Roma may be the historical and architectural seat of Italy, Milano, the economic and fashion powerhouse and Venezia, the city of love but when it comes to the most lively, rowdy and boisterous Italian city, Napoli is definitely the capital. Everything from the harshness of the dialect, to the gaudy fashion sense and the richness of street food, adds to the unique characterisation of Italy’s most mismatch city.
We spent three days in Naples, exploring both the historical culture which simultaneously manages to coexist with the local and more modern expositions.
No cultural exploration would be complete without tasting the local cuisines and it just so happens that Napoli is famous for its street food. The hint, in the name ‘street’ food means exactly that: these delicacies are made freshly with the most basic equipment, so whilst you shouldn’t expect the most aesthetically pleasing numbers wrapped up in your doggy bag, do not by any means let this lower your expectations for the taste.
Napoli also has a reputation for being Italy’s most religious, and subsequently, superstitious city. You can guarantee that nearly every major street in Naples will house a little shrine dedicated to a religious figure, asking for the protection of the quartier.
There also seems to be an inordinate church to people ratio and it seemed that even the older, abandoned churches are too sacred to reclaim for any other space.
A note on cultural observations:
No matter how old this city is, I am still reminded of how young (or perhaps indeed how old, outdated and stuck in its ways) the mentality of the Neapolitans are regarding stranieri – strangers. As we were walking by the port area, a little boy, pointing at us asked his parents “qui sono quelli la” – who are those ones over there. The staring is not just limited to young children, even on the metro we were blatantly being stared at by a lady, who perhaps, was not used to seeing people of our colour skin, or maybe was just annoyed that we were sitting down whilst she was standing. This is not the first time I have felt conflicted about the reception of foreigners in Italy. I guess (just like many nations), Italy still has quite a way to go in learning to accept those from many walks of life.
That said, the southern Italians have a reputation for being more friendly and warm than the north, going all out on their welcome. I have experienced this many times with family members, friends and acquaintances and I am sure that even in this chaotic city you will get a taste of that southern hospitality.