Naples is a whore with a heart of gold.
Frowsy and magnificent, enchanting and appalling, exuberant and guarded, demanding of attention and cautious of careful scrutiny--it's impossible not to be seduced by this sybaritic siren and let her enfold you in her good-natured, knowing embrace. She may rob you, she may leave you spent and much the worse for wear, but you won't care--you'll only be thinking of how soon fate and smiling fortune will let you come back to her again.
This glorious, flamboyant city is the real deal: the deep, dark heart of Italy. Italia verace; Italy DOC. It's the Auntie Mame of Italian capitals; a bohemian rhapsody set in the most gorgeous bay on earth, watched over by a killer volcano as inscrutable as a reclining Buddha.
Like any woman of the world worth her salt, Naples is bursting with stories to tell: tales of passion, greed, calumny, corruption, love, politics. The whole bawdy history of the world is contained within her; no wonder the locals can't bear even the thought of living anywhere else.
Naples is a drug that no promise of rehab will ever entice you into eschewing. You can lose yourself in its exotic vapors and croak here spectacularly--but reluctantly, unsatiated--and spend Eternity plumbing its depths, never reaching the bottom.
The food alone is worth any effort to get here. It just may be the best place to eat in Italy these days: genuine and affordable, true to its roots, honest.
|Sausage and friarelli pizza at Starita|
If Naples is a whore, then Florence is the Homecoming Queen. Rather a bit too smug in her overwhelming popularity, this Renaissance city--art treasures aside--is in danger of descending into mediocrity and a sad, market-driven genericness. Like a beautiful woman so sure of her charms that she neglects to be kind, Florence lacks the soul--and that refreshing, exhilarating dose of genuineness--that Naples possesses in abundance.
Who wants a Heaven peopled by angels of perfection and symmetry? A clean, sterile, quiet mansion of soft footfalls and hushed voices where there are no more bawdy tales to hear but only pious contemplation? Give me littered streets full of noise and life, catcalls and cacophonous voices raised in joy and blasphemy. Give me beauty and ugliness jostling one another in a crowded metro, and give me human folly in all its splendid madness.
Give me Naples. And do with the rest what you will.
Forgive the veritable Vesuvius of exuberant hyperbole;
it was unavoidable,
|Sophia Loren's got nothin' on my daughter|
|My son the aspiring pizzaiuolo gives Napoli |
the big A-OK