Last week, I wrote a post titled “Local Perspective: Emanuela and the Fascinating Woman that is Naples,” in which I collaborated with a Neapolitan friend of mine. I asked my friend Emanuela about the city where she was born and raised to write a local profile. Through her answers I quickly noticed her passion for her city. If you haven’t read that post, you can do so here! I would love to hear your thoughts. For those of you who have and are curious for more, here is Emanuela’s full transcript to all of my questions for her:
– What is your favorite thing about your city?
The most peculiar trait of Naples is its intensity.
It is, par excellence, the city of contrasts where many different factors live together in an incredibly harmonious way. I always say that it is some kind of a blessing to be a Neapolitan. The city flows in your blood; and it is a bittersweet curse you bring in your heart wherever you are. 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 sure: you will never forget her. You can start observing these contrasts from the urban planning of the city itself. Bourgeois and less rich quartiers were (and are) literally intertwined. Creating an incredibly rich melting pot of culture and social characteristics. This peculiarity puts its roots back in the history of the city. Naples is a gorgeous microcosm that witnesses the course of European history, as a result of numerous civilizations that have dominated it. Its origins start on the neolithic era, on the “Pizzofalcone” hill and, since then, it has never stopped to be among the most attractive areas of the Mediterranean. Its strategic position in the Mediterranean basin, its natural beauties and resources, the prosperity of the highly-mineral soil, have been the main attractive factors for the Greek and Roman colonizations of the region; nowadays still witnessed by the amazing “Pompei” and “Ercolano.” Since then, the city’s cultural, monumental, and architectural heritage still shows the long excursus of dominations that brought Naples to be the third most important European city in the 18th Century, together with PAris and London in terms of population, scientific, and artistic progress. Fun fact? The most ancient railway, water system, and among the most ancient opera theaters (San Carlo Theater), and universities (Federico II), were born here! All those influences are still in the veins of the city and its citizens, and you will notice it through the mixed architectures, the extreme noise, the rooted traditions, the intense smells, flavors and colors. You’ll find yourself in a city with an ancient soul, where the openness to diversity will accompany your discovery through its splendid “Vicoli.”
– What is a staple of a true Neapolitan?
Definitely humor and intensity. Neapolitans are known for their extreme ways of being, their hilarious jokes, and their lightness mixed up with deep wisdom. Getting to know Neapolitans is a way to complete the journey through the city and profoundly understand it. If you have any italian friend from another region, you will certainly get the difference!
– What is a tradition that you only find in Naples?
In Naples traditions are an integral part of the social structure. They are still alive, and not only in the elders’ memory. They are enthusiastically handed down to new generations and they live in the contemporary life. The most famous one is definitely the “Miracle of Saint Gennaro;” Patron protector of the city. According to the tradition, the relic of the Saint (his blood contained in an ampoule), must get liquefied each year on December 16th, May, and September 19th. It is viewed as an auspicious sign, which is believed confirms that the Saint protects the city. According to the tradition, on December 1631, the Saint has been able to stop the lava of the Vesuvius eruption at the foot of Naples. Contrarily, it is believed that when the blood didn’t liquefy (various time during the 20th Century) those years were signed by miseries, such as in 1939 with the beginning of the 1st World War, in 1973 with an epidemic cholera, and a powerful earthquake in 1980. For this reason, on those dates hundreds of faithful, various religious and city authorities get reunited at the Duomo Church to devotedly pray and observe together this phenomenon. No matter if you believe in the miracle or not, the experience is extreme! Another fun fact: the “Treasure of Saint Gennaro” (located just few steps away the Duomo Church) is the most precious collection of the World, followed by the (English) Crown Jewels. Curious to know who’s the owner? The city of Naples and its citizens! An amazing treasure enriched thanks to the devotion of Royal families and the faithful. An often forgotten must see, I highly recommend!
– Is there something Neapolitans say that is specific to the city? What about 20 something Neapolitans?
