To see or not to see Naples (aka Va fa Napoli)
So if you never heard anything about Naples and you are wondering whether to go there, I’ll throw in a little story about how it treated us, so you’ll get some idea.
I can’t promise that it won’t be kinda one-sided opinion. We heard that Naples is beautiful, we didn’t get convinced but I believe every city has both ugliness and beauty in it, depending on where exactly you go, the weather, the kind of people you meet or experiences that come to you… so I am not saying that there is nothing nice to see there. But!
- Beware of the crime and expect old-ness of the city.
The part of Naples where we stayed, right next to the Botanical Garden, was just ugly. The narrow streets we had to walk through to get to the main train station or anywhere really, were just plain scary. Every person we met, especially but not exclusively after dark, seemed like a thief, and we really felt like we had targets on our backs just because we had backpacks and were clearly tourists. We always instinctively walked quickly and tried to avoid any eye contact especially with people hanging out at corners or looking out of their windows 😀
So even before we actually learned that crime is a thing in Naples, we felt it. Outside of our AirBnb there was a gang of youngsters hanging out, and I might say „gang“ jokingly but to be honest, I am quite convinced that these people had a hand in what happened to us later.
It’s a a very old city and it clearly doesn’t have money for all necessary restorations so the houses fall apart, so do streets, there is rubbish and smell almost everywhere and it just doesn’t look nice or safe, especially in the living quarters. One night we tried to get to the sea and we couldn’t find a way, and as we walked along the fences of marina, we had to cover our noses because the smell of rubbish was just overbearing and completely sickening. I don’t expect a city with so much traffic to smell like roses, I grew up in the center of Prague, but this was something different and ew. We really struggled there to find the „beautiful Napoli“ our neighbors told us about.
2. The traffic is absolute madness.
The roads of Naples are super old and not meant for traffic. Most cities will deal with this in a civilised way but not Naples. To drive there is to enter a complete jungle of cars driving and parking everywhere, constant angry honking, no rules being obeyed, lights being ignored, non-existent lanes (as many cars can fit, will try to fit) and of course no blinkers being used, ever. You never know who will emerge from where, don’t expect them to give you way, don’t even expect them to stop because they have a red light. Even if you are a pedestrian on the zebra, look out because they won’t give a crap about you. The police don’t seem to be able to do anything about this even if they try (we’ve seen it), it’s just pure chaos. We thought we’ve seen some traffic craziness on Bali, but this is just a whole new level, and mostly because unlike peaceful Balinese, Italians are actually angry and impatient and therefore super dangerous. It goes without saying that all cars in Naples are massively dented, scratched, or at least have duct tape over windows or side mirrors, so unless you absolutely need to, try to avoid bringing a car there, or at least insure it to the last screw, especially when it comes to rental cars.
3. Not every „best pizza in town“ is the best, no matter what the internet says.
Or better „what some youtubers say“. If you actually take time to read reviews, you will probably find out that even some famous places have their issues and imperfections, and ultimately this might save you a lot of time and not so pleasant experiences.
We basically came to Naples as the mecca and original city of pizza to try some of their best and most famous pizzerias, in the end we didn’t have time for as many as we planned, but out of the two:
L’antica pizzeria da Michele got super famous lately for their feature in Eat, Pray, Love movie where Julia Roberts takes her friend to eat pizza in this place.
I think they claim they are the oldest pizzeria in Naples, and of course, many say that they are the best. Well… we didn’t think so, and neither do loads of other people, but I’d say it’s 50/50, so it’s difficult to trust the internet on this.
