I’m in Naples again because I just can’t seem to stay away. The energy here is frenetic. It pulses through you. The Neapolitans can be loud and animated, but man, just scrape through that rough exterior and most people here are so friendly and warm it shocks you. It’s something you don’t expect. It’s wonderful.
Our apartment on this visit is just behind the Palazzo Plebiscito in an old and authentic neighborhood called Pizzofalcone. Directly above us lives a Neapolitan family that has lived here for generations. Their balcony overlooks our terrace. They speak no English, and I speak only a little Italian so communication was sparse at first, but that didn’t stop us from trying. Every morning when I go out to our terrace and find Nonna Maria on her balcony we exchange happy Buon Giornos.
It’s a few days into our first week here at lunch time when Maria is suddenly calling down to me, and I understand that she is going to run something down to us. A few moments later her 16-year-old grandson is at our door with two steaming plates of some of the best pasta I’ve had in Italy. Truly! It was simple with roma tomatoes, olive oil, and grated cheese, plus some crusty bread. And it was absolutely delicious. I don’t know how something so simple can taste so good, but it did.
This is how Neapolitans treat visitors.
Covid was very hard on Naples, but things have drastically improved. Italy is closing in on an 80% vaccination rate, so things are back open and people are especially energetic with this renewed freedom. Naples is over 2,000 years old. It has been through plagues, bombings & occupations, volcanic eruptions, and neglect over the centuries. But Neapolitans are nothing if not resilient, and the Covid pandemic is just one more difficult chapter in their long history.
I find this city a photographic gem. Every alley has something intriguing, something old, something real. Tourism has been on the rise here over the last four or five years, but it is far from a city of cheesy tourist stands and disappointing restaurants with pictures of food out front. Rome, Florence and Venice are all beautiful, no doubt. But Naples is real, and I can’t stop photographing this place.
Rome is stately and impressive, Florence is all beauty and enchantment, Genoa is picturesque, Venice is a dream city, but Naples is simply — fascinating.
2020 was a tough year for so many, and 2021 hasn’t been much better. But for now, Naples is doing ok, and I’m happy for them. They and their city are tough and resilient, and their long history has strengthened them. It’s so good to be back, and I feel so at home here.
Rob – Oct 2021
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