Why I Love Naples
Italy is one of the most desirable places to travel. Most Americans have either traveled there or dream of traveling there. Let's face it, their country and their culture contribute to the majority of the worlds finer things in life such as fashion, food, art, music, historical events, fast cars, the Pope, I could keep going. The whole country has so much to offer and I plan to see IT ALL but there is one part that I will always continue to return to and that is Naples. It is where all of my mom's family is from and it is a place I have grown to better understand and appreciate. As I have gotten older, it has actually helped me to better understand more about myself and my family. In Naples, you get the true local experience. I have often heard people say "Rome is the heart of Italy but Naples is the Soul of Italy". It may not be for everyone but if you want to have a true Italian experience, than it's worth checking out. Also, it's very economical because you will not be paying tourist prices for things. You will be paying local prices. It is not only the birthplace of Pizza but it is where so many of THE BEST Italian dishes are from. As you probably see online, it does have a little bit of a bad reputation (which my mom and I both don't find to be accurate) but there are also so many people who can't get enough of it and fall in love there. In my personal opinion when it comes to this, it is like any other large international city, it has its pros and its cons so you just have to be smart (the same way you should be when traveling abroad anyway).
Fun Fact: the People of Naples (referred to as Napolitano) have their own dialect and culture. Often times, people who speak regular Italian cannot understand the Napolitano language. In fact, everything my mom was taught as a kid turned out to not be regular Italian at all and instead it was Napolitano. When you watch many American films that are based on Italian characters, many of the phrases you hear them say are actually either derived from the Napolitano language or common slang in the south. For Example, have you ever heard someone say "Capeesh"? (meaning understand) That stems from Naples and the actual word for understand would be "capisce". Another interesting thing you will find in Naples are when someone in your family or a loved one passes, they display almost a shrine to that person outside of their home or around their town.
I have ALWAYS been told how superstitious my relatives always were. I could share all of these superstitions with you but you may think I'm crazy if you heard them all so I'll share one that is the most well known. One of the things many people in South Italy truly believe in is the curse of the Malocchio (The Evil Eye). It is a look someone gives you when they are jealous or wish harm upon you. They say sometimes people can give it to you without even realizing it. There is a test people can do to find out if you have received it and that is with a bowl of water and olive oil. I could explain it but I am nervous I might not get it completely right so Google it if you are interested. It's pretty cool. Often many people will wear a Horn (Corno/Cornuto) to protect yourself from it. In fact, every single car in our house has one hanging from the rear view mirror or on their keychain along with their own set of Rosaries blessed by the Pope. I like to play it safe ok? haha!
Naples also has SO many historical sites to see that I have barely even scratched the service on them all. Did you know UNESCO has claimed Naples to be a world heritage site? It dates back to the 2nd Millenium B.C. It's absolutely incredible. It also sits on the Bay of Naples which is near Mount Vesuvius which is the Volcano that erupted and destroyed the City of Pompeii. (You MUST check out the Ancient Ruins of Pompeii. Don't Worry, I'm stepping up my Travel posts so I will post about that as well.) One thing we always like to see when we are visiting is the Naples Conservatory of Music. This is where my Nonno Gennaro (Jerry) attended school and was raised since he was a child. His musical career began here which is what led him the opportunity to come to the United States. Below I have listed a few cool things and sites we have visited during our last 2 trips there.
Napoli Sotterranea (Underground Naples):
Just in case you didn't know, Naples basically consists of cities built on top of eachother. There have been theaters, roads, buildings, you name it found underneath this ancient city. This particular museum is really cool because it once was used as an aqueduct but then served as a bomb shelter during the war. These tunnels are over thousands of years old as well which makes it really interesting. Here is the website for more info!
Duomo di Napoli (Naples Cathedral)
There are over 600 churches in Naples but this one is a MUST SEE. It is a Roman Catholic Cathedral and the seat of the Arcbishop of Naples. It is SO beautiful and is huge with multiple chapels off the the main one. There is also a crypt located under the main altar. Something else very interesting is this is where the " blood miracle" of San Gennaro takes place every year. What is the miracle? I'm about to get to that... Inside the church there is a chapel of San Gennaro (patron saint of the City of Naples) where his dry blood is still stored. He was the bishop of Benevento and was beheaded for being a Christian in 305 AD. Anyway, every year on September 19th, everyone celebrates the feast day of San Gennaro and fills the duomo to witness the miracle of the liquefaction of his blood. This is a religious ceremony where the Cardinal removes the vials of blood from the chapel and it is taken in a procession up to the cathedral's high altar. The crowd then wait and watches to see if the blood miraculously liquefies. If this occurs, it is believed to be a sign that San Gennaro has blessed the city and if not it is believed to be a bad omen. When it liquefies, the church bells ring and the Cardinal takes the liquefied blood through the cathedral and out into the streets so everyone can see it. Then he returns it back to the altar where it will remain on display for 8 days.
Via San Gregorio Armeno (Christmas Alley)
This street is located directly across from the Duomo and is one of my favorite things to visit. It is basically a tight little street that sells all sorts of fun figurines and novelties. Naples is know for its extravagant and over the top nativity scenes as well. These aren't just any nativity scenes would see in Michaels or something, these are made by hand and our sometimes a few feet high. It's really cool because you can see the artists in their shops making all of the figurines and everything by hand. It is for sure a must see!
Naples is also in a great location as you are within a short driving distance from the Amalfi Coast (Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, etc.) the ancient Ruins of Pompeii. Here is one of my hotels I would recommend if you wanted to stay in or near Napoli.
Like I said before, there are SO many things to see in Napoli and I have barely even begun to scratch the service. Naples is wonderful and unique and for me... it will always represent a little slice of home. I cannot wait to go back so I can share so much more about it. Until then...stay tuned!