”Naples is dirty, noisy and dishevelled,” read the opening line of the Lonely Planet guide. Not to mention the numerous warnings towards watching out for pickpockets, as well as highlighting that Naples is a “Mafia hotspot.” We were suddenly questioning why we had decided to visit the Southern Italian town of Napoli. Luckily for us, our time in Naples resembled nothing of the description above.
After being welcomed into our family comfort suite (by far the nicest accommodation I had had since leaving the parents in France) we decided to explore.
Tall apartment buildings bordered skinny cobblestone streets. Locals called out to friends who walked the streets below as they hung their washing over their balconies. A constant sound of beeping as Vespa’s zoomed past, some seating two, three or four passengers. Smiles greeted us from fruit and seafood store holders that lined the busy streets. We watched friends greet each other with the traditional kiss on each cheek. Yes! This is how I had pictured Italy. With a smile on my face that I couldn’t hide, I looked over towards Fiona. She was beaming just the same as we exclaimed, “Welcome to Italy!”
We had been told that Naples was home of not only the best Pizza in the World but also coffee. Finally – we were in for some decent espresso! We visited the oldest café in town; Gambrinus. We did as the locals did and stood drinking our nocciola (hazelnut) espresso at the bar. The waiters in their tuxedos corrected our Italian as they taught us our new word for the day: “Buonissimo!” For the second time that day I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face.
But now for the main event: the Pizza! I haven’t been everywhere in the world but I can definitely confirm that Neapolitan pizza was definitely the best I had ever eaten. The simplicity of the San Marzano tomatoes (grown on the volcanic plains of Mount Vesuvius) with the buffalo mozzarella and basil top a delicious wood fired thin base. Buonissimo indeed!! It was the first time I had eaten a whole pizza to myself. I could have even gone for more! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have a Melbourne pizza again.
I have fond memories of studying the history of Pompeii in school. The discovery of a town buried by the 79 AD volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius intrigued me and I had always wanted to go visit.
Fiona and I were in awe the entire day. How incredible that an entire city can be rediscovered after such a disaster. What fascinated us the most was how well kept the ruins were. Detailed artwork from the frescoes could still be appreciated and mosaic floors with intricate tiling remained close to perfection. We explored the remains of the local baths, basilica, forum and rich houses. Even the town brothels remained! You had to keep reminding yourself that this was all created more than 2000 years ago.
The most eye opening experience of the day however was viewing the castings of the deceased. The positions the bodies were found in told a story of the struggle and fear that the Pompeian’s experienced that day. Skulls and pelvic bones could be seen through the cracks in the cast. Lovers bodies entwined and parents held their children as they shared their last moments together. The feeling was indescribable.
If you ever have the chance to visit Italy then ensure than Pompeii is on the list! And don’t be afraid to visit Naples – it won’t leave you feeling disappointed!