Il Sud, pt.I: Napoli

July 17, 2014 § 4 Comments

To satisfy my opera craving, I bought a couple of last-minute tickets to see the opening productions of Cavalleria Rusticana and Madame Butterfly at the Teatro San Carlo in Napoli.  Somehow (as tends to be the case with me), this little outing turned into exploring the hidden nooks of Napoli, strolling along the Amalfi Coast, hitchhiking through Basilicata, finding cliffs on the eastern coast, and then train-ing back up north from Bari.  I consider it a successful few days : )

Napoli Cuppola

First of all, let me say that I was completely amazed by the southern Italy.  I had imagined it to be lovely, but it was even lovelier than I imagined (and I didn’t even get into the heart of it).  Before this weekend, the only place I had been to in the south was Lecce, so I kind of expected everything to be a flat desert with pretty beaches.  But, no!

The entire train ride from Rome to Napoli, the Appenine Mountains kept us company on the left.  Pulling into Napoli was a shock; I had heard it to be a big, cluttered port city, but walking out out the giant train station, I was astounded and repulsed by all of the big, grey buildings.  Where did all of the cement skyscrapers come from?  I felt like I was walking around a dirtier Milano that moved to the opposite end of Italy.

Upon checking into my hotel, the girl working at the reception told me that “everyone cries two times when they come to Napoli. Once when they arrive-“, here I nodded in agreement and told her that I could already check that off my list; when is the next time, please?, “and once when they leave.”

I didn’t cry leaving, but only because I was excited to get even deeper into the south.  I was, however, a bit tempted to linger around Napoli a bit more, just to see all of its different quartiers and spent another week photographing cluttered alleys and stalking old ladies.

As cliche’ as it is, I have a soft spot for laundry drying outside, so I loved that fact that every day in Napoli is Laundry Day:


I have also developed a hopeless attachment to ports, so Napoli satisfied that passion as well, with its long stretch of boatlines:

And more boats lounging out in the waters all day, Mount Vesuvius framing them from behind:


My touristic attraction of this trip were the catacombe di San Gennaro, which were pretty cool (literally and figuratively):

And from there, it was a short walk through picturesque Sanità, a traditional residential neighborhood, to the cimitero delle Fontanelle.  This place blew my mind and gave me goosebumps, and I can definitely place it on a list of the Top Twenty Spots of my travel history.  Almost hidden, in the side of a mountain at the outskirts of the neighborhood, was a large entrance that leads you to a larger chamber turned into a labyrinth of skulls and bones, of hidden altars and headless statues, of little barred windows and overgrown wooden crosses.


After all of the deathly attractions, it was time to get lost in some more alleys:

before taking another metro (which I am utterly impressed by) to the Villa Floridiana, which has a generous view of the entire city:


, and then have a lunch picnic consisting of a real napolitano pizza on the rocks of the castel dell’Ovo:


Then, a stroll along the sea:


And back to the piazza del plebiscito:

Napoli Piazza PLeb

As for the Teatro San Carlo, I have mixed feelings about.


The interior is beautiful, but (a) I was ticked off that they promised to show the FIFA games at the theatre after the shows (kinda of what motivated me to go to Napoli), and they didn’t, and (b) there was something lacking in spirit that I cannot quite put my finger on.  The performances themselves were also not exactly what I expected.  The orchestra was practically perfect, and the lead roles were very nicely covered, but both productions used the same set, which was very minimalistic and modern.  I don’t know if this was because of the art director or the crisis, but it was kind of disappointing.  And then, some knit-picking complaints, but I didn’t have much time to longer on them, as the last two FIFA games were starting as the curtains drew to a close.


The semifinals went practically unnoticed in Napoli, but the finals were broadcasted on screens all over the city center.  I was very happy to find a group of flag-clad Germans to watch the game with and have my face painted from, as the other 99% of all of the people in Napoli seemed to be rooting for Argentina.  But, what a celebration it was for us when Deutschland did win!

Afterwards, it was time for one more nighttime stroll to the duomo and through more alleys:


, before heading back to the hostel and packing my bags- even though I had no idea where I would be headed the next morning.  But wherever it may have been, I was ready to start walking with the sunrise.

… and definitely content to leave Napoli with a lot of good memories, a list of places I was excited to come back to explore, and many adjectives that were more than just:

Napoli Trash Street
A chaotic kaleidoscope of people and colors, of buildings and sounds, of idiosyncrasies and smells: Napoli.


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