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In January this year, I paid a visit to Naples. It was in the end of my exchange period in Budapest. I wanted to see if there were some cheap flights to warmer places. Budapest is a winter wonderland as long as there’s snow, but as soon as the snow has molten the city becomes an open-air ice bar – only without the free shots.
I went with a friend of mine. There were plenty of options. WizzAir is a Hungarian airline so tickets were as cheap as possible. Among the final three options we had selected were Kiev, Malta and Naples. Malta, we reasoned, was ‘nice and quiet’ in low season as the weather was not warm enough for people to lie on the beaches. This in fact meant there was nobody at all. We dropped the option of Kiev for obvious reasons. I may consider myself adventurous, but dying in a remote East-European city was not what I had in mind.
And off we went to Napoli: andiamo! “What in God’s name are you doing in Naples?” my dad asked. My mom had some more sense of diplomacy so she simply said: “That’s an interesting choice.” And indeed, I knew Naples from its high crime rates and the piles of garbage lined up in the streets.
It took me just an hour to find these prejudices to be a worthless reflection of the city’s grandeur. It is truely a beautiful and vibrant city. With more churches than Rome, more piazzas than Madrid and better temperatures than Malta, Naples is your perfect trip in winter time. The city is as chaotic as Athens. Yet it has the most magnificent viewpoints over the Thyreen sea. “Vedi Napoli e poi muori! – See Naples and die!” is the regional wisdom. Alexandre Dumas (from The Three Musketeers, and The Count of Monte Cristo) summarized it as follows: “Naples is the flower of paradise. The last adventure of my life.”
We did a Free Walking Tour to discover the city first-hand. Our tour guide was Roberto. He was familiar with the wealthy Western Europeans who thought that the unsafe Naples was stuck in the Middle Ages. So this common idea of criminality was not true? “Well okay,” Roberto said. “If we believe the statistics, maybe it’s the most violent city of Italy, and the chance of being robbed here is among the highest in Europe. But I love this city. The rest is just statistics.”