Naples: the skin tingles.
Description: chaotic but edgy and sensual.
Question: How could we have avoided her for so long?
Answer: In past visits, we’d stuck to the well-worn tourist trails leading to Italy’s Sorrentine peninsula, Capri and the Amalfi Coast.
Result: I was always curious about Napoli and its reputation for being exactly the opposite of elegant Florence, tendy Milan and stately Rome.
My curiousity increased with tales of cruise ship tourists refusing to disembark there, apparently rattled by fears of pickpockets, mafia and drug wars.
This city intrigued me. Like that often quoted saying ‘See Naples and Die’. What exactly did that mean? Were tourists wise to be spooked?
Sorrento and the Amalfi, I was told, were like the southern belles of Italy – alluring in their pastel colours and genteel manners. Naples flirted openly – suggestive and gritty.
Yet, intriguing or not, we never found our way to the city under Mount Vesuvius until Gert’s car GPS experienced problems on the way from the ruins of Herculaneum.
Suddenly, we were tangled in the urban canyons of suburban Naples – and my senses were on overload.
The area was the very epicentre of Neopolitan life played out on crowded and dilapidated streets, with just a hint of danger.
It was in-your-face and overwhelmingly loud – a warren of narrow roads and lanes, confusing street signs, poverty, drying laundry and graffiti.
Men in sweaty singlets, trucks overladen with fresh fruit, kamikaze motorcyclists, women in tight shorts and heels, traffic signals that no one seemed to obey – all wrapped in the smells of coffee and pizza.
How, I wondered, could anyone be indifferent to this raucous streetscape. Surely, it was either appalling or captivating!
Either way, it was a remarkable experience and, unlike those cruise ship tourists, I was excited by the intense, heaving humanity around me – and keen to see more.
Later, we sat in a quiet hillside coffee shop where a shrine to the Madonna looked down on us from a roadside tree and the city spread out below – from the Bay of Naples to Vesuvius and the Lattari Mountains.
I made a mental note to return if possible and to truly experience the streets and life of Naples.
Note: the writer was flown to Europe by Scoot Airlines