Italy as a whole is a top destination for many reasons: the gastronomic delights, centuries of history, and diverse scenery, to name just a few. My main reason for wanting to visit Italy is a bit more personal. I guess you can say it’s in my blood for I am Italian-American. I can trace my roots on both sides of my family back to Italy: my father’s family is from Calabria; my mother’s from just outside of Naples. When I was planning my second trip to Italy, it was important to include Naples on our itinerary since my mom would be with us. I knew it would mean so much to her to see where her relatives came from, and it was important to me to share that experience with her. It was my mom’s very first trip to Italy and I wanted it to be special.
Special it was. And chaotic and beautiful and dirty and lyrical. But most of all, it was meaningful. We didn’t make it to the exact town where my mother’s father was from (Acerra), but just being in Naples and being so close was enough for my mom. We spent five days in Naples and what made it so meaningful was discovering the roots of all the Neapolitan traditions that still live on in my family. But there was one exceptionally poignant connection that we made while there. My daughter was with us on the trip and her name is Lucia. She was named (partly) after the Italian folk song, Santa Lucia, which was written about the Bay of Naples. Also, there’s a neighborhood in Naples called Santa Lucia. Both spots are quite scenic so it made the experience even more moving. I became a bit emotional seeing these places in person with my daughter.
Luckily, Naples is one authentic Italian city that is quite affordable for a family. We stayed at Hotel Europeo, one of the many charming hotels in Naples. Hotel Europeo is ideally located in the historic center, within walking distance of amazing cafes, restaurants, transportation, and important sites. Moreover, Naples is an incredibly fun place for kids. First of all, castles. I mean, what young kid does not love castles? Lucia and her imagination were able to run freely at both Castel dell’Ovo and Castel Nuovo. Lucia also was able to expend energy and experience Italian language immersion at the Villa Comunale playground. It was packed with local families when we were there. I can’t even describe how my heart swelled as I listened to other children and their parents talk to Lucia – in Italian – asking her name and if she would like to play with them.
We took that trip to Naples four years ago but the memories we created and the emotions we felt are still vivid and very real. It’s difficult for me to listen, without becoming defensive, to people talk about how Naples should be avoided because of the crime and mafia presence. My family and I experienced nothing of the sort; in fact, our experiences were quite the opposite. We’ll never forget the connections we made in Naples and it will always be a special place for our family.