See Naples and die

Don’t go to Naples, I am told by most of my Italian friends. It’s dangerous, says one. It’s just pickpockets, piles of rubbish and scooters, says another.

It occurs to me that my well-traveled friends from North Italy have sunbathed in the Caribbean and backpacked in Thailand but they have never set foot in Naples.

The more I here about it the more I long to go.

Many advise me what I really SHOULDN’T take on my day trip to Naples: jewellery, watches, designer bags, credit cards…The list of what NOT to pack is getting longer every day. But to follow expert packing tips for a trimmed-down checklist of things I absolutely should not take with me to Naples is easy: I have none of them.

On the D day I leave my Airbnb in the cheap looking clothes, I have a bum bag strapped to my hips which I wear non-ironically. No cards, just cash inside.

I meet my friend Rosa who volunteers to guide me around. Rosa is a fashion stylist and her outfit that day is hilarious and semi-horrific at the same time. You really took all the precautions very seriously, I point to her neon hammer pants.

As soon as we get off the train station in Naples, I am in awe of this city and its residents. Buzzing piazzas and narrow cobblestone streets are filled with mediterranean light and women in ridiculously high heels.

It’s decaying, yet full of life and vibrant.

Some of historic buildings here are on the brink of collapse but there is something noble about their sun-washed colours and fading frescos.

People chat on the streets and in coffee bars. Wherever we walk, there is a wonderful sense of community. Neighbours talk between balcony decorated with fresh laundry.

Rosa takes me to pizzeria which she swears is the best in Naples. It’s called Sorbillo and is more like a revered institution than a pizza place.

I look at the queue outside and suggest we have a cornetto (croissant-like but apparently distinct from its French cousin) while we wait.

Rosa gives me a funny look. In Italy you have dolce after lunch. Just one of many rules around food, practiced with rigidity and religious zeal by othwerwise relaxed Italians.

Just a regular espresso

After the best pizza in my life, we go to Naples’s little Montmartre with Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella, Teatro Bellini, Accademia di Belle Arti and Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Our final stop is via San Gregorio Armeno, in the historic centre, famous for its stores featuring hand-made presepi — nativity scenes.

Hand-crafted food, almost as mouth-watering as a real one

Traditional craftsmanship meets technology

When getting a glimpse of the famous, mafia-run Quartieri spagnoli, I can’t help but think about Naples as a lost opportunity. If it wasn’t for its crime rates and far too many inefficiencies, Naples could easily be one of the best places to live — with its glorious weather, artisanal food, cultural treasures, access to sea and islands…