You will find that almost everyone has a positive obsession about the city. We love it, we protect it from negative messages, we belong to it. If you have time, it would be a great to visibly experience this obsession at the Stadium, when the Napoli team plays. I don’t appreciate football at all, but I must say that the emotion I felt there is astonishing, and reflects many peculiarities of the city. People come together in that place; incredibly different people from diverse backgrounds, but they find themselves united by one singular faith. The intensity of the chorus, the energy spread by all the Napoli supporters, the cohesion created among people is an overwhelming and breathtaking feeling. To be noted: Naples is a very Catholic city (with almost 500 churches) and you will often find “Edicole Votive” and religious signs all over the city, but pay attention: the second religion here is definitely the “calcio” game and the Napoli football team!
– What is something people in their 20s do typically in their free time in Naples?
Generally speaking, I would definitely say hanging out with friends, eat and drink together. And I mean in a very excessive way! We love to party and we always search for good excuses to enjoy life. Friendship is a fundamental factor here; but every stranger will always find very welcoming and extroverted people around. Thanks to our good weather we spend a lot of time in open air, walking through the streets and chilling in main squares for entire nights, chatting and laughing. Young Neapolitans are often fun, very talkative and they love to speak a lot and laugh loudly.
– Where is your favorite place to hangout? Why?
It really depends; but the great thing is that, based on your mood, you have plenty of choice. In the mood to be in the crowd in a genuine way? If so, a great choice would be the historical center. Few places make you feel so alive in the world! There are plenty of delicious restaurants; and after dinner there are many beautiful squares (Piazza Bellini, Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, Piazzetta Nilo) where you can cherish a great regional wine (Falanghina, Coda di Volpe, Biancolella, Aglianico, and Moio highly recommended); and get to know some locals. The language barrier could still be a problem, but you’ll see how the Italian gestural language will help you through this journey. Oh, and try to learn some Neapolitan words. There are so many nouns with particular nuances that can’t be really translated in other languages!
– What is your favorite restaurant? Bar? Why?
That’s what I call a hard question! Here it is almost impossible not to have an incredible food experience. Thanks to a vast variety of traditional recipes and great local ingredients, we are lucky enough to have among the most delicious cuisines in the world. Very heavy though, get prepared! I also appreciate the “democracy” when it comes to food here: you can even have a great street food meal starting from 2 euros (for example for a “pizza a portafoglio”).
As for the pizza I really love “Concettina ai Tre Santi”, an old family-run business in one of the most difficult (but also beautiful) neighborhoods called “La Sanità”. I would suggest to go there very early not to wait hours to get a table. All the pizzas are amazing, just remember to start trying the “frittatina di pasta” as appetizer. I would suggest to go first to the amazing “Cimitero delle Fontanelle” and then, after the pizza, to take a nice walk to “Palazzo dello Spagnuolo” and “Palazzo San Felice.”
If you feel like having a romantic dinner, I would definitely suggest to go to “Marechiaro” zone (on Posillipo Hill) at “Cicciotto a Marechiaro”. You’ll find a wonderful panorama right on the sea, a relaxing environment and you’ll not feel like being in the city anymore! A little secret for the adventurous ones: there is a wonderful place where you can have a splendid night swim just 10 minutes by walking from there. The place is informally called “Scoglione”, and you will have to reach it passing through the sea and climbing just a bit. I can assure you that having a swim there, with the Vesuvius right in front of you and no one around, is going to be an incredible experience.
There is also a newly opened restaurant, “Classico Ristorante Italiano,” which I like a lot. Right in the heart of the Chiaia quartier, the restaurant offers a quiet and elegant place where to experience a great traditional cuisine lead by an innovation kick, a great choice of wines and a pleasant outdoor space.
As per the bars, I would suggest “Spazio Nea” in the historical center. It is located in the crowded and lively Piazza Bellini, but it has a splendid outdoor where to sip drinks with friends just a step out of the chaos. Another bar I suggest is certainly the “Happening”, at the center of the Movida area of “Baretti” in Chiaia, where you can find a nice crowd of clients and super great cocktails.
– What kind of music does the young Neapolitan generation listen to?
