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Travel - Napoli ... Si!

by Bernardo van Eekhout in Travel and weekendtrips , 14 februari 2009


Naples reminds us of the Spanish cities of Madrid and Valencia. Especially the architecture and lifestyle of the third biggest city of Italy is as impressive. Naples is the busy and lively historic capital of the Campania region with narrow and steep alleyways contrasting grand boulevards like Corso Umberto I. It’s up to you to decide whether the saying “Vedi Napoli e poi muori” (See Naples then die) is still valid...

Many Italians look down upon cities south of Rome, they often compare these to Northern Africa. They think it’s underdeveloped and backward country compared with the rest of Italy. Many Napoletani seem to have the same opinion. It’s a fact that thirty to forty percent of the Naples population is unemployed so that youngsters for example, are forced to live with their parents until they’re well into their thirties. On top of that rents are high and shopping expensive.

The young leave for the North of Italy where living standards are definitely higher, or they turn to criminality and drug trafficking. The Camorra is still very much alive in Naples. The taxi drivers confirm that not all parts of Naples are safe for us. They advise us to avoid the subway at night as well as the Quartieri Spagnoli.
Typical Naples’ scenes of narrow inclining streets with lots of laundry flapping about are all around. It’s a chaotic city dominated by cars and scooters. Traffic seems to have no regulations and it’s me first with everyone. It takes some getting used to in the beginning.

Like in many southern cities life takes place outside on the street and it’s terraces. One of the most beautiful grand cafes with outside tables is the classy and historical Storico Gran Caffé Gambrinus (www.caffegambrinus.com) on the Piazza del Plebiscito, which is magnificently lit at night. It’s not cheap but the gorgeous personnel makes up for a lot.

Naples is beautifully situated, descending from the slopes of the mountains right to the Gulf of Naples. The rise and fall of the landscape make the cityscape playful. The coastline and boulevards are exceptionally pretty. The Riviera di Chiaia boulevard with white rocks are the favorite of many joggers and bridal parties wanting to be photographed. There’s a magnificent view of the Castel dell’Ovo from here. At sunset the city magically starts to twinkle with thousands of lights on the slopes of the mountains.

Cultura

To escape from the hectic city you can flee to the fourteenth century gothic Santa Chiara cloister. This is where Naples comes to a complete standstill. The inner garden is heavenly with the tiled archways and benches. There are images of all kinds of mythological scenes by the Naples’ tile painters Donato and Giuseppe Massa. Outside the monastery you can see the excavations taking place and inside the findings are exhibited.


The Piazza del Gesú nearby is a meeting spot for youngsters and there are lots of bars and restaurants in this area. Within walking distance from here you’ll find the well-known Piazza Bellini: a square and nightlife center in the middle of the historic city. All bars and restaurants have spacious outside areas covered with vines.

The gay-friendly café Intra Moenia (www.intramoenia.it) is the perfect spot to have a rest and a bite to eat.
From there you can walk along the S.M. a Costantinopoli to the immensely big MANN Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli). This museum has been entirely dedicated to the Italian Archeology with impressive ancient collections, which are of the richest in the world.

The collection also contains items recovered from the ash covered cities of Pompeii and Ercolano. Fabulous mosaics of Alexander the Great were also found at Pompeii at the house of Faun. The halls with bigger than life-size marble statues are very impressive. The many vases that depict the various possibilities of man to man sex are also very interesting.

The Duomo di Napoli is another highlight at the Via Duomo, a narrow shopping street: an impressive white cathedral. The construction of this church started in the thirteenth century at the time of the reign of King Charles I of Anjou.

It’s entirely constructed in white stone and the colossal wooden door is decorated with all sorts of statues and religious images. Very impressive architecture, also underground: the Catacombe de San Gennaro. These catacombs go back to the third century. In the fifth century the body of San Gennaro, the bishop martyr of Naples was kept here, until it was taken to the Duomo. These ruins from the past are remains of the Greek city of Neapolis.
You can get the best view of Naples from the castle Sant’Elmo, with its star-shaped ground plan on the Volmero hill. It once was fortified and used as a prison, now it houses the Ministry of Culture.

