On a cruise, the stop in Naples is around 12 hrs long…use it for exploring the one city that will give you the truest taste of Europe, with a port that’s one of the most important in the continent, the most diverse culture, from the most ancient to contemporary. On a different kind of note, it’s where the pizza pie was originated, and to serenade us as we munch on the favorite fast food of almost everyone from pole to pole and in between, it was credited with the invention of the romantic guitar and mandolin.
Naples was honored for the metro stop "Toledo", considered the most beautiful in Europe and the winner of the Leaf Award 2013, as Public Building of the year.
I visited Naples, for the third time recently, and found that the city still brings up the same emotions it did when I was there as a tiny, skinny girl walking hand in hand with my beautiful mother. The people were warm, talkative and made a big deal about my mom. She ignored the attention, but I remember being fascinated and a little scared of several Neapolitans who paid her much attention.
I remember seeing the a combination of an ancient city with the most wonderful feeling of young, contemporary culture, and when my dad joined us he brought a record of of Italian rock and roll, fun and enjoyable enough even for my classical music loving grandpa. It was called "Tu vo fa Americano" and was played incessantly when we got back to Israel.
When people mention Napoli, they often mention corruption, sanitation problems and Mafia connections, but truth is, the vibrant city is so much more than just another metropolis with problems and crime.
Let’s start with the landscape. Getting off the boat has changed and became more delightful since last April. A new mayor banned the crazy traffic from the waterfront, turning it into a lovely seaside promenade. Now, as in the past, you get a view of mount Vesuvius, the island of Capri in the distance, but now there is no need to watch out for the cars buzzing by (Italian style) and the walk takes you straight to Villa Communale park, and the wonderful art gallery Studio Trisoro. The gallery is perfect for contemporary art lovers and holds a revolving slate of exhibitions.
The Teatro do San Carlo is among the oldest and most beautiful opera houses in Europe, and it’s where I attended my very first opera, ‘La Traviata. and fell in love with opera. Later that week my parents got first blcony seats at the regal theatre, Via San Carlo, to attend Swan Lake. My mom says I kept nagging to go on stage, certain I could fit into the ensemble (I was 4).
If you’re able, timewise, speak to your cruise director. Sometimes they hold matinee performances, which will allow you to get back on the boat on time. The city was, and is still, a major cultural center, and by the 17th century became Europe largest city, second only to Paris. Caravaggio, Bernini, Salvatore Rosa, and writers and philosophers of world class influence sprang from there.
Part of what makes Naples outstanding, is the multitude of cultures which stamped their mark on the city. Naples has changed hands thru history, being a centre of Renaissance,having been part of the Spanish empire, and conquered by the Hungarian King Louis the II, and was unified with Sicily several times. The Napolenic conquest installed Bonaparte rulers, who were in turn conquered by the Hapsburg empire. In 1839, Naples became the first city in Italy to have a railway and for a while became the combined kingdom of The Two Sicilies, thriving and wealthy. After the the major cholera epidemic of 1887, the two Sicilies collapsed and an unprecedented wave of immigration abandoned Naples, with around 4 million people leaving it. Then,not much different than in very recent history, sanitation and waste management issues plagued the city, being blamed for the ferocity of the epidemic’s outbreak. Questionable sanitation combined with unemployment issues to this day. Many of the American immigrants who reached the shore of the US were blue collar workers, escaping impossible poverty and moving to the usa and Argentina to start a new life and put food on their tables.
The Old City is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site with the most prominent forms of architectural sites, in the Baroque, Medieval and Renaissance style, the third largest city in Italy and the oldest continuously inhabited city in the entire world (2,800 yr old history), despite the great difference in their history, it reminds me ( don’t ask me why) of New York City, the throbbing energy of the city milling with people and traffic and of course, excitement, which supersedes most any other city in Europe.
The wealth of historical buildings and monuments from time immemorial combines with the latest in technology such as the 6 th Urban forum and 63 international astronautical congress. It houses the Naples international archeological museum with the most extensive antique artifacts of the Roman Empire in the world, including antiqued unearthed a Pompeii and Herculaneum.
The climate is mild with wet winters and warm dry summers. The perfect climate of the jewel on the Mediterranean made it famous during Roman times, when emperors such as Claudius and Tiberius used it to holiday in.
photo credit: tourist360.com