Sunday, 12 February 2017

Beware stories of Naples

Via Dei Tribunali
Now you are never quite prepared for Naples.

Tina’s mum who was born here and regularly returns warned us to be careful with a set of safety instructions which would have been a disappointment for anyone intent on robbing us of all we possessed.

We left the cameras behind, stowed the cash in the most obscure places and kept an ever vigilant eye and all for no reason.

Everyone we met as we plunged deeper into the heart of the city and wandered further from the beaten track was helpful and went out of their way to put us on the right track.

One shop keeper actually suggested that the Crocchette di patate he sold was far inferior to the one just a few metres away.

And when it came to the pizzeria the best was not the one with the long lines of tourists but the one recommended by the fruit seller on the corner of VIA DEI TRIBUNALI.

True you still had to wait but only for a few minutes, and it was well worth it.

The basic pizza in the city of its birth was big, the best I have tasted and cost just €3 compared to the one in Sorrento which was 4 times the price.

Napoli Spaccanapoli
Added to this the pizzeria was comfortable and the staff welcoming and efficient.

And if you wanted more confirmation that we had indeed walked into the right place it was that we were surrounded by locals taking a break from shopping or grabbing a leisurely meal form work.

The final touch was in a way the best for as Tina left the tip the boss shouted “a bonus for the lads” where upon the waiters all shouted a thank you.

So all was well and the warnings proved unnecessary.
That said the area around the main station might well have  lived up to Rosa’s fears but then most big railway termini offer up that edgy atmosphere where shady characters appear out of nowhere offering all sorts of dodgy deals.

In our case it was the usual range of DVDs and CD’s with that man selling IPads.  To be fair once their offers had been declined they retreated into the corners of the street by the bars selling tired looking food and watered down soft drinks.

But the station with its crowded rush hour trains was for later, for us there was more of the less well known to encounter.

Not that we set out to search for it, instead it came our way as we left the VIA DEI TRIBUNALI with its mix of pizzerias and food shops and ended up in those narrow side streets where the buildings soar six storeys and every other balcony  has its set of washing hanging down.

And from these streets led off even narrower ones often fronted by a tiny piazza with a fountain the odd shop and a few rickety chairs.

Here were fish mongers bakers and all manner of tradesmen from the watch repairer to the cobbler and much more.

The Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore 
And just as for centuries the street and this ting piazza were where you lived great chunks of the day which given that in the past there was no air conditioning and rooms were small and overcrowded the outside was a preferable place to be.

Look back at old photographs from the late 19th century and read the stories from the traveller writer Norman Lewis and there are the poor sitting on those rickety chairs, carrying out all the everyday routines in the open on the streets.

And that I think will be another story as today I bought a book of photographs of old Naples and with those images will come more stories.

Alas as I took Rosa’s warning to heart and left my camera I have fallen back on the pictures of others.

Pictures; Via Dei Tribunali, Mattia Luigi Nappi and Napoli Spaccanapoli, and the Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore

* Stories from Naples in the spring of 1944,

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