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Naples, Italy

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Naples parks index:
Capodimonte Park

Local cuisine is a good reason to travel. No matter what you see on your “sites” list, when you find that family-run restaurant, you will create no better memory than that which comes from smell and taste. In Italy, the “trattoria” should be high on your list of your culinary destinations. Traditional food at cheap prices is trattoria’s customary definition. Although European tourism has become synonymous with high prices for mediocre food, the difference between “eating” and “a dining experience” is usually a matter of taking a left turn while the rest of the herd moves forward.

In the evenings, Neapolitans enjoy an after-work stroll on their neighborhood streets or in a park, usually before dinner. This is the best time to get yourself outside among the locals. Another delightful way for Italians to “get outside” is to sit on their apartment balconies and wave to friends as they walk beneath along the cobbled streets. If you’re new to this, you’ll think you’ve walked into a neighborhood parade or festival, yet this is a nightly event for Neapolitans. The Italian version of light discussion employes all sorts of hand gestures, verbal pugilism, and laughter. If they do this to build up an appetite, then they have a secret most of us outsiders have failed to grasp.

Restaurant dining often begins after 9pm, and I’ve watched some families sit down at a restaurant at 10pm and order a five-course meal. While Neapolitans eat a lot of fish and seafood caught in the scintillating blue Mediterranean Sea, Naples is the birthplace of pizza. Many Neapolitans order pizza as a starter dish. The pizzas are thin crusted, with fresh tomato sauce undoctored by spices, and just a few toppings, one of which is fresh herbs. The aroma is as much a pleasure as the taste. Add some local red table wine and you have discovered an entirely new means to enjoy food.

The crazy-busy life that is Naples catches you up and can spin you into gold or lead, depending how you accept this pace. A great place to get off the streets is Capodimonte Park, a great recreation park on a hilltop overlooking the city, the Bay of Naples, and Vesuvius. I’ve found a perspective on Neapolitan life-speed: don’t fight it, and find times to get out of its way so you can watch it move around you. Naples’ streets move not just like rivers, but rivers filled with salmon swimming upstream, leaping into the waves to get somewhere that the flow tries to prevent.

Perhaps it’s all the scooters on the road that gives me this feeling. They zip in and out, around and through traffic. I stood on a street corner for a while to watch their frenetic, dangerous maneuvers. It seemed, however, that only I saw them in this light; the other drivers—the scooterists themselves—never so much as flinched. One afternoon I stood on a bus and watched as a young woman and her friend moved through traffic like a mouse in a maze looking for its cheese. Only, the driver held the handlebars with one hand and talked on a cell phone with the other; her passenger seemed not to mind: she had her own cell phone tucked to her ear, her free hand covering her other ear to drown out the noise. “Only in Naples,” I thought. But then, I remembered I would be in Rome two days later.

(read more about Naples, Italy highlights here

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