Naples – a polarizing place, love it or hate it. I’m struggling to find my space in this new city. Because of the traffic and noise, the litter, and the lack of public spaces, I’m missing my old home in Athens. However, I have learned many times over to give myself time to learn a new place.
It’s too early to have a fully formed opinion. Nonetheless, I’m sharing my observations from my first few days in Naples.
Observation #1 – on the road, he who blinks first loses.
When we rolled into town last Friday afternoon, we were assaulted with wild honking and frantic driving. After a few days of navigating, I’ve noted you cannot just be assertive. Not only will it take you forever to get anywhere, but the ragging of rancorous honking will turn you into a neurotic nut job. Nope, you must stick your nose out into traffic and go for it.
Observation #2 – double parking and sidewalks are fair spots to ditch your car.
We’ve already been blocked in by a double-parker, so I guess that means we’re local???
Parking is a huge problem. With so many buildings and few garages, people become creative in where they park. And if you don’t vacate your spot fast enough, you’ll get more honking.
Observation #3 – they may steal your bag, but they apparently will not steal your laundry.
Driving around town, you’ll see laundry hanging outside the windows. From the looks of it, everyone in Naples does laundry every single day. Even on ground floor apartments and sidewalks, laundry is drying within reach of grabby hands.
Observation #4 – streets covered with litter and cigarette butts
The first days we busied ourselves trying to learn the city and find a place to live. We encountered garbage bins overflowing in mounds to the surrounding sidewalk. Like Beirut and Athens, Naples seems to have a garbage problem.
Observation #5 – On Saturday afternoon, the city is zombie land, particularly after 2 pm.
Saturday is a day of rest. We couldn’t even find a place to grab some lunch while we were exploring the eastern suburbs on the waterfront. On the contrary, I was surprised to find many shops are open on Sunday.
Observation #6 – English speakers are rare, even amongst the service staff.
Luckily, English speakers are familiar with Italian food terms. At least I won’t go hungry while I’m rushing to grasp at least the basics. It’s a rough life for a non-Italian speaker in Naples.
Observation #7 Google search about anything in or about Naples in English is useless.
Don’t expect much help learning about Naples from the internet. Besides the “Top 10 Things To Do in Naples” tourist articles, there isn’t a lot of information for English speakers. However, you’ll find out everything you need to know about Naples, Florida.
Instead, I’m relying on blogs to find basic information about where to eat and things to do here.
Observation #8 – Unlike many large European cities, Naples has a scant expat community.
Not only did I get used to speaking English in Athens, but I also relied heavily on the expat community to tell me where to find just about anything. It will be harder to get what I need here, but probably more interesting too.
Observation #9 – there is shockingly little green space in Naples.
On Sunday we continued our neighborhood exploring and after two days of searching, we finally found a park. Being constantly bombarded with racket, I must have some quiet solitude sometimes. We’re hoping to find a place in Pozzuoli, a quiet suburb on the waterfront with a charming park. When did I become a suburbanite???
Observation #10 – At least half the food establishments in Naples are pizzerias.
And that’s not counting the restaurants that also serve it. It’s cheap too – a 12” margherita costs 4-5€. A perfect meal for a student budget.
The first Neapolitan pizza we ate was from Da Michelle, famous worldwide for being the place where Elizabeth Gilbert eats in the book Eat, Pray, Love. I realized this after seeing a photo of Julia Roberts eating her pie. Had I known beforehand, I would have rejected this pizzeria. I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Observation #11 – Gracious locals go out of their way to help
It’s not all doom and gloom! When we arrived in Naples, we only knew one person through some friends of ours. Not only did this Naples local treat us for drinks and dinner after we arrived, but he also called people in his network to help us find a place to stay. That is how we came to be living with a Russian lady who only speaks Italian.
Without our friend-of-a-friend, we would have been stressed to find a place with poor language skills and no local references…
I draw my patience from the kind people here. After all, it is the people that make a place.
Have you ever been to Naples? Please send me any tips you have!