I don’t know about you but I need the warm touch of the sun on my skin to instantly feel lifted up. In the bleak English winter, even the Cotswolds look like the end is near. Besides, Cotswolds Wanderer does sometimes venture out to see the world and to launch my new tab “Cotswolds Wanderer goes to” I could find no sunnier place to speak of than Naples. Warning, this post might be best enjoyed with a glass of Chianti…
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Naples is messy. Although the churches, large avenues and high street shopping remind us that we are in Europe, the traffic, the indolence of men drinking at bars and cafés, the heat and the darkness of a myriad of little alleys wouldn’t look out of place in North Africa. I liked this mix of sunshine and darkness, holiness and graffiti, luxe and poverty, laziness and business haphazardly thrown in together with a view on the Vesuvius. Not every tourist likes Naples and most remember it as a dirty city but Naples also hosts some of the most impressive sights I have seen. Here are my best two:
- The church of the Gesù Nuovo. From the outside, a stork grey naked wall with no spire or dome, from the inside one of the most bountifully ornate church I have ever seen. Two eyes are not enough to take in such profusion and the camera cannot capture such too muchness easily. The whole area of the Gesù Nuovo is worth wandering into as it leads to the heart of Naples.
- The veiled Christ in the Museo Cappella Sansevero. I remember being reluctant to pay 10 € in order to see just one statue but my, what a statue. It is unique in the world and depicts the Christ in his shroud. What makes its specificity is that the shroud is so finely carved that we can see every detail of the body that lies beneath. It was made in 1753 by Giuseppe Sanmartino and still had the power to make all visitors stand gaping.
From Naples, it is really easy to get to Capri by ferry (the journey lasts about 1h). The trip is worth it if only for the contrast with Naples since this little island is the opposite of its continental cousin. It’s clean, white, light, prettied up with flowers, full of boutique hotels and outdoor cafés and restaurants. It also has stunning views and of course, the famous blue grotto (to which I couldn’t get to as I only went for a day, much to my regret.)
What I enjoyed most in Capri is the wilder side of the island, which can be reached by a path overlooking the sea. Months later, I can still remember the smell of pine trees and jasmine flowers intertwined with notes of citrus. It if was a perfume I’d call it serenity. Visually, Capri has a colour spectrum England simply does not possess. With Capri I can say that I have finally seen the light: the delight, the lightness, the sunlight and the brightness.
As for food, just a little list: pizza, gelato, grilled calamari, marinated courgettes and aubergines, seafood pasta, Parma ham plates, grissini… no need to say more.
There is a lot of beauty to be seen in Naples and Capri, with a special mention for the helpfulness of the Neapolitans who stopped without fail whenever they saw two puzzled looking tourists and helped them on their way to some of their best travel memories.