Naples, Italy: Unbeatable Streetlife

2 Jun

Okay, let’s get it out of the way. Naples has a waste management problem.

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Whilst it’s not currently at crisis level, as in past stand offs over rubbish collection, street trash is an eyesore and few appear to care. As outsiders it seems the obvious solution is to reduce the volume of waste by targeted public education, introduce community incentive programs and increase collection services. Easy to say. Of course there’s the small issue of lingering mafia involvement, but while the attitude of Neapolitans remains unchanged this blot on the cityscape will remain.

Certainly it lets down the Naples of today, a handsome city much of it built on bomb craters post WWII and one that has successfully run the most recent America’s Cup yachting competition, a leg of the Giro D’Italia cycle race and will host the Universal Forum of Culture later this year.

Naples also has a grafitti problem. Tagging and grafitti art are seldom artistic, more of the anarchic, ‘I don’t give a shit about private property or the public built environment, I just wanna write something.’

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Strangely trains are a canvas for people to pay tribute to the memory of a loved one who has passed.

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I’m not going to speak about crime in Naples beyond the obvious statement that an urban centre of 3,020,000 million people with 18 per cent unemployment, rising illegal immigration, and a limited social welfare net will always have significant opportunistic crime with tourists the soft target. We didn’t experience it personally however we stayed out of dodgy areas after 10pm and left valuables in the hotel safe. The rewards far outweighed the risks for us.

The one beggar I saw, a black man standing with outstretched cloth cap in a piazza, seemed pretty genuine, or he was just professional. In either case he appeared grateful for the leftover pizza I handed him instead of money.

Now we’ve dealt with that I can show you the Naples we came to love in our three-day stay.

Staying in Chiaia proved ideal for walking along the seafront and up into the hills of Vomero and to the terrace of Castel Sant’Elmo to take in a view of the entire city and the sweeping Bay of Naples. Walking eastwards within thirty minutes we could stroll the crowded historical centre of Naples with its cobbled, narrow lanes and multitude of churches. It may seem like I have a laundry fetish. I confess I am fascinated by how neatly clothes are hung to dry in public spaces.

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Compared with the Amalfi Coast where most people were foreigners, Naples is definitely not overwhelmed by tourists. Eating, shopping, drinking, on public transport, we were the oddity amongst Italians and it felt right. The people-watching opportunities are unprecedented. Struggling to make ourselves understood in Italian we encountered genuine warmth and good humour from shopkeepers, waiters and conductors alike.

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Neopolitan driving style is a cross between Sicilian and Indian, i.e. fast, aggressive and creative. We were relieved not to be driving and competing for a parking space. This once smart car was parked alongside Castel Sant’Elmo. I’m sure the story that goes with it is dark and curious.

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The essence of Naples is captured in memorable moments that will stay with me forever.

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Stumbling upon the heavenly choral harmonies of the Neapolitan ‘Exultate Deo’ group directed by Davide Troia in the Basilica de S. Chiara. A free concert of the highest quality.


Two ten-year-old tearaways in white Tshirts playing bicycle tag on the pedestrian section of Via Chiaia dodging trees, people and pet dogs. Future Moto GP rider material.

Men mending nets on the waterfront. One older, one younger. They sat in full sunshine methodically working their needles through the borders of the nets reinforcing them. The rhythm of their movement was hypnotising.

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The teenaged couple, handsome young men, kissing and cuddling on a park bench in a quiet part of the marina park.

Returning to a bar for breakfast the second day running and being greeted with ‘Buongiorno’. Day one we’d been given cups of cappuccino and no water. Day two we got glass mugs of the good stuff and a glass of mineral water from the same bar man. We were locals!

Don Maccarone’s melt in your mouth potato and cheese croquettes.

The sexy female cop with her white leather holster and tight trousers cutting a swathe through a crowd.

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A group confirmation in a church in Via Chiaia with proud parents letting off pink and blue confetti bombs.

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But enough rhapsodising about Naples, it’s time to step back in time to…..Pompei in the next instalment. I leave you with a few more favourite images of Naples.

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2 Responses to “Naples, Italy: Unbeatable Streetlife”

  1. Julie Kempnich June 2, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    Thank you Sharon for another wonderful account. Naples looked great ( rubbish forgiven) with its blue skies. I am in chilly wet Newcastle this week with Mum after her knee replacement. Not too much variety in my surroundings here so far. Noticing Stuart has made a purchase. How do you manage to buy clothing souvenirs and still stay compact on such a long trip? Enjoy. Julie xx

    Sent from my iPad

    • Sharon Tickle June 2, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      Hi Julie,

      How brave of your Mum to do the surgery. Hope she is healing quickly. We have all had far too much rain this year – wonky weather!

      Yes, Stuart did shop in Naples. The clothes are gorgeous. That was a wonderful store with a helpful saleswomen so he is now the proud owner of three Neapolitan coloured cotton sweaters to go with a smart striped shirt.

      We recycle clothes as they wear out and I post valuable items like flamenco shoes and coats home to Mum and Dad. Morocco will be the real test of whether we have the gear right!

      Love,

      S & Sxx

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