Lately, there’s been a big spread of Latin-American music. After all, we have Hispanic blood and its musicality perfectly fits the lively and dynamic rhythm of the streets.
– What is a typical thing to do on weekends?
It all depends on the season. During Spring and Summer, if possible, we definitely prefer to get away to one of the enchanting beauties close to the city. An example? By ferry or private boat (also possible to rent), you can reach in about 30 minutes our islands: Capri, Ischia, and Procida. Another option could be the Costiera Sorrentina and Amalfitana. We would need an entire chapter just for these beauties, so just choose one of them by heart and based on your character! My favorites are definitely Capri for its magic and its blue sea that I love to sail on the typical “gozzo” boat, Ischia for its diversity and its thermal baths (“Miramare Sea Resort and Spa” is my favorite) and Positano, which is just a real dream.
If you wanna stay in the city, I adore to getaway by Kayak around the Gulf. Enjoy the silence and the nature, surrounded by the wonderful architecture of Posillipo and with the picturesque Naples panorama as a background. For this, I really recommend the “Kayak Napoli” crew: professional, super fun, and kind guys (they have two locations in Posillipo, easy to reach).
During Autumn and Winter, luckily, Napoli is a big city with a wide offer of alternatives. Restaurants, bars, night clubs are always incredibly crowded and lively, and the weather is generally good. For these reasons, especially during Christmas, the city remains a popular destination also for Italians from other Regions.
– What is something weird about the city? Something unexpected
Napoli has also suffered of numerous catastrophes: destructions, eruptions, earthquakes, bombings, tidal waves, plagues and fires. For this reason, the city has developed a particular cohabitation with death; which is nowadays still translated in a fascinating esoteric approach to life that is still alive in traditions, legends, and monuments. Even in despair, the city learnt to face difficulties with a bitter sweet smile and a profound positivity you can still feel everywhere.
– If I was there for only 24 hours, what should I do?
Stay longer is an option? Jokes apart, even for a local a lifetime won’t be enough to discover Naples!
I would definitely suggest to get yourself lost in the historical center, going with the flow and experiencing the place with eyes and heart wide open. Let’s try to find a one-day path to see as much as possible. You can start your tour from the Duomo Church, visit it and the Treasure of Saint Gennaro. Keep on going towards “Via dei Tribunali” and take a stop at “Napoli Sotterranea” to visit the underground beauties of Naples. Have a great pizza at “Di Matteo” or “Sorbillo” and start again wandering toward the beauties of “Piazza San Domenico Maggiore” (near there, a must see is the “Cappella San Severo” with the “Veiled Christ” sculpture). Take a coffee and a sfogliatella at “Scaturchio” and head to “Basilica di Santa Chiara”, then to “Piazza del Gesù” and the baroque pearl “Gesù Nuovo Church”. Go to “Via Roma” and be sure to take a fantastic ice cream at “Mennella” (I swear, among the best of my life). Fill your eyes with beauty in “Piazza del Plebiscito”, visit the “Royal Palace” and, if on time, also the “San Carlo Theater” known as the most beautiful theater in the world. Time for another coffee? Go to the “Gambrinus”, and find yourself teleported in an historical bar of the 20 th century. Then, continue on “Via Chiaia” and go to the classy Chiaia neighborhood. After a rapid look at the amazing stairs of “Palazzo Mannajuolo” then rapidly go to “Borgo Marinari”, located on the Lungomare. It would be amazing to take a visit at the “Castel dell’Ovo” Castle and to have a nice aperitivo in front of the sea to enjoy a spectacular sunset. Walk all the way long to “Mergellina”, take a cab and have dinner in “Marechiaro”.
Napoli is a true and genuine city, which can seem to be untouched by globalization from certain point of views. Getting lost in its chaos and craziness will definitely make you feel extremely alive and its contrasts will shake you from within. Experience. Enjoy people’s kindness, invasiveness, joy and let your soul be filled by all of that. And, of course, don’t forget to put as many food-stops as you could along the way!