“Remember the back streets of Naples”? Ah yes, Peter Sarstedt. Now sadly no longer with us but those words he wrote resonate for many a generation. He sang of “two children begging in rags, both touched with a burning ambition, to shake off their lowly brown tags, yes they try”
Naples, or Napoli to the locals, is now quite something, probably a far cry from those days. It is now a city of spirit, adventure and opportunity.
It has a charm and a thrill, but little frill, a city all of its own. No pretence. Little glamour or glitz. What you see is what you get. Take it as you find it. Take me as you find me.
It has graffiti, grit and grime, yet little evidence of crime. It is not cruel, but a jewel.
It is the home of pizza.and at under 10 euros each, it’s buon appetito. Nastro Azzurro on tap, always served with snacks.
Centro Storico with it’s narrow cobbled streets and Catholic churches on every corner. Blues plays into the night.
Horns tooting like crazy. High heels on scooters. Fiats and Seats. Not a seatbelt in sight. Crazy city. It seems like there’s a streetfghter in them all.
Scruff and style intertwined. Natural no fuss. Waiters with cigarettes. There are no rules. It’s crazy.
Day and night. Chalk and cheese. An accordion calls, by the market stalls.
There’s hustle and bustle. Scooter deliveries in the narrow streets. Tooting and hooting. It’s enchanting. Maradona is still Napoli’s number 10.
Roadside petrol pumps like the 1960’s. Cars are battered and scratched. No small wonder. Even the Carabinieri ignore the red lights. It’s that sort of city. Suits on scooters. Whole families on scooters. It’s not for the faint hearted. It’s crazy yet has colour and a buzz.
There’s the bustling port with cruise ships and ferries taking day trippers to the islands. All the while, Vesuvius lurks menacingly in the distance, a reminder of destruction of the past.
The city may appear scruffy and tired, but you can still feel inspired. It has a faded grandeur. Even the magnificent glass and steel domed shopping centre Galleria Umberto looks a little jaded where very few decent tenants are paraded.
There are piazzas and fountains in lieu of the mountains. Peruse the Palazzo Reale, cast an eye over the Castel Nuovo but the streets are for walking, Piazza Bellini for drinking and talking.
Religion is respected, Catholicism a way of life. Do the Duomo, seek out Santa Chiara.
Blessed are the boatmakers, fixing and fitting and banging and bashing in the harbours, where a child plays a tambourine. Newly weds have their photos taken overlooking the glorious Bay of Naples, under bright blues skies, with bobbing boats and a castle as backdrop. A kaleidoscope of colour and life.
Young girls hang out by a stage in the burning afternoon sun, seeking shelter, as they wait to watch Italy’s Eurovision song contestant. Yet he’s not on for seven hours. Crazy.
This is Italy at its finest. Pure and unadulterated. And it’s magnificent. Bella Italia.
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