“You will either deeply love her or hate her, but one thing is for sure: you will never forget her”
There is no secret from anyone that knows me that I have a deep love and endless fascination with Italy and its culture. I even lived in Rome for a time that seemed all too short. In spite of not quite speaking the language (not yet fluently but, I have ambitions), I always felt at home in the beautiful country. This week, I decided on getting the perspective of a local Italian and her city: Naples, or Napoli. I have only visited the southern city twice, and briefly, but that didn’t stop me from writing about it’s beautiful chaos and its pizza. This time I talked to a native Neapolitan: Emanuela Cervo, who described the city as a place of contrasts living together harmoniously. She mentioned a particular intensity of the city, and compared it to an incredibly fascinating woman. I most definitely agreed.
“Just like an incredibly fascinating woman, there is no way the city won’t shock you. You will either deeply love her or hate her, but one thing is for sure: you will never forget her”
I have known Emanuela for a couple of years now, we met in yet another fascinating city, New York, when she was working as an intern for the Italian Mission in the United Nations. I admire Emanuela and see her as a kindred spirit, but this time I got to know her through her love for her hometown. The city that flows in her blood and is a “bittersweet curse you bring in your heart wherever you are.” I asked her a few questions about Napoli, and through her answers, I quickly realized it would be impossible for me to write a short article and still do her love for the city justice. Although I will try my best while still offering my perspective.
Through the questions I asked Emanuela, I became even more enamored by the city I briefly visited. She described a gorgeous microcosm that “has witnessed the course of European history, as a result of numerous civilizations that have dominated it”. Ughh, I love history. She also mentioned an interesting fact; something that envelops the city and its citizens: Because of its history, Naples has experienced many catastrophes, and as a result, the city has developed a particular cohabitation with death which translates into a fascinating esoteric approach to life. Ahh, yes, fascinating.
By now, as I write these words, I crave going back to Naples. I crave the excitement, the warm summer nights, the pizza. It feels incredibly familiar to me, for the sort of feeling that captures me in Naples is akin to the one I get when I visit my own city of Caracas, and view it with the eyes of a visitor. Perhaps it’s the cultural affinity; Italians and Latin Americans both share a cultural bond that comes from a tumultuous distant past and the shared origin of our language: Latin. Even Emanuela mentions Latin American music is very popular in Napoli for it fits the city’s rhythms! In Naples, you’ll find yourself in a city with an “ancient soul,” you will not only see it through its historical architectures – you’ll feel it.
I miss this place that was never mine. I crave the proximity to the Mediterranean and southern Italy’s beautiful islands, which many Neapolitans, as Emanuela tells me, visit in the summer weekends. Her favorites being Capri, for it’s magic, and the dream that is Positano. I had the fortune of visiting both of these places, and not only do I agree, but remember looking at Positano and feeling some magical nostalgia for the place I would soon leave. I was visiting with a couple of friends whom I told I was there with them by a weird funny irony; because this is a place that I would best enjoy with a future love.
Emanuela tells me she feels it a blessing to be a Neapolitan, and that to know the city genuinely and profoundly, it is essential to get to know some locals. The staple of a true Neapolitan is “humor and intensity” she tells me. I crave it’s delicious food (Emanuela didn’t hesitate to recommend an array of things and places to try while in Naples), I asked what I should do if I only had 24 hours in Naples. She said to stay longer. Sounds about right.
To end, she finished with these words: “Napoli is a true and genuine city, which can seem untouched by globalization from certain points of view. Getting lost in its craziness and chaos will definitely make you feel alive and its contrasts will shake you from within.”
My suspicions were I would not be able to do justice to the Napoli she described me. I was right. Not only did she tell me about Napoli’s history, about its passion for the game of “calcio,” and her recommendations for some wonderful food. She filled me with excitement to go back. On that note, I will publish a full transcript of her recount of Naples in a few days, for anyone who is curious for more.
Photo by Emanuela Cervo