you would be regretful for the rest of your life. You might just go a little bit further or take the bus 140, you would reach Via Posillipo, which would lead you to a great park called Parco Virgiliano. Along Via Posillipo, there are many private villages. It is a pity they are all enclosed, you can not get in, even for just a picture. I had been walked 4 miles away from Parco Virgiliano down to Palazzo Donn'Anna, but when I got there, I found it was a private property and not open at all, very frustrated.

seaside, Via Action
seaside, Via Action
The most charming part of Naples is the Naples Bay, the legendary Versuvius, the colorful houses built along the hillslope of Vomero, and the Mediterrenean Pine tree. The Versuvius looks like a shy and mysterious princess with a white veil, you could not hardly believe that it used to be an aweful killer. The Mediterrenean pine trees are marvelous creation of the nature. They are just standing silently on the coast of the Bay, protecting the peace of the sea under their feet. Now they are very manly, giving you the impression of a prince holding his lover in the arm. One the other hand, they are very gentle and soft in front of the Versuvius, looking like a cute princess sweetly nestling up against the shouder of someone she loves.

Please do visit the seaside at the sunset time. That's the most beautiful time of Naples, you will find Naples is like a well-dressed girl rushing for a night party. Everything around becomes more colourful and gentle. Intoxicating, isn't it?

stunning view from Castel Sant'Elmo
stunning view from Castel Sant'Elmo
Besides Posillipo, there are two places that overlook the whole city: Castel Sant'Elmo and Parco di Capodimonte. But you may just simply skip Parco di Capodimonte if you do not have enough time, because it is not really interesting, what you can see there is only a big musuem, Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte. It has a nice location, but all the great views have been blocked either by the trees or by the private residences. Castel Sant'Elmo is strongly recommended. You may have a complete and stunning view of the whole town as well as the Vesuvius, Naples Bay. You can see very clearly Via Croce and Via S. Biagio dei Librai winding through the whole town and taking it apart into two parts. You may also see the snow at the top of surrounding mountains. If you are lucky, you may also see the sunset and opposite Posillipo.

There is another strategic place for nice view, a small road behind Piazza dei Plebiscito, I could not give the name, but you ask people at via monte dei dio for help.

Piazza del Plebiscito
Piazza del Plebiscito
There are several places you can not afford to miss in Naples. Piazza dei Plebiscito, at each side of which you may find Chiesa di San Francesco di Paola and Palazzo Reale. In the middle centre there are two impressive statues. The square is the most important place for gathering and social activities. I saw a demonstration there against the Mafia. Castel Nuovo, Theatro San Carlo and Galleria Umberto I are just a few steps away.

You may just simply wander along the main street, Via Toleto, you will find many interesting places. There is an area called Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quaters), where you may find narrow streets packed with shops, open markets. Very nice places to hang around. You may also find some nice squares and churches, Piazza Dante, Piazza Gesu Nuovo, Chiesa di Santa Chiara, Chiesa del Gesu Nuovo, etc. At the end of the road you will reach Museo Archeologico Nazionale, where great masterpieces collection are demonstrated, including an interesting part for exotic thing

Tipical small streets in the historical center of Naples, Via S. Biagio dei Librai
Tipical small streets in the historical center of Naples, Via S. Biagio dei Librai
There are many perfect places in Naples for hangouts, the seaside and the Via Benedetto Croce, the so called Spaccanapoli. But I prefer Via Benedetto Croce, it's small and dark, but it is real. The seaside is very beautiful, but it surreal. There are some nice bars at Piazza V. Bellini.

If you do not mind crowded places, you may find fun at Piazza del Mercato. The morning in Naples is not as peaceful as in Rome or any other Italian towns. I got there around 8:30 at saturday morning, I found it was already very crowded, people hanged around the markets simply for fun. It gave me a very strange illusion that I was in somewhere in Southern China, like Canton or Hongkong. The only difference is that you can find the street vans or shops for selling breakfast. Here it is only clothes, bags, and fruits, but no breakfast. But any way, you may already feel many Asian culture or influence in Naples.

Tornato Napoletano
Tornato Napoletano
Naples is the heaven of food. You may well know that Piazza originated from Naples, but what I would like to tell you is my own discovery which I could not find in Rome. "Tornato Napoletano" is very similar to a kind of typical food in Northern China, which made me quite skeptical that whether they introduced from China or not. They put meets, vegetable inside and roll it. Very delicious, everytime i saw i was always ready to feel hungry and became watering if I had to wait. I had a very nice encounter at a not very notable restraunt along the way to Parco di capodimonte. I found the food enticing, and ordered one piece to try first, then I asked another twice. When the third time I came up, I said just a little, the nice lady who owned the shop gave another piece for free, I had to pack it up and took away. You may find the food at a shop called Tarallificio Panificio at Via S. Teresa degli Scalzi. Unforgetable.

You may also find nice corneto for breakfast, try sfogliata Riccia.

Other recommendations:
San Domenico Maggiore
San Domenico Maggiore
I would like to keep this part for introducing churches in Naples. Naples boasts of churches, the following ones as listed here you should not miss: Duomo, S. Lorenzo Maggiore (underground), S. Paolo Maggiore, S. Domenico Maggiore, Chiesa del Gesu Nuovo, Chiesa Santa Chiara, Chiesa Santa Maria del Carmine, Chiesa di San Gregorio Armeno. The extraordinary Sansevero Chapel is a must which you may find incredible statue Cristo Velato (veiled Christ).

General speaking, to me Naples is really a prince from a declining family. The elegance and nobility of the past can still be appreciated from its splendid churches, Royal Palace, but the dark and narrow streets and those who are struggling there for a better and decent life also shows the glory is gone. It is becoming more and more abandoned or neglected by whatever reasons you may know. But for me, as an outsider and travellor, all the prejudices were gone, I found myself begin to love this great city unconditionally.

Published on Wednesday March 25th, 2009

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Fri, Apr 10 2009 - 04:28 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Molto bene, amico!

Sun, Mar 29 2009 - 08:12 AM rating by bineba

A wonderful report, as always. Friends of mine went to Naples a few years ago and have been singing it's praises.

Sat, Mar 28 2009 - 10:00 PM rating by shubh

I have already heard much about this place through various sources and planning to visit this place soon. Your info will help me a lot to plan my trip professionally. Thanks for sharing the information.
Travel.justluxe adviser

Thu, Mar 26 2009 - 09:08 PM rating by bootlegga

Superb as always!

Wed, Mar 25 2009 - 08:26 AM rating by krisek

Yuliang, your picture of Piazza de Plebiscito is superb! The report sounds and looks very inviting. I have not been to Naples, but I have been told that I should. But a saying 'to see Naples and die' kept this destination at the bottom of my priority list ;) But there are some great places to see in the close vicinity, if Vesuvius is not enough, there are Herculanum and Pompeii... Thank you for your great report. Nice narrative!

Wed, Mar 25 2009 - 05:08 AM rating by pesu

Yuliang, I loved to read this realistic and at the same time so poetical report! The pics are fantastic and I hope you will upload them thus we can see them in 1024. Thanks for sharing! :)

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