Castel dell'Ovo in Naples, fortress & former royal residence

It is true: Naples is simply fascinating
Don't judge the city at first sight

Naples/Italy (2017) – "Rome is stately and impressive; Florence is all beauty and enchantment; Genoa is picturesque; Venice is a dream city, but Naples is simply fascinating", wrote Emily
Lilian Whiting (1847-1942), an American journalist, poet and storyteller in her book
"Italy: The Magic Land". Naples couldn't receive a greater and more fitting compliment.
Even though the city has to fight so many misconceptions – dirty, dangerous, unfriendly –
once given the chance to convince visitors from the opposite Naples will just do that.
At the end everybody agrees with Whiting, Naples truly is fascinating.
Don't judge Naples at first sight – It takes time to get used to the madness
The first impression is not always the right one. In some cases, you are better advised to give it a closer look, sometimes also more than one, before you judge. Naples is such a case. It's not an ideal city for a day trip. For Naples, you need a little more time. It takes a while to understand the city and its people and to shake off the fear based on the misconception you might have brought with you. I give you an example: When you enter the city by car you might think you're driving right into a war zone. It will scare the heck out of you, trust me. Something like a safety distance between vehicles does not exist in Naples. Everyone on the street comes close to your car, very close, especially motorbikes and the smaller version of it, the "motorinos". Hundreds of them. The Hitchcock horror-thriller "Birds" might come to your mind when all of the sudden in your rear mirror dozens of these "motorinos" appear and they start passing you from all sides, hunk at you, cut you off or take your right of way like it would be their right to do so. I admit it takes a bit to get used to this madness. But as bad as it looks, you will survive, because there seems to be a concept in this chaos, they all know what they do. So stay cool and just go with the flow.

Naples is not a dangerous city – Let's talk about the "God of Naples"
"Naples is not a dangerous city", a cap driver assured me on one of my strolls through the city. And as far as I can tell, he seems to be right, Naples doesn't appear to be more dangerous than any other European city of the same size. Sure, it's smart to hold onto your stuff at all time and to be not too naive when dealing with locals somehow but these rules apply everywhere, in Paris, in London, Berlin, Barcelona, Athens, not just or especially in Naples. I wandered around Naples a lot during my stay and had only nice encounters with the locals. They are very friendly but most of all they are also very helpful at any time. And they love to talk about God, their God: Diego Armando Maradona, now retired Argentinean soccer player, who played for "S.S.C. Napoli" (Società Sportiva Calcio). For many the greatest soccer player of all time gave the Neapolitans from 1987 to 1991 two Italian Championships, an UEFA-Cup title, the Italian Cup title, the "Coppa Italia" and the Super Cup title. A local newspaper wrote about the admiration for the Argentinean: "None of our problems we might have in Naples matter because we have Maradona." And even though a small eternity has passed in the meanwhile, their God still is the pride of the city, an idol also for the young citizens who never even have seen him play for their team.  For the "Napolitani" Diego Armando Maradona is much more than only a great soccer player, he is the adopted son of their city and with that, he is one of them.

Look in Naples for the great things
Naples is not a city which presents everything it has to offer on a silver platter. Rather the opposite, you have to look for the good stuff, search for the cool things. One might think this is not very tourist friendly. That's right, it is not. But that makes the charm of Naples, I think. It's more adventure, more surprise and at the end more satisfaction. Speaking of it, Naples is known as the birthplace for pizza and claims to make and serve the best pizza in the world. Well, since taste is subjective there are many out there who wouldn't sign this claim, even though many who really understand pizza making agree with the Neapolitans. Many of my American friends have never had an original Italian Pizza and are used to their "pies", therefore I'm pretty sure any discussion about it would be controversial. But if you are in Naples make sure you form your own opinion. Visit one of the oldest and most famous pizza places in town: L'antica Pizzeria "Da Michele". It's not a secret place, not at all. I fact Julia Roberts ate pizza there in the movie "Eat Pray Love" in 2010. But it didn't need the movie to make "Da Michele" famous, the pizzeria was founded in 1870 and serves only two kinds of pizzas, "Marinara" (Tomato, oregano, garlic and extra virgin olive oil) and "Margherita" (Tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil). These two variations are considered the only "true" or "pure" pizzas. But be prepared, to eat at "Da Michele" demands some patience. The waiting outside the pizzeria can be more than an hour (I waited less than 2o minutes), especially for lunch and dinner time. Don't expect restaurant style inside, it's more train station buffet interior but the pizza will compensate for everything and you never had a cheaper pizza in your life!

Spaccanapoli & The "Gran Caffe Gambrinus"
For a walk through Naples look for the Spaccanapoli. It's called "Spaccanapoli" (Naples splitter) because it literally cuts through the old, historic center of the city, functions as a divider. The official name is Via Benedetto Croce, moving east the street name changes to Via S. Biagio dei Librai. The Spaccanapoli is the main tourist promenade all sights of the city are in easy reach from here. In between sightseeing you just have to take a coffee break because the coffee in Naples is at least as famous and delicious as the pizza. For your coffee experience, I suggest looking for the "Gran Caffe Gambrinus" at the Piazza del Plebiscito. This is the temple of Neapolitan espresso coffee. Not one famous visitor of Naples misses out on this opportunity to have a coffee there, not even the Pope.
One of Naples treasures:
The Veiled Christ in the Cappella Sansevero
There is very much to see in Naples, but let me point you to one of the true treasures of Naples: the "Veiled Christ", a marble sculpture made by Giuseppe Sanmartino and preserved in the Cappella Sansevero. Be prepared to see something really amazing. Sanmartino created in 1753 on of the world's most remarkable sculptures in marble, the dead Christ laid on a couch and covered by a veil which was carved from the same block of marble and which adheres perfectly to his body. This amazing artist mastered to show the suffering that Christ had undergone during the crucifixion through the veil. The veil is so well carved that many people doubted it would be one piece of stone. Very close analysis over the years confirmed finally that the work was entirely carved in marble. The famous scientist Raimondo di Sangro himself confirmed in letters that the veil was produced from the same marble as the statue. One has to stand in front of this masterpiece to understand what great gift Sanmartino had and what great treasure he created and left for us to see. Unfortunately to take pictures is not allowed within the Cappella, therefore I only have a shot from a sign, but no photo would do this amazing work justice anyway, one has to see it with its own eyes.
The Veiled Christ in the Cappella Sansevero


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