Napoli – pearl of Campania

Banged-up cars, a volcano and a lot of energy

One of the first things I noticed on the drive from the airport to the city centre of Naples was the number of banged-up automobiles. Literally every car had dents, scratches, mismatching body-parts or all of it and most of them were small and at least eight to ten years old. Parking space in Naples is very limited and, you know no-one can be THAT careful, right? But it seemed to me there is also a different attitude to things at work here. Cars are a tool to get from one place to another and that function isn’t really diminished by a dent. Although, on the other hand it might just be that the people don’t have the money to have their cars fixed and maybe it would be the same in Germany and other car-crazy countries if owners wouldn’t go to autoshop right away the moment there is a tiny scratch in the polished finish of their rolling living-rooms.

One of the many 18th century residential buildings in Naples that even today are home to normal if not poor people. Just love the way the stairways are arranged.

One of the many 18th century residential buildings in Naples that even today are home to normal if not poor people. Just love the way the stairways are arranged.

Our apartment (via airbnb) was in the neighbourhood of Materdei on the northern edge of the city centre. The area was dominated by 18 and 19th century 5-story residential buildings, while we stayed in a former whig- and shjoe-factory right on top of a hill. There was an amazing view over all of Naples with its fortresses, cupolas and hills. Vesuvio looms in the not-too-far distance, accounting at least partly for the lively vibe the city eludes. I guess, living with a constant and highly visible reminder of a possible catastrophic natural event does something too your outlook on live, although that doesn’t mean it’s entirely positive. Another companion for our time here was the sound of ambulances that was constantly bubbling up from the deep canyons that hills and houses form. Add to that the fact that the Italians are very fond of honking and yelling, you can imagine it’s not really a place that suggests introspection.

Night-time view from our terrace over the roofs of Naples with the Vesuvius in the background.

Night-time view from our terrace over the roofs of Naples with the Vesuvius in the background.

While we didn’t go the really shady parts of town – after all there are areas in Naples you are not supposed to go without a local – Materdei wasn’t exactly upscale either. Not only here, but basically wherever we went there were abandoned or thoroughly downtrodden old buildings that would be protected heritage everywhere else in the world but southern Italy just hasn’t the funds to keep them in good repair. Nearly 20 years of Berlusconi-dominated politics and 150 years of corruption related to organised crime didn’t improve on the situation and they are barely able to protect the truly outstanding sites, like Pompeii. There are 100s of derelict churches and chapels distributed all over Naples – and I didn’t take a single photo of them although looking back they are what impressed me the most.

Naples is built on hills so stairs and steep little alleyways are ubiqitous, especially in the residential areas on the edge of the old-town. I was surprised about the amount of exciting street art we found everywhere in the city.

Naples is built on hills so stairs and steep little alleyways are ubiqitous, especially in the residential areas on the edge of the old-town. I was surprised about the amount of exciting street art we found everywhere in the city.

To be honest, I couldn’t really give you good tips about what to do in Naples because we did none of the stuff you’re supposed to do. We didn’t go to the archeological museum, we didn’t ride the cable car, we didn’t visit the tombs and we weren’t inside Castello Nuovo or the royal palace, so we just have to come back another time. Instead we did a lot of just wandering around and getting lost, which is totally cool here because there is always something to discover and some of these things are mentioned in guide-books as well like like the monastery of Santa Chiara or the Zevallos palace.

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