This past June, my parents decided to take my brother and I on a two week vacation to explore the medieval towns in Germany and the ancient streets of Italy. On day nine of our exploration, we took a train to spend the day in Naples, Italy. Our expectations were high because of the good comments we heard from friends and what we had seen in travel magazines. Naples being the birthplace of pizza and a beautiful port city on the Mediterranean Sea, why wouldn’t we visit?
While on the hour long train ride from Rome to Naples, we were thankful we had upgraded to a first class train that accommodated us with air conditioning and plush seats. Around fifteen minutes before we had reached our destination, my brother cautioned us of what to expect. He had been reading Rick Steves' Italy 2012 travel guide, which is a necessity if you are traveling to Italy. What my brother told us was not very alarming because the book had said similar things about Florence and Rome. To be weary of pickpockets and gypsies. But what we experienced when we arrived to Naples was going to change my perspective on what the real Italy was.
We arrived in Naples at 10:30 a.m. ready to see the Castle Nuovo. The streets were busy, flying with mopeds and cars that saw street lights and stop signs as merely decoration. With an iPhone in one hand and Rick Steves’ in the other, my brother began to navigate us through the maze of streets. We soon realized that Naples was not what we were expecting. There were tons of old apartments with clothes lines hanging in between buildings, and numerous amounts of people that would almost run you over. The first street we turned on was fairly vacant with only a fruit stand and some locals sitting on chairs outside their complex. As we walked further down the block, we saw a large crowd of people blockading a few cars at the next intersection. We could hear locals yelling aggressively at the cars in Italian and speaking with their hands, making all kinds of gestures that didn’t look friendly. We were reluctant to cross through because we were clueless as to what was going on, but according to Google Maps and Rick Steves, we had to go through. As casually and quickly as possible, my family and I made a beeline straight through the crowd.
Feeling the crowd pushing and shoving, and hearing them yell was nerve racking. We avoided eye contact with the people and did our best to blend in. We finally made it through, and we were all so happy that nothing had happened. Just as we turned the corner, we became more alarmed when we heard an extremely loud noise that sounded similar to a gunshot. And one after another, we quickly realized that the crowd had set off fireworks in the street. There was nothing we could do except for walk faster.
The rest of the day we did our best to enjoy what we could. But even after we had seen the Castle Nuovo, we saw that the rest of Naples was not as beautiful as we had imagined. The streets were filthy, and many people were impoverished. The air was dirty and there was graffiti everywhere. Seeing this side of Italy made me realize how blessed I am to live in the United States, and it also opened my eyes to how thereal Italy is. It was not as picture perfect as we thought.
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