#“See Naples and die!” (Vedi Napoli e poi muori) is a famous line rooted in centuries, used with particular fame by the German nobleman, writer, poet, playwright, scientist, philosopher and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to describe the place as naturally and artistically the most beautiful city in the world—so lovely that one need not look at anything else after seeing it.
“See Naples and Die” is also the title of an Italian melodramatic film released exactly 70 years ago. This polis in southern Italy, saturated with history, culture, contradictions and spirit, charges the senses with nostalgia and cinematic aesthetics. So many classics and modern titles have been filmed in the city and the surrounding islands, from the Golden Age of Hollywood epic Cleopatra to the nineties thriller masterpiece The Talented Mr. Ripley to the current hit series The Genius Girlfriend.
An ancient city steeped in the narrative of millennia, Naples imbues the atmosphere of the old that the new can never be.
September is a great month to visit Italy’s third largest city after Rome and Milan.
The flight from Sofia is an hour and a bit, and from the airport in Naples, a direct bus for five euros takes you to the central station, located in one of the large and rather dirty squares. You will immediately feel one of the contradictions of Naples – this historic center with a rich history, magnificent nature and ingenious architecture, experiences chronic problems with garbage. It’s dirty. Especially around the train station – this is the law for many Italian cities, but in Naples the situation is even more dramatic. Whole streets are covered in garbage. Impressive buildings rise above the garbage, and people’s lives go on as if they are not stepping on a solid layer of waste.
After a few days in Naples, Sofia seemed a pretty clean place.
As you get closer to the heart of the historic center, however, the situation improves and the garbage on the streets and corners decreases. The center is full of hotels, hostels, rental accommodation and comfortable, clean bed and breakfast accommodation options. About BGN 200 per night for a nice room in a historic building with high ceilings and a view from the small terrace is quite a decent deal. Breakfast is often included in the price of such offers. Breakfast means a coffee and a croissant in the nearby bakery. But this croissant will most likely be divine and you will forget about the traditional Swedish tables of the all-inclusive industry.
It is a good idea to climb the hill in the center of the city on the first evening, from where you will have a monumental view of Mount Vesuvius, the coast and all of Naples. The elevation and the prestigious Vomero district can be reached by an old-school funicular for two euro tickets and a ten-minute ride up the cliff. Up there is an old castle, restaurants, terraces, residences… There is a sense of magic. A salute with the alcoholic beverage of choice is inevitable to welcome the Neapolitan sunset from above.
The very next day you can navigate to the port. Ferries and large hydrofoil motor boats ply to the divine nearby islands, the most famous and must-do among them being Capri.
By ferry you are on Capri in about 60 minutes and 15-20 euros each way, depending on the time, day and season. Worth.
The island is a dramatic and luxurious spectacle. A giant rock, a fairy harbor, a rocky beach, emerald water, colorful residences, cable cars leading to views you will not forget. On the winding streets uphill, you pass prestigious five-star boutique hotels, called villas. You are doing an experiment to see how much it costs to stay overnight in a similar place in Capri. You instinctively raise your eyebrows after learning that the average price is around BGN 3,000 per night. There are, of course, more affordable options. But Capri is Capri. It justifies the clichés, stereotypes and narratives that have painted over the decades an almost mythological image of an island ready to reach deep into both your pocket and your soul.
The other must-see destination in Naples is the collection of cliff towns along the Amalfi Coast. By water from the port of Naples you are there in an hour plus and 20 to 30 euros each way. You can, of course, go or return by a combination of bus and train, which amounts to two hours of time, but less than 10 euros per person each way. You can also combine the means of transport for a “bigger adventure”, as the young people say in Bulgaria.
It is difficult to choose which town to spend the most time on – Positano, Amalfi, Ravello…
Most look like scenery for a fabulous Mediterranean dream. Beautiful buildings in the rocks, beaches, palm trees, birds, views and lemons everywhere. Limoncello is the drink of the region. Countless shops offer various variations of the liqueur, in artisanal bottles, and the seller promises you that the liquid is from his personal harvest of yellow citrus fruits. Sorbet in lemon is a local sweet sensation for up to ten euros each.
Capri and the towns along the Amalfi Coast have beaches that can be used freely. There are areas cordoned off to hotels, but also those for visitors just passing through the water who would like to dip and bathe, literally and metaphorically, in the gorgeous aesthetics of southern Italy.
Naturally, all of these places don’t have Naples’ waste problem.
Returning to the bustling city will give you a solid dose of contrast. Cars and scooters have a hard time obeying traffic rules in the city center, which is packed with buzzing vehicles even after midnight. Naples does not sleep, there is always something to do, something to see – castles, museums, markets, streets… And, of course, Maradona. Diego Maradona is a divine figure in Naples, his stay at the local club Napoli is revered religiously. There are references to the famous ten everywhere.
But football passions can hardly define and format the seductive scale of the ancient city. Naples is so many things at once – history, art, architecture, nature, mafia, crisis, dysfunction, harmony, chaos, religion, dream, memory… A piece of old Europe to experience like a movie. See Naples and die… of pleasure!