We rode on the incredibly slow Intercity train that rattled like a dying battery from Rome Termini to Napoli Centrale rather than whooshing by in an hour on the high speed train. The slow train, uncomfortable and fossil like, came with a priceless tag; observing first hand the gradual social change that bestowed the Southern region’s individuality. Why is the City of Napoli at the bottom of everyone’s travel list?
There is absolutely no excuse to bypass what remained of the diverse ethnicity and cultures that lived here since it was founded by the Greeks in the 7th Century BC; hence “Neo Polis”, New City, said the Greeks. The historical center, also the national laundromat, is declared a UNESCO heritage site. So, it took several hours of wandering the heart of the old town, Scappanapoli, to admire the non-pop-culture Italian charm that foreigners romantically dream of. The highly unemployed city buzzed with vivacious energy, far different than other Italian cities.
As we wandered around the crowded cobblestone streets jampacked with obstructive residents presuming it to be their gardens, playgrounds or living rooms, we captured the essence of everyday life. It could have been a mere hallucination of “Napoli Sotterranea” the ancient underground city. It wasn’t though, it was just its undying soul.
Fruit and fish vendors, florists, children at play and loud conversations integrated well with the sounds of vespa engines, toots, animated conversations and street accordion players. We wiggled our way down narrow streets in fear of hit and run purse snatching Vespa riders. Nevertheless, we admired the many architectural facades of buildings, churches, theatres, palaces and colorful murals contributed by alternating conquerors.
For history enthusiasts or people who do NOT dig the outdoor ruble scene, the Archeological Museum on Piazza Museo is filled with large collections of Roman, Greek and Egyptian statues, artifacts and mosaics. Particularly, well preserved (color intact) remains of Pompeii, Herculano and Stabiae that were buried under approximately 20ft of ash when Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.
In the afternoons, we’d head back to Hotel Romeo, pronounced Rome-aye-O, because the whole city was on an afternoon break between 2-4pm. Living it the good old fashioned way, rather than catching up with the rest of the country.
The glassy hotel Romeo, located in the best of both worlds, overlooked the Bay of Napoli and resembled a ship. Definitely worth it, and not only because we had an awesome stay, but the structure of the hotel designed by Phillippe Starck stood out, contrasted and blended in naturally with the ambiance.
We hit Via Cristoforo Colombo and walked towards the more modern part of the city, Centro Napoli, with wider roads, uneven elevation, scattered parks and gallerias overlooking the famous Castel Nuovo. We wandered around the notorious Spanish Quarters that reeked of fish and its traders. Fish? We didn’t want fish!