The Heart of Italy

Naples isn't exactly the first place on the list when people decide to travel to Italy. It's often foretold to be filled with pickpockets and unsafe to visit. But my first impression of Naples was the Italy I had always fantasized about in my head. Pink and yellow buildings with cobblestone streets. Flower vendors, aqua blue scooters, espresso bars, the smells of fresh pizza dough, balconies covered in flowers with old ladies gazing upon the streets, deep blue waters striking the shore, intricately designed churches.

What I didn't expect was all the history that Naples taught me. It used to be the capital of the southern region of Italy and apparently has always had a lifestyle different that many of the northern cities. There is a whole city underneath the one that currently exists and you can travel under the ground and see things like a theater. Many of the buildings now used for private living are hundreds of years old.

There are squares and palaces that mark city centers and I was able to follow a map to see many of the major sites, but just strolling through I noticed that ever corner held a tiny surprise. Sometimes vine covered walls, or a view of the mountain across the water or a giant castle.

Naples is famous for their delicate pizza and boy oh boy did Gino Sorbillo give us a treat. The wait was about an hour at least, but the dough was so soft and thin in the center and fluffy on the outside - so good that I took my leftovers home in a pizza box in my carry on the next day and ate it on the train.

They also are known for sharp espresso, the locals would chat at the bar down their espresso then head their separate ways. It was bitter, but strongly nuanced with traces of nuts.

The food was a crazy good price with one three course meal being 12 euros for wine, sparkling water, pasta, meat, bread, fruit and and appetizer of some kind of cheese. We even were serenaded by classic Italian tune.

One day we took the ferry over to Capri and I thought I discovered a secluded dream island that reminded me of the white walls and blue roofs of Santorini.

The classic colorful houses scattered on the mountainside with a port of sailboats and little shops painted by the dark pebble beach and aqua sea defined my first look. We took a tram to the top where we could walk 30 minutes through the roads designed for people and occasional miniature cars.

The houses were gated and filled with a garden of vibrant flowers that added to the luxury escape of the island. Fresh waffle cones with homemade gelato floated through the air along the twist and turns to the Arch.

The Arch was so massive that the trees that green on top of it looked doll sized. Through the center a deep royal blue ocean met the sea foam green. The cliffs fell straight down in the water that added to the drama of the scenery.

Our next stop on the island we got lost and ended up at a private beach where we could see the faraglioni with white tour boats dwelling in the center.

Naples provided a place that I not only met locals that were eager to teach me about the city they loved, but also a place to tour without being overwhelmed by tourists. If the vibrant colors and delicious Italian food don't capture your heart, the Italian culture surely will.