Cities Less Traveled: Revealing “Real” Italy in Naples

It’s been said that Naples is a beautiful woman in a dirty dress. Such a description could not be more fitting. Everything you’ve heard about Naples is true: it’s chaotic and gritty. However, in keeping with the woman-in-a-dirty-dress analogy, a person’s true beauty comes from within, not what is on the outside. Naples is the same way. It’s worth seeing beyond the grimy exterior and getting to truly know this beautiful woman. For the #HipmunkCityLove project, I give you a handful of reasons to include Naples on your Italy trip itinerary, for a taste of authentic Italy.

The People

Neapolitans are passionate people. Everything they do is with gusto and conviction. You can hear the emotion in their voices when they speak the singsong Neapolitan dialect. You can see it on their faces as they walk arm-in-arm down the streets. Neapolitans love one another, and even more so, they love life. Their “la vita è bella” outlook is infectious, and spending any amount of time among the Neapolitans is an enjoyable reminder of how we should strive to enjoy each day to the fullest.

The Food

Saying the food in Naples is extraordinary is like saying the sky is blue. It’s a given. Naples is the birthplace of pizza, after all. However, the gastronomic delights of Naples extend far beyond pizza. Another Naples original is sfogliatelle, a ridged, shell-shaped, cream or custard-filled pastry. Thanks to the city’s advantageous setting on the Bay of Naples, there is no shortage of fresh and delicious seafood. Then there are the fried foods, ranging from street food like zeppole (similar to doughnuts) to baccala fritto (fried cod), which is a year-round staple for Neapolitans.

The Location

As if Naples itself isn’t enough of a draw, the city also serves as an excellent stepping-off point for amazing nearby attractions. The historic archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are just a short and easy train ride away. If glitz and glam are more your thing, hop on one of the ferries from Naples to the swank Isle of Capri. Not willing to venture out on your own? Not to worry; private, guided day tours to places like Amalfi Coast are plentiful, and most depart from the center of Naples.

The Natural Beauty

If the bustling centro storico (historic center) gets to be too much, seek respite at the shore. Gaze out on the sparkling blue Bay of Naples with Mt. Vesuvius as a backdrop. Seeing it from a distance in such a peaceful setting, the volcano doesn’t seem so ominous. The rocky shoreline curves with Lungomare, the seaside promenade in the affluent Chiaia neighborhood. It’s a pleasant spot for a stroll or a bike ride. To get an even better look at Bella Napoli, climb to the top of Castel dell’Ovo to see the sea and the city from a higher vantage point. It is stunning.

Lungomare from Castel dell'Ovo | Napoli

This is but a scratch on the surface of what makes Naples such an interesting place, and an example of “real” Italy. Just remember to give that gorgeous woman in the dirty dress a chance. She will surprise you.

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10 Responses to Cities Less Traveled: Revealing “Real” Italy in Naples

  1. Jenny | A Thing For Wor(l)ds January 5, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    I went to Naples three years ago, just for a few hours on a day-trip to Rome, and found the dress too ugly to even consider the woman. But I just returned from a 3-day stint there, this time hosted by a friend from Naples, and my outlook has completely changed. It’s so full of life and passion, the food is incredible, the people are friendly and open, and hell, I’m sick of picture-perfect garbage-free cities anyway!! I’m so glad this visit changed my mind, and I also think your post perfectly captures what there is to love about the place.
    Jenny | A Thing For Wor(l)ds recently posted…When to Visit San FranciscoMy Profile

  2. John January 5, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    Nice post – a great little intro into Naples. I’m always confused why Naples seems to throw up such different opinions – maybe it’s a little bit love or hate, like marmite?

  3. Tim January 5, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    It has been many years since I was last in Naples but the description is still very accurate. I love the beautiful woman in a dirty dress analogy…I think it could be applied to many cities; even the one I am based in…San Francisco.
    Tim recently posted…Population OneMy Profile

  4. Karl January 5, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

    Great post FF. I have seen very little of Italy and I’m willing to give a “girl in a dirty dress” a shot! 😉
    Karl recently posted…Amsterdam’s Red Light District at Night – Rated PGMy Profile

    • Francesca January 6, 2015 at 9:50 am #

      Ha ha, Karl! I’m sure you would!

  5. Samantha January 5, 2015 at 11:45 pm #

    Haha I do love that comparison! I haven’t been to Naples but I’m curious to explore. I’d love to see if this beautiful girl in the dirty dress analogy is true, there has to be a reason why it got that reputation!
    Samantha recently posted…The Best Taiwanese Food You Can’t MissMy Profile

  6. Lucy January 7, 2015 at 6:03 am #

    I’ve only transited through Naples en route to Sorrento or the Amalfi Coast (though did spent a couple of hours getting lost in the mad traffic there last autumn, which probably wasn’t the best introduction…) but really should go and try out the city itself next time. As you say it’s one of those places that polarises opinion but you should really see for yourself (and the food may well win me over).
    Lucy recently posted…On board Concorde: A tour of an aviation legendMy Profile

  7. the lazy travelers January 9, 2015 at 9:30 am #

    we’d go to naples for the pizza and stay for the zeppole.
    the lazy travelers recently posted…12 hours in dublin // the ultimate first-timer’s pub crawlMy Profile

  8. Mary Ann March 7, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    I visited Italy many times in the last decade, but I never went down in south to visit Napoli, I heard many stories with mobsters there and I’m afraid.
    However, I already visited the north part of Italy (which is close to Germany), I went to Bibione, Caorle and in other awesome places.
    This summer I want to visit Milan and Rome.
    Mary Ann recently posted…Using tannery waste products to produce a better biofuelMy Profile

  9. Pavel April 18, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    I’ve just returned from Naples and I totally loved the city. Sure most of the city is kinda dirty, but beautiful and food was great and really cheaper compare to other cities in Italy (like 3€ for half liter of good wine in restaurant) and not many tourists.

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