07.09.2013 - 10.09.2013 33 °C
We left the quiet of the Tuscany region and started our drive to Naples, a supposedly chaotic and congested city. On the way there we stopped in Asciano, a very small town, mainly to stretch our legs. This is where George found the first cannoli of our trip so it was well worth the stop according to him.
Driving into Naples was probably the most stressful part of our trip so far since our GPS was telling us to go a direction we couldn't (closed roads) and we were having difficulties finding our hotel. Combine the direction problems with chaotic Naples traffic and a much, let's say, grittier city than we've been used to and it was enough to frustrate us from the very beginning. We knew Naples would be much less refined than the rest of Italy but we certainly were not expecting what we saw. Garbage everywhere (which we were prepared for since they are known to have garbage strike issues but the amount of it was shocking), graffiti on every building, and people that did not look like the put-together Italians we've been accustomed to. We were spending 3 nights in this city and we were nervous to say the least.
At least the food is fantastic!
The main reason we came to Naples was because it is said to have some of the best food in Italy, particularly pizza. We decided to eat away our uncomfort by going to the top rated pizza place in the city, in Italy, and maybe even the world - Da Michele. The fact that it was featured in "Eat, Pray, Love" would make you think it's a tourist trap but nothing could be further from the truth. When we found it there was a huge group of people outside, mostly locals, and we ended up waiting over an hour to get in. When we did, we were crammed together into a very simple mom and pop restaurant. They only have two choices on the menu - Margherita and Marinara. We ordered one of each. Our pizza came out in a matter of minutes and oh my goodness it was love at first bite. Hands down, the best pizza we have ever had. All the stress of the city was worth it! We learned then that the people of Naples live, drive, and eat fast. Everyone around us scarfed their food down in minutes! Even George couldn't keep up! We had pizza almost every meal in Naples and although they were all outstanding, nothing could beat Da Michele.
This is what heaven looks like
We started off the next day by going to some underground ruins directly underneath the old part of the city, which were extremely impressive. We continued along the waterfront and saw a different side of Naples than the dirty, chaotic mess. There were lovely buildings and it was a nice atmosphere. It was the Naples we were expecting to begin with. We learned that the city has two sides - gritty and uncomfortable, and pleasant and interesting. I guess you can't fully appreciate the city unless you know both of it's personalities.
We liked this alter-ego better
We were told about a pizza festival going on that day and we walked a very far way to find it, only to figure out it started at 7pm that night. Why didn't the 3 people we asked for directions tell us that?????? We did go back that night with the train and we experienced a huge amount of pizzerias that set up wood burning ovens on the street to serve their pizza to the masses.
We got more pizza from another famous pizza place and were served out on picnic tables with thousands of others. It was a fun experience and also a hectic one as the night got busier. Our third day in Naples we took a hot, packed tram to the shopping street and to the higher end part of town. We did our own walking tour of the historic part of the city and then went out for pizza once again. Our walk back to our hotel in the dark was crazy with fast cars, motorbikes that almost sideswiped George, and interesting characters. As interesting and tasty as Naples was, our three days there left us mentally and physically exhausted and we were ready to move on to Pompeii and the Amalfi coast.