The REAL Italian experience

Trip Start Jun 24, 2005
Trip End Mar 24, 2008

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Flag of Italy  ,
Monday, August 8, 2005

Before coming to Naples, I have heard negative reviews of Naples from many travellers including Paul and Mel. It was described as dirty, smelly, sketchy, dodgy, lots of pickpockets, Mafia central, a big ghetto, no one follows the traffic lights etc. It is probably all that except ....I kinda liked it. Maybe my expectations were so low, in actuality it wasn't all that bad. Naples is no Florence. It is a large Italian city that makes no attempt to preserve a tranquil past for tourists. It is an Italian city of today and an obnoxious one at it.

A third of the people in Naples is unemployed so everywhere you go are illegal street vendors, pick pockets, small gangsters and the Mafia. People standing around seem to size you up everywhere you go. Maybe thinking 'can I sell him something?' or 'can I rob him?'. I was hustled to buy an almost brand new Samsung mobile phone for just 15 euros, obviously just stolen from another tourist.

My biggest disappointment in Naples was not getting to taste the pizza at the famous Da Michele pizzeria. Hailed by many to be the best pizza in the world. All pumped and ready to eat, I arrived to find that the shop has closed for the month of August starting from just the day before! Disappointed my pilgrimage to Naples cannot be complete, I settled at their competitor 'Trinton', open since 1923. It was very busy and I ordered their Margerita pizza and Marinara pizza. Some argue it is not as good as Da Michelle but I thought it was still pretty good. The unique features of Naples pizza is actually quite simple on paper. It is their ultra soft crust and the fresh (and I mean REAL FRESH) tomato sauce.

The streets of Naples are rough. Even the children are rough. As I sat on the side walk eating my pizza, two kids, I suspect around 8 or 10 emerged on their bicycles. First they were just playing in harmony but it quickly turned into fighting and spitting mixed with whatever obscenities I did not understand. The fighting finally stopped when the bigger kid knocked the smaller kid square on the head. The smaller kid, rattled, cried violently and ran to his mother for help. She came and settled the situation. Shortly after the mother leaves, they start spitting at each other again. What I have learned from this incident is that children are still children no matter how rough they are. They still run to their mothers when in trouble. I watched in amusement while protecting my pizza from their deadly projectiles.

Near where I sat was also a small circular fenced off area filled with garbage and junk. I later learned from my guidebook that the fence protects a few pieces of Roman ruins. What a futile attempt to try preserve anything in this part of town.

Not all areas of Naples is that bad. The areas by the promenade is quite clean and the city has tried to beautify the area by planting many palm trees along the road there. To crack down on the crime, the mayor has also increased the police force and placed an army presence in the city.

At night I traveled into the city of Sorrento where I booked a hostel for two nights. My plan was to base myself there and take day trips to Capri and the Amalfi coast. Sorrento does not have any beaches but still a great place to vacation. It has many decks with lawn beds for sunbathers. I have realized why Italy is not known to be a package vacation destination. It is because the entire coast is too rocky from Cinque Terre down to Sorrento.

There are many big hotels in Sorrento and the shops are very nice. Many sell a variety of lemon liquor and other high quality souvenirs. Very few cheesy souvenir shops here. At night I stumbled into a very popular dessert shop by accident with loads of photos featuring various celebrities with the owner of the shop. The owner appears to be famous for baking large cakes for all sorts of special events. At one point, two Italian celebrities walked right past me as I sat there eating. I had no clue until a legion of fans followed with their cameras.

My accommodations were dreadful in Sorrento. Just when I thought I had seen the worst, it got worse. Ten bunks crammed in a dirty room. The underlying of the bunks were a form of metal mesh chains instead of the usual sturdy wooden planks. The chains naturally give when there is weight on it and curves like a hammock. The guy who slept on the top happened to be very heavy so when he slept, the bottom curved so much it almost touched my face.
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jjwong on

Re: italy
Naples can be a rough place to visit especially when you don`t expect it. Which place did you like?

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