When we finally pulled into the main train station at Napoli’s Porta Nolana after two hours of being. I was enthralled to step out into the fresh air and breath.
Except, I couldn’t breath, like, at all. My throat began to tighten, and my head began to pound as all the smog mixed with cigarette smoke, and a little bit of piss thrown in for good measure, hit my lungs.
Napoli is pol-lu-ted, let me tell you.
On top of all that, I felt an instant sense of anxiety due to all the random people flying by left, right and, sometimes, even right through me as we stood waiting for my host dad to park. I was innocently enjoying my flaky croissant thing filled with ricotta and oranges, when a man attempted to go all Harry Potter wingardium leviosa on my ass and walk through my physical body. As did another few men after him. Sheesh, didn’t know my life was the entryway into the Wizarding world. Anyway, if you’re beginning your Napoli journey at Porta Nolana, be prepared for lots of people who have places to go, people to see, and no time to say “Scusa!” when you’re in their way. I would liken this area to Termini in Rome, but about five times more chaotic. This area is also more “diverse” (read: high immigrant population), and so there are a lot of people from an array of different countries roaming around. However, it was mostly Africans and Asians that I noticed. I was actually really happy to see a bunch of African women, which is something I haven’t seen in Rome, and I expressed that to my host parents. Their response: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but about 90% of black women in Naples are prostitutes.” Dreams dashed and deferred. I didn’t take their statement the wrong way, but I’m definitely still contemplating that statistic.
In any case, I didn’t have time to think about prostitutes because only one thing was taking up space in my mind: PIZZA! Before we left, my Italian dad told me that the day would be completely centered around food. I’m almost positive I shed a single tear. I was ecstatic for all the amazing things we were bound to eat, and was already coming up with names for my future food baby.
Our first stop on our day trip to Napoli was Da Michele, which is one of the most famous pizza shops in the city. It’s also where Julia Roberts had a relationship with her pizza in Eat, Pray, Love. I hoped that I, too, would madly fall in love, and have a relationship with my pizza.
When you get there, you’re going to see a big crowd of hungry Italians (however they’re most likely not Neapolitans) waiting outside the restaurant. There is a guy at the front calling out numbers and wearing an old-school diner hat that reminded me of Good Burger. Go to him to get your number and prepare to wait around for 30-45 minutes.
Once 45 minutes is up, you’ll finally be let into the promised land of pizza. The interior looks like you’re sharing a giant bathroom with 100 other people, but who cares! You’re about to have a relationship with your pizza!
Ok, so the pizza is really, really good here– but I don’t think I would willingly get into a relationship with this pizza. Maybe have a long-term affair, but I’m definitely not committed. For under 5 euros, yes, the pizza is delicious. But, add that in with the wait time, and I can’t say it’s worth it. I would definitely recommend to stop by if you’re ever in Naples, and try it for yourself. Thanks, Julia Roberts.
We continued on. We stumbled through a ton of gorgeous basilicas with too many famous paintings to even begin naming, got lost in a Christmas Market where they handmake these epic Christmas scenes, and I also found a black baby Jesus.
All black everything.
After a few churches, a massively random pillow fight in the center of the city between Erasmus students, and more food later, we went to the Museo Cappella Sansevero which houses a really intricate and quite unbelievable statue of Christ covered by a veil after he died . It’s rated as the #1 activity to do in Naples on TripAdvisor, and I really didn’t want to see it.
I know. Why wouldn’t I want to see what’s known as “one of the most famous and impressive works of art in the world?” I’ll admit this here because it’s my blog, and this entire little space on the internet that I pay for is a judgement free zone. Drum roll, plese: I’m afraid of statues. Yes, ladies and gentlemen I have automatonophobia which is why seeing a super realistic statue up-close and personal wasn’t my idea of a good time on a Saturday afternoon. However, when in Naples… I guess? So I went to go see it– AND IT WAS MARVELOUS. If you come to Naples, this has to be on your itinerary. I’m still trying to understand how a human was able to create the smooth curves of the veil, the impressions of his body gently lying on the stone, and the body language he’s exuding after death. The stone veil looks like an actual veil lying gently over Christ, and then you realize it’s stone and your mind gets further blown into pieces. I shed tears (of joy, not fear). It was surreal.
After that experience, everything else we saw in Napoli paled a bit in comparison (Piazza Plebiscito, Universita’ degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, and Corso Umberto). I was grossly misinformed about Naples. My entire self-proclaimed knowledge of Italy told me that Naples was a quiet, little town that had colorful houses, and even more colorful people. While the latter is true, the former is certainly not. Naples is a dizzying city, which ended up being a lot more gritty than I realized. The people are hard, and the cobblestones are even harder. It was nice to have a day away to learn about another Italian city other than Rome, but Napoli won’t be visited by me again anytime soon.
Have you been to Naples? Did you love it or hate it? And how about that pizza?!