It’s definitely a place with vibe. Super busy at all times, there is a long queue outside, you need to take a ticket and then maybe in 30 minutes you get to sit or order your takeaway. After sitting, we probably waited another at least 15 minutes before they even took the order, we were so hungry by then, and then the wait for pizza adds up…
Overall you feel like you are part of this huge comunity of people waiting for that one pizza, you feel excited, and when the pizza comes, it might feel like the best pizza ever, simply because of that hype and hunger. Even I felt very satisfied with my first bites but as I progressed to the second half of my enormous pizza (why do they make them so freaking big??), I started to feel less good, and I wish I hadn’t forced that last quarter down, maybe then I wouldn’t feel sick for the rest of the evening 😛
All in all, it was exciting to try it and participate, but it wasn’t nearly as good as expected, the wait was super long and uncomfortable and the place is not cozy at all. The staff didn’t seem super warm either, so I kinda felt like like a cow being herded and just „dealt with“, not really „treated“.
On our second day, though, we went to Gino Sorbillo pizzeria and found it a much better option!
Very popular, too, so there was also some wait included, but much better organisation, better treatment, much nicer interior and most importantly, much better pizza. Here we finally felt like we were getting what we came for, and maybe it will all be worth it in the end.
But as we knew already before coming to Italy, the best pizza in the world is actually not in Naples, but in a quaint little town called Caiazzo! I’ll get to that… 😉
Anyway to explain all the previous „misfortune in Naples“ hints, long story short, our car was broken into, after we parked it on the street where our AirBnB hosts told us to park! They claimed it will be safe, nothing ever happened there, blah blah blah, anyway I wouldn’t be surprised if it was done by one of their relatives, neighbours etc. after being tipped off. Our car was the only one targeted in a long line of cars, and with italian plate it was kinda suspicious… even though it’s probably also true that the other cars didn’t have a built in computer that the robbers would be interested in.
Luckily we had no personal stuff in the car at the moment and hopefully we won’t have to pay anything because we did have a proper insurance cover, but at this point, we are still in the process of dealing with the bureaucracy of it so we don’t even know for sure yet. And the main disaster was to try to deal with the situation there, at the spot, with nobody speaking English (or willing to); also it didn’t help that it was quite late in the evening and nobody was picking up the damn phone when they were supposed to (mostly our rental car company hotline definitely wasn’t so hot and it was a nightmare trying to speak to them and get some help).
Our host didn’t seem keen on helping us call the police and later she disappeared completely so we had to ask some young girls from next room to help us, because police wouldn’t speak English to us on the phone! In the end they arrived, even though it took them over 40 minutes, luckily one of them spoke some English and was actually very nice to us, but then we had to go to the station for more bureaucratic fun, fill the report, call our hotline again (another nearly impossible task), wait for assistance company to tow away our car and explain to the rental company that we definitely don’t want a new car now, until we are leaving Naples, because it somehow doesn’t seem to be wise to give the locals yet another car to rob…
In the end we got home at around 2AM, completely knackered, mentally and physically exhausted, scared, feeling lost and helpless and without any idea how this will affect our holidays from then. As we walked back to the acommodation through yet another „lovely“ part of Naples, still the same ugly streets (basically looked like the worst parts of Prague so it was kinda homey, lol), smell, rubbish, weird people, car noises (that city never sleeps either) and rats (yeah, one of them got scared and run into my feet, where it got tangled as I tried to jump and not step on it, so picture me after all that dealing, 2AM in foreign country, with a tremendous case of diarrhea – I don’t care at this point if that’s too much info XD – and screaming as a rat runs right into my ankles), we were holding onto each other like safety rings and laughing because we just had enough and that’s how our bodies respond to so much stress.
As we were finally back in beds (thought that would never happen at some points), we decided right there, that we won’t actually let it affect our plans that much, at least for the next day we’ll just do what we wanted to do anyway, and then we will see, take it from there day by day. And we did, and we had some great times in between another doses of scary and crazy. We managed to see another side to Naples, for a little bit, so we could imagine there would be other bits that could make it worthwile, but we were so glad to leave and so scarred that for the rest of our trip, we felt extra suspicious of everything and everybody and always feared getting back to the car and finding out another disaster XD I somehow think this will stay with us for a while, even outside Italy.
So there you go, this is our take. Have you been to Naples? Did you see another side of it? Any stories of your own? Feel free to share them 🙂