An honest to God, living, breathing, working city, Naples is an ever evolving mosaic. Alive with colors, patterns and textures, a myriad of disparate pieces – ancient, old, and new create surprising harmony from seemingly random chaos.
Hence the fascination. Hence the fear.
A fear, though while unfounded, nevertheless keeps tourists away. After all, with a reputation for being gritty, dirty, chaotic, overcrowded, and dangerous, it’s easy to look down your nose at Naples. Even most Italians do. But ask a Neapolitan about his city and his face will light up with pride and he’ll tell you that it is the most beautiful city in the world.
Rising up from the Tyrrhenian Sea, Naples boasts some of the most spectacular panoramas imaginable. A veritable feast for the eyes. The view towards the Bay and Vesuvius is unrivaled. But the view looking back at the city, that one will take your breath away. Like a field of wildflowers in the springtime, an intricate patchwork of every color of the rainbow climbs along Naples terraced hills and its ancient alleys weave in and out, the threads that tie it together.
And it’s in the alleys where Naples true beauty lives. A city with precious little private space and so full of passion, it is literally bursting at the seams. Stores, markets and cafes spill out into the streets as cars and motos weave in and out of throngs of strolling pedestrians. Laundry flaps in the breeze and the smell of classic Neapolitan caffe and the sounds of a thousand conversations fill the air. Some might call it chaos but it is in fact, a perfectly choreographed ballet.
Wander down Naples streets for a while and you will find its rhythm and charm hidden between the chaotic notes. The loving embrace of two friends meeting on the street, tiny fingers finding comfort in the chiseled hand of their grandfather, fathers and sons working side by side, or four generations of family gathering in tiny apartments to share a Sunday meal.
Patrick Brydone said it best some two hundred plus years ago. “It is hard to say, whether the view is more pleasing from the singularity of many of the objects, or from the incredible variety of the whole.” Naples is a mosaic. Each piece plays its part, and together it creates a beautiful harmony. And that is the fascination. That is Napoli.