Moda Uomo

Fortunately Naples has not been swamped by all the well-known foreign label shops. It makes the local stuff on offer much more interesting. The Italian knitwear (la Maglia) especially, is from superior quality and very affordable. Italian (gay) men all wear slim-fit jeans with a flashy (Fendi) buckle, dark blue sweater or vest and large sized pilot sunglasses in a white frame, so this style is well represented in the shopping areas Via Chiaia. Prices are well below the Dutch level.

The expensive Piazza dei Martiri has the luxury labels on offer, such as Prada, Emporio Armani and Salvatore Ferragamo. Even cheaper are the jeans of Trussardi and Liu-Jo in the Via dei Mille: top labels you can hardly get in Holland. All these streets and squares are in the classy area Chiaia.

The busiest shopping street of Naples is the Via Toledo crossing a large part of the old center. Here you will find Alcott, the Italian answer to H&M and two flagship stores of Sisley and Stefanel with a fantastic collection of men’s wear. Excellent Italian quality for a good price... and again: not available in these lowlands.

One of the best shopping streets is the somewhat higher positioned Via Alessandro Scarlatti in Vomero. Vomero is one of the safest quarters of Naples and reachable via cable cart. It’s one of the most popular areas to live because of its spectacular views. Department store Coin (www.coin.it) is a sort of mini Bijenkorf and Benetton Uomo is also worth a visit. Via Alessandro Scarlatti has many side streets teeming with shops. You’ll find sneakers of the better labels like Fred Perry, D-Squared and Dirk Bikkembergs.

Galleria Umberto is a shopping arcade from 1890 but the architecture is more interesting than the luxury shops it gives home to. It’s named after Umberto I, king of Italy in that era. The impressive metal cupola is 57 meters high and supported by a metal frame.



The Italian economy is not doing all that great nowadays, prices of food going up and up and salaries that stay behind. The price of pasta has gone up with 25% and bread with 13%. Clothing went up with an average of 21%. Every Italian household is spending about 1300 euros extra in 2008 (3.8 billion euro per year in total for Italy). Many Italian tv shows are discussing the crisis in the economy...

Arcigay

Catholic Italy still thinks homosexuality is not natural. Giuseppe Bottiglieri, who works at Arcigay “Antinoo” Napoli (www.arcigaynapoli.org): “Homosexuality gets opposition from the Vatican and the catholic church, the right wing government of Berlusconi and the well-known Italian macho culture. Many gay rights are blocked by the current Italian government.” The southern Italian gay community has much to overcome and Arcigay is working very hard for that cause. ARCI Gay stands for Associazione Lesbica e Gay Italiana.


Arcigay Naples exists for twenty years now and is entirely run by volunteers. “We have room for some sort of meeting spot for gay youth so people can come here for information or when they get in trouble after their coming out. We’re organizing demonstrations and show movies sometimes. We organize things so we receive some money from entrance prices because we hardly get any subsidies.

We also go to the clubs and discos to give out information and hand out condoms. We also give out folders on STDs and where to go if you think you have one,” says Giuseppe. There’s a horrific story he tells me about a gay couple that was recently attacked and harassed by a group of ten men. Out of pure fear they didn’t even dare to file a report with the police.

It’s not so simple to find a gay bar or disco in Naples, even on internet. There are a few places mentioned but these are outside town, often you also need pre-sold tickets to get in (you can get them at Arcigay). The local in-crowd is keeping one-another informed through email and SMS on what’s happening and what’s new in town. Regular club nights are often short-lived. The bars that have been around for awhile often don’t have the means to advertise in the Spartacus guide and such. For up to date info check out www.arcigaynapoli.org and click through to Divertimento in Campania.

Transavia flies five times a week from Amsterdam to Naples from 93 euros (all-in). More info on: www.transavia.com






 







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