Naples Italy is not one of Europe’s more beautiful cities. And, on a rainy or overcast day, the city has all the visual appeal of Detroit during the eighties. That is to say, it’s kinda shitty looking. Everything in Naples appears covered with centuries of soot. Yet you can’t condemn Naples just because—and I’m only judging from appearances—the city entirely defunded its janitorial services department.
When the sun comes out, Naples Italy starts to look a lot better.
Once lit by the glow of Italy’s bright Mediterranean sun, Naples perks up quite a bit. The city’s grittiness quickly fades away and is all but forgotten. Without really noticing, you suddenly find yourself in yet another charming and vibrant Italian city. One that’s overflowing with restaurants, shopping, gelato, and a shipload of shipping containers.
Naples Italy is a port city, but not the kind you drink.
Naples Italy is the country’s third-largest city, and one of the largest seaports on the Mediterranean. Basically, if a product is coming to Italy, it’s likely coming through Naples. Its port accommodates 60,000+ ships annually—that’s over 150 ships a day. Workers offload more than 500,000 shipping containers a year, stacking them up like Jupiter’s Lego® blocks all over town. So the city doesn’t have a tourist-wowing waterfront with topless women sunbathing on the beach. Just topless bros drinking beer on shipping containers.
Naples Italy could really stand a good power-washing.
That subhead isn’t a knock on Napoli. I mean, the place is literally ancient, and there’s only so much cleaning you can do without sand-blasting away the history of the place.
Clearly, the local Napoletanos don’t notice or care that their buildings’ exteriors are fairly filthy. It’s probably because they’re too busy living life and not wasting the brief time they have on this planet worrying about a little dirt.
Grime is simply no big deal to them. After two millennia, the locals just got used to the dinginess. The exteriors of homes and businesses in Naples Italy are, like most European cities and towns, simply timeworn from literally centuries of sun, storms, soot, and smog.
So Napoletanos put their efforts into their homes’ and buildings’ interiors. From within their tidy and trendy apartments, offices, and cafés, no one can see a building’s soot-saturated exterior walls. And there’s no point in cleaning it when churlish scofflaws will, sooner or later, spray offensive graffiti all over it anyway. At least, I assume it’s offensive—I can’t really read Italian.
Naples Italy is no place for cars, unless they’re the Matchbox® variety.
Like most medieval European cities, Naples’ streets are barely wide enough for two horses to pass each other. And even then, it can only accommodate those subcompact Shetland-brand horses.
As a result of these physical size restrictions, car companies have long produced a plethora of tiny automobiles like the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper. They’re perfect for driving around city streets, and I’m pretty sure they’re legal on golf courses, too.
The only trucks we saw in the city were the comically cute, minuscule models. In my opinion, trucks have no place in any city (unless they have an Amazon logo on them).
Nobody goes to Naples Italy to relax (hopefully).
Italians have lots of places to find peace and quiet—spectacular islands, azure lakes, and remote alps—but cities like Naples are not one of them. This is a real, functioning port city and, as such, it is bustling, chaotic, and raucous, 24/7/365.
The place is awash in noise emanating from scooters, horns, sirens, and church bells so loud that they drown out everything, even Italians talking on the street (no small feat).
It’s not that Italians are loud, in fact, they’re no louder than Greeks. It’s just that there are so many Italians on Naples’ streets that they can make a fair amount of noise. (With all their hand-gesticulation, they generate a fair amount of breeze, too.)
Of course, if you wanted peace and quiet, you should’ve gone to the Amalfi Coast. That’s on you, my friend.
Our hotel was a former residence of the O.G. crypto-bro.
After flying into Naples Int’l Airport (NAP), we took a car into downtown to find our lodging, Relais Della Porta. Inadvertently, we had booked the one-time home of Gianbattista Della Porta, an Italian scholar, philosopher, and scientist. He worked in crypto a full 350 years before Charles Ponzi inspired today’s speculative digital asset scheme.
Giovanni (to his friends) was a polymath who made his non-virtual, centralized fiat money perfecting devices like the Camera Obscura, and publishing scholarly works across almost every known science at the time.
He allegedly even invented the first telescope, but died while trying to prove his claim. Galileo was immediately questioned about Della Porta’s unexpected demise, but he was ultimately released. Galileo was “conveniently” being tortured by a Roman Inquisitor at the time of the death. NOTE: Do not fact-check any of the above.
Don’t miss staying at Relais Della Porta, but it’s very easy to do.
Our driver eventually dropped us off and drove away. He assumed that we knew where we were going, and we’d assumed that a mansion would be somewhat …conspicuous. We were both wrong.
Getting into the former home of a cryptography buff requires a few steps:
- Search for a gate in the wall
- Find a call-box to the left of the gate
- Enter the code and announce yourself
- Wait for the buzzer noise
- Find the tiny door hidden within the gate and push it open to pass through
- Go to the elevator at the back of the courtyard
- Enter the elevator and put a 10-cent Euro into the coin box
- Press the button for level three
- Check in at hotel lobby
The interior of Relais Della Porta was recently renovated.
Dating back to the sixteenth century, the exterior of this historic mansion is perpetually a work in progress. The interior of Relais Della Porta, on the other hand, is nicely modernized.
This renovated residence now offers many rooms, apartments, and common areas. Its rooms are large, but sometimes oddly shaped and confusingly configured. (One room we stayed in had a second floor inside it with stairs going up to a bedroom.) Amenities included all the latest fixtures, appliances, and conveniences that 16th Century folks would’ve considered witchcraft.
