Before we headed to Naples, our friend in Rome advised us to be extra careful.
We had interesting experiences in Naples. From one perspective, Naples is an interestingly different Europe city, compared to others we have visited. Most Europe cities share some generic (but nice) elements – public squares, cathedrals, paved pedestrian streets, well-planned transport network and parks. Naples wasn’t like that, and I don’t know if we will ever have the chance to visit Southern Italy again. (Never say never)
We arrived at Naples train station and went on out “extra alert” mode. With a map, we worked out the shortest route to our hotel. Based on normal walking speed, it should take us approximately 20 minutes. Because of all our luggage, we added another 10 minutes on top of that (a big luggage bag, a medium luggage bag, a backpack and a duffel bag— I can’t learn how to travel light!).
As we were walking, we often felt people eyeing us. They seemed jobless and eyeing respectable citizens seemed to be their past time. Perhaps we were one of the only few Asian tourists there. A man even stood in front of us and took photos of us with his mobile phone, without our permission, while we were waiting for the traffic light at a junction. It was a super weird experience and we wondered briefly if he was actually planning a mug on us. It didn’t happen.
We passed by what seemed to be the local Chinatown, with many Chinese and Vietnamese businesses. It was easily recognisable due to red lanterns hanging outside on the streets. They sold groceries, household items (the plastic ones – practical to use without aesthetic concerns, those seen in Malaysian pasar malams) and mobile accessories. With the clothes hung to dry at balconies of the flats above and the humid weather, it was a scene right out of a Malaysian street.
All along we came across many big piles of rubbish. I found out that was what Naples was infamous for. The mafia was in charge of the city’s waste disposal, so it’s probably not so surprising that they didn’t bother to do a good job of it. My personal tour guide (Alex, who else) told me this.
The expected 30 minutes walk ended up taking us 50 minutes! What we didn’t notice from looking at the map was that most of the route involved a narrow lane with no pedestrian pavement and one-way traffic. We had to step aside every few seconds to give way for all the traffic coming from the opposite direction, because they certainly didn’t seem to care about us. The street was cobblestoned and I was amazed at the durability of our luggage’s wheels, which survived in perfect condition.
When we finally arrived at our hotel, we realised that there was a main road with a huge pedestrian pavement located just one block parallel to the narrow one-way lane we took. It was longer in terms of distance, but later journeys to and fro our hotel took half the time. Neapolitan drivers are aggressive and seemed to have a constant finger on their motorcycle honks. Thanks to our Malaysian driving instincts, we easily managed to deal with the crazy traffic though. Not so much different to Penangites, the Neapolitans…
In the beginning, we avoided using the DSLR to refrain from looking too touristy and mostly because it just seemed to weird and out-of-place to do so. By the third day we became thoroughly accustomed to the environment, it being not too different from seedier parts of KL, and Alex started snapping away on the DSLR anyway.
All in all, the trip was worth it, maybe even for the pizza alone! I can truly say that I have never eaten any pizza as good as the ones in Naples.