Naples shouts rather than whispers. Unlike Rome, an international hostess that caters to guests from around the world, Naples does not hide under a guise of Euro culture niceties. Instead, this ancient port city greets guests with a boisterous hug and shove into the cacophony of living the Neapolitan way.
The best way for me to describe Naples is to say that it is an authentic city. When I compare it to Rome, a city where the average Roman seems lost from site and the tourist seems everywhere, Naples feels real. Where do the Romans actually go to eat, drink, be with friends? Who knows! They seem to be hidden under a different strata of city life. They are not easily visible to the tourist on holiday.
In Naples, on the other hand, it is impossible to NOT see the Neapolitan. The life of the average person plays out daily on the busy, graffitied streets. Young and old alike mingle on their daily journeys to and from work, school, or a friend’s house. They come in all shapes and sizes and are a passionate people.
Tourists are on the streets too, they come to see the treasures in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples or to catch a ferry to Capri and the Amalfi Coast, but they do not dominate the view. In fact, the most dominate feature on the streets, besides the Neapolitans, is graffiti. I do not think I have ever walked down so many streets so completely chalk full of street art. Many of the slogans seem to voice a strong political view.
When I asked a local guide if the graffiti was a form of youth rebellion she answered “no.” Her explanation for the graffiti revolved around taxes. Apparently, the people are fed up with high taxes.
A recent vote upped a tax similar to VAT or sales tax in the US to 25%! Since the government is responsible for the care of public spaces the people see the streets and piazzas as representative of their government. As such, Neapolitans voice their anger over taxes, etc. by defacing public property.
Crossing streets one walks without timidity, choosing the right moment, sticking out the hand and heading with determination to the other side of the street. It’s the motto of the people. If you present yourself forcefully, you’re respected. Otherwise, you are run over.
Yet there is also a genteel side lurking under the rough edges of Naples. It lies in their history as a wealthy port city. One of the more beautiful rooms we saw was at the Palazzo Real. It was striking in its grace and beauty. My husband cried when we left the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. He was so happy to see the treasures unearthed at Pompeii.
Overall, this rough and authentic city struck a chord with me. It is not an easy city to visit, but it has enough buried treasures in its bowels to keep me coming back for more. I'm sure I'll visit again.