The Della Porta’s dining room is of special note as it’s topped with a fantastic frescoed ceiling. Cleverly, the proprietors use mirrored dining tables to make viewing the ceiling easy (see photo). The Renaissance-style ceiling painting looks like something straight out of the Sistine Chapel, only with less nudity.
Naples Italy is old, I mean, like super old.
This ancient city was founded by some very lost Greeks in the first millennium (around 900 BCE), well before the invention of GPS or AAA® TripTiks. For almost 3,000 years, Naples has been one of the oldest continuously inhabited urban areas in the world. It’s an achievement that, if nothing else, certainly explains all the soot.
Since the Middle Ages, Naples has been a center for culture, art, and architecture. Its fortresses, palazzos, churches, and palaces have spanned the generations. Naples even boasts the oldest opera house, Teatro San Carlo, which first opened in 1737. Yet, despite being “one of the first centers of human society,” Naples still doesn’t have its first Starbucks. And they call themselves civilized.
Naples has a lot of huge, ancient buildings.
With a population of almost a million, Naples could probably take up more land and maybe offer more parking. And yet it never seems that crowded until you’re queuing up for dinner.
Apparently, the people of Naples are all hanging out inside the city’s ginormous buildings. And I’m not talking about modern skyscrapers erected with sky-cranes (which is totally cheating, btw).
I’m talking old school Renaissance-style buildings. The kind ancient Napoletanos used to build by hand, out of rock, using chisels and, I’m assuming, tons of slave labor.
The Galleria Umberto I, for example, is a perfect example.
Built in the 1880s, Galleria Umberto I is both extremely large and respectably ancient. It was designed to allow citizens to shop, stroll, and eat lunch, completely safe from the violent street crime and opera fans that once plagued this sketchy part of town.
The galleria’s ground floor—decorated throughout with murals and sculptures—is home to a number of shops, cafes, and restaurants. The upper floors contain offices for “legitimate businesses,” a few of which almost certainly aren’t just fronts for mafia crime families.
This UNESCO site was effectively a shopping mall long before America ever built its first shopping mall. Architectural badass, Emanuele Rocco, designed the space by mixing Renaissance designs with Baroque motifs like a boss. As a result, the exterior of this building is stunning, but it’s even more amazing on the inside.
Marble tile and mosaics cover the entire floor of this magnificent shopping arcade. Meanwhile, a 183-foot-high domed glass and steel roof keeps the rain and pigeon shit out. Hell, this place has so much wasted interior space, you could fly drones around or shoot off fireworks without really damaging anything.
The food in Naples is mostly Italian and very often pizza.
In some countries, it’s hard to find decent, non-native restaurants (I’m looking at you, Japan). But Italy is one of two countries where the idea of eating the same cuisine for two straight weeks doesn’t force me to eat KFC for variety’s sake. Oh, and that other country is Mexico.
Checking Google Maps for dinner recommendations, we found D’Angiò – Trattoria Napoletana rated well. The pastas were, to our delight, very good and reasonably priced. Try the Ziti Lardiati, which is basically pasta in pig fat—it was delicious.
The wine at D’Angiò was shockingly affordable, too, so we drank way too much. We liked the place so much, in fact, that we went back on Monday. Make a note: the restaurant is closed on Monday.
We also went to a tiny hole-in-the-wall called Ristorante La Porta Accanto, which was very small. I think they had five tables in total. It’s famous for its service and friendly staff, and we can vouch for that. The place serves a number of dishes at very reasonable prices. The decor is charming, and the ambiance was great—plus it’s open late. Highly recommended, but so are reservations.
Pizza is a thing people eat in Naples Italy.
Pizza is big in Napoli. How big? The city reportedly has about 1,500 pizza places for its almost 1 million citizens. That’s about 1 pizza place for every 666 people. You’d think 1,500 joints would be sufficient, but get reservations or you’re going to be waiting a long time. Italians, I’ve learned, are not fast eaters.
That fact became abundantly clear when we went to Gradi 400, a pizza place that is both tiny and popular. We waited quite awhile for a table to open up there because, as I said, it is popular.
So we were later shocked when we got right into Palazzo Petrucci without calling ahead. It’s a fancy, one-Michelin-star restaurant but it also has a pizza-focused side-hustle.
To be honest, every place we had pizza in Naples was pretty good. Of course, pizza is a lot like sex. Even when it’s just okay, it’s still pretty messy and shameful.
4 things to do in Naples Italy, as recommended by a local.
Frankly, we didn’t do a lot of sightseeing while we were in Naples Italy, so here are some reccos from our driver, Antonio, a lifelong Napoletano.
- 50 Kalo Di Ciro Salvo The name of this pizza restaurant roughly translates as “good mixture.”
- At telio (??? not sure what he said here)
- La Pignasecca Market A mix of temporary stalls, pizzerias, and permanent specialty food shops.
- Archeological Museum An immense collection of Roman art.
- Also, try these other suggestions from “Secret Naples.”
Naples Italy deserves a lot more respect than I just gave it.
Look, I know I barely scratched the surface of all the stuff there is to see and do in Naples. If we’d had more time here, I probably could’ve written a better CrosbyReport™ on the place.
Still, we were headed to the Amalfi Coast, so Naples got the short shrift. I’m not happy about that, but I’m pretty lazy, and being “conscientious about my work” sounds like a lot more effort.
So, to sum up, Naples is a fine city for any fan of cosmopolitan urban environments. Or any fan of pizza. Don’t forget about